The spices in this soup give a Middle Eastern/Indian flavor. If you use sour cream instead of yogurt for garnishing the soup, you’ll add some Eastern European flair.

6 c or so (peeled) coarsely chopped parsnips
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 t ground cumin
2 t ground coriander
1 t ground turmeric
1/4 – 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 c red lentils
1 t lemon zest
2 T lemon juice
12 c water, or a combination of water and vegetable or other broth, plus extra if needed
salt, to taste (at least a good teaspoonful)
greek-style yogurt or sour cream, for serving, optional

1. Combine parsnips, onion, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the vegetables are the consistency of grated cheese. Alternatively, you can grate the parsnips by hand on a box grater (the onion, too, though that’s tricky and tear-inducing), and finely chop the onion and garlic.

2. Warm the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook, stirring, for a minute, until the spices are fragrant and coated with oil. Add the parsnip mixture and stir to coat with the oiled spices.

3. Add the lentils, lemon zest, and lemon juice, along with the water or water/broth combination. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until the lentils are soft and the soup is thick. Season with salt. Add more water if the soup is too thick–also, the soup will continue to thicken while it sits, so more water may be necessary for reheating leftovers. Serve hot, with dollops of yogurt or sour cream.