North African Lentil Soup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
2 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 cup brown lentils
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
8 cups vegetable or meat broth
Sea salt and pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat and saute onions for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saffron and cook a few more minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook for 5 more minutes. Add lentils, broth, tomatoes, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer over low heat about 1 1/2 hours until lentils are tender and broth is slightly thickened. Add lemon juice and parsley just before serving.
Saffron is the little thread at the center of a small purple crocus, where the pollen catches and develops. There are a whopping three threads per flower, which are hand-picked and then dried. That, and the fact that it takes 13,125 threads to make an ounce is why saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. The best saffron comes from Spain, Kashmir, and Iran.