This past weekend, I traveled to Detroit for my grandma Lillian’s “unveiling”. An unveiling is an America Jewish custom. After someone is buried, their gravestone is covered for up to a year. Then, the family gathers to remove the covering, and to commemorate the life of the deceased.

Most of my dad’s family has always lived in Detroit. I’ve been making trips there every year or so for as long as I have been alive, sharing events such as the Jewish holidays, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and more with my grandparents (who’ve now both passed on), aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I stay with my aunt Beverly and my uncle Hadley pretty much every time I visit. They’re the sweetest people, and boy do they know how to feed a crowd.

I do not ever recall a time when I’ve been in Detroit and when there was not a brunch at their home. A brunch with platters stacked high with warm bagels surrounded by perfect white orbs of cream cheese. Trays filled with salty, melt in your mouth delicious lox, and generous chunks of fabulous smoked sable. Creamy, rich tuna and whitefish salads. Juicy ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and piles of sliced onions. Neatly arranged hard boiled eggs and an array of tasty cheeses. And the sweets: chocolate and apple babkas. Seven layer cake. Mandlebrot. Macaroons.

These are not foods I eat very often…but they’re foods I look forward to with great anticipation when it’s time for a family get-together in Detroit. I try not to stuff my self silly when I come face to face with those platters, but it’s so hard not to. It’s all so good…

I got home from Detroit last night. Though I had packed all the dreamy Jewish foods above into my belly earlier in the day, I didn’t have any dinner, and was starving when I walked through my door after the two hour drive from the airport at 11:30 pm. I’d made and photographed this Greek Lentil Soup late last week, and was so grateful there was some left over to gobble before heading to bed.

This vegetarian soup, my version of the Greek soup known as Fakes, can be served hot or cold: it’s perfect for when you’re looking for a light and nourishing meal. While I love all of the Greek-inspired embellishments (the parsley, roasted red pepper, and the feta), you could certainly eat it without them if you’re just looking for a basic lentil soup. If you like the idea of the toppings and you avoid dairy, chopped Kalamata olives would make a good salty substitute for the feta.

Greek Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

*2 tablespoons olive oil
*1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
*2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
*1 stalk celery, finely chopped
*2 scrubbed carrots, peeled if not organic, finely chopped
*2 cups green lentils
*6-8 cups homemade vegetable stock or water (or use chicken stock of you don't need it to be vegetarian)
*5-6 plum tomatoes (I used organic ones from my garden, but you could also use canned tomatoes)
*2 tablespoons each olive oil and red wine vinegar, plus more for drizzling on top of the finished soup
*chopped flat-leaf parsley- for garnish (use as much as you like)
*chopped roasted red peppers (I used the jarred kind)- for garnish (use as much as you like)
*crumbled feta cheese- for garnish (use as much as you like)
*freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Rinse and pick over the lentils in a colander over the sink.

2. In a large pot, saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for a minute or two.

3. Add the chopped celery and carrots and cook, stirring them around, for a minute or two more.

4. Add lentils and stir well, then add the stock or water and the tomatoes. I like to start with the 6 cup amount of liquid and add more later, if necessary. Bring to a boil.

5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1- 1/2 hours, or until lentils are very tender. Again, add more stock or water if the soup gets too thick.

6. Remove from heat and stir in the two tablespoons of olive oil and vinegar. Spoon the soup into bowls and top with chopped parsley, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, and black pepper before serving.