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Lemony Lentil Soup with Leeks and Scallops

It's festive looking, delicately flavored, and interestingly textured--a great combination for a stimulating first course. Many thanks to Aimee Day of Seattle for the excellent contribution. She's a 20-something R.N., a longtime amateur cook in a loosely vegetarian vein, and the mother of a 6-year-old girl with an adventerous palate--now expanding her favored Indian-Mideast-Asian cuisines to include southern Mexican, the cuisine of her fiance's homeland. Serve hot to 4 as a first course.

Garnish: 1/2 cup minced Italian parsley

Simmer the lentils in the stock until tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, sautee the leeks and red pepper in the butter and oil over medium-high heat until tender (5-8 minutes). Pour in the wine and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Stir in the scallops and let simmer until opaque--not very long. Add the contents of the saute pan to the cooked lentils and gently fold together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with minced parsley.

Aimee suggests that the soup can be adapted by pureeing the lentils and thinning with stock before folding in the rest of the ingredients. I have to admit that I didn't try it--those al dente red lentils were just too interesting to pulverize.