A spicy, soothing soup followed by a tropical fruit dessert will help keep us strong as we transition to the “new normal.” Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

As people are starting to be out and about a bit more, we need to keep our immune systems in tip-top condition. This soup/bread/fruit combo can be served for a savory supper or divided for brunches or lunches.

I don’t know about you, but I need to lay off the chips, ice cream and queso mac and cheese before I gain that COVID-19 (pounds) that everyone keeps talking about. This threesome is so satisfying because there’s plenty of flavorful punch, courtesy of some well-placed spices and herbs. There’s a bit of work in this menu, but trust me, it’s worth it. Most of the meal can be made ahead, so pull it together in the a.m. then go for a hike in the sunshine. Better days are coming, I can feel it.

Red Lentil Dal

6 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
1 cup carrots, diced
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup red lentils

Garnish

1 1/2 teaspoons toasted mustard seeds
Chopped cilantro
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering, then add onion, celery, ginger and garlic. Cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low and add spices and salt, cooking for a minute or two. Add tomatoes and carrots. Cook for another minute then add liquid and lentils. Bring to simmer, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes until lentils and carrots are soft. Adjust seasonings. Use a hand blender to puree the soup a bit or put one third to one half of the soup in a blender and puree then add back to the pot.

In a small skillet, heat remaining 3 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Add mustard seeds and cover the pot with a lid. When the seeds stop popping, turn off the burner and pour the oil over the soup before serving. (The seeds will turn black and that’s OK.) Garnish with lemon and cilantro. Yield: 4 servings

Naan with Cilantro & Chile

3 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red chiles, chopped and seeded
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Whisk the egg and milk together in a glass measuring cup then gradually add to the dry mixture to stir and form a dough.

Transfer the ball of dough to a floured surface, make a depression in the dough with your thumb and add the oil. Knead for 3-4 minutes, until the dough is smooth and pliable. Wrap in cling wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and form into balls then flatten into thick rounds. Cover and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat broiler to high. Line a broiler pan with foil and brush with oil. Roll each round to 5 inches in diameter, pulling gently on one end to form a tear shape. Maintaining this shape, roll again to about 9 inches in diameter.

Combine chiles and cilantro in a small bowl then spread on top of the dough, pressing gently so the mixture sticks to the dough. Transfer one naan at a time to the broiler pan and broil for 1 minute, until slightly puffed and brown. Flip and cook the other side for 45-50 seconds until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and brush with melted butter. Wrap in a dish towel to keep warm while the remaining naans cook. Yield: 8

Spiced Fruit with Yogurt

1 pound combination of bananas, oranges, mangoes, melon and pineapple, cut into bite-size pieces
Rind and juice of 1 lime
2-3 cups plain Greek yogurt

Syrup

1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick, halved
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

For the syrup, place the sugar, 1/3 cup water, vanilla bean and other spices into a small heavy pan over medium-high heat. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the liquid starts boiling, stop stirring and allow the syrup to bubble gently until it turns golden.

Very carefully stir in remaining water (it may splatter). Stir to dissolve any caramel then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Place fruit into a large heat-proof bowl and toss with lime juice and rind. Add syrup and stir. Chill for at least 1 hour. Remove cinnamon stick, if desired. Serve with a dollop of yogurt in individual dessert cups. Yield: 4-6 servings

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