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Creamy Lentil and Ancho Chili Soup
This soup boasts a number of fabulous soup adjectives: creamy, hearty, complex, full-flavored

Ingredients:
4 ancho chilies
1 cup hot water
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of ground cloves
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 white onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound dried green lentils
6 cups water
grated zest of one orange
1 bay leaf
1 cup sour cream
salt to taste
6 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

Directions:
1. Toast the chilies in a 200 degrees oven for 5 minutes. Remove and discard seeds and stems. Place in a small bowl and cover with the hot water. Cover bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.
2. Remove chilies from water, reserving the soaking water. Combine the chilies with the allspice, cloves, cumin, rosemary, pepper, and tomato paste in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.
3. Cook onion and garlic in the vegetable oil over moderately low heat until onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the chili mixture and fry, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the lentils, water, orange zest, and bay leaf. Raise heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
4. Remove from heat. Let soup cool, stirring every few minutes to speed up the cooling, for 15 to 30 minutes. (Ideal serving temperature is lukewarm). Stir in the sour cream and add salt to taste.
5. Serve with a sprinkling of minced fresh cilantro on each bowl.

The technique of frying a chili-and-spice purée in oil is central in Mexican cuisine. By changing the mix of chilies and spices, you can provide the seasoning foundation for a limitless number of sophisticated Mexican sauces, stews, and soups. This one boasts a number of fabulous soup adjectives: creamy, hearty, complex, full-flavored. It employs the chocolaty ancho chili, one of our favorite of the dried chilies. Serves 8 as a first course