Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

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Happy first day of spring! Or if you’re of Persian descent, Happy Nowruz! Nowruz literally translates to “new day” and is the name for the Persian new year, which occurs on the vernal (spring) equinox. The holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years and is a holy day from the Zoroastrian tradition, though it is a completely secular celebration for most, especially in the modern day. It has been a long-standing national holiday in Iran and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Caucasian and central Asian countries have declared it a national holiday for themselves as well. The holiday welcomes spring with a variety of traditions. Spring cleaning, visiting friends and family, a Santa Claus-like figure called Amu Nowruz with gifts for children, an elaborate table setting called haft seen, other festive decorations, and of course, eating are all parts of the traditional celebration.

This soup isn’t a traditional Nowruz dish, but most of those gorgeous dinners and sweets involve a little more time than we have on this weekday evening! Actually, I’ve found several variations of my source recipe around the internet – apparently they’re attempts to copycat a beloved soup at a Persian restaurant in Chicago called Reza’s. So we’ll consider this soup a stepping stone towards a real Nowruz celebration one of these years coming up! (I really wanted to make ash-e reshteh, but didn’t have all of the ingredients. It seemed like a cop out to fudge on the ingredients of the traditional Nowruz first night soup, so we bailed on that idea. Maybe next year!) We made another lentil soup recently (Turkish Red Lentil Soup), and while there are some similarities to this one, the flavors end being totally different! This soup is hearty and filling (thanks lentils!), but seems like a perfect welcome to spring with its bright and tangy flavors. Consider it the perfect culinary bridge between winter (warm, hearty) and spring (bright flavors)!

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Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium tomatoes (or a 15oz can crushed tomatoes)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp (+) sumac
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional toppings: yogurt, feta cheese, lime wedges
Instructions:
  1. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Season with pinch of salt and a few turns of fresh black pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant.
  2. If using fresh tomatoes, chop quarter them and blitz them in a food processor. Then add the tomatoes, along with the stock, herbs, and spices (except for the fresh parsley).
  3. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes.
  4. Now add the lentils and return to a simmer for another 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked.
  5. Add the chopped parsley and cook for just another few minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
  6. Serve with additional sumac, parsley, or a squeeze of lime on top if you like. A dollop of yogurt or a few chunks of feta would also be delicious!
Serves 4 as an entree; ~6-8 as a starter or side
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Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

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I don’t know if you noticed, but we haven’t shared too many posts this month so far (although our Sultan Selim Kofte was amazing & you should check it out!). A two-fold problem – we attempted a few recipes that we thought would be “blog-worthy,” that just didn’t turn out well, so we definitely couldn’t share our failures 🙄😬😣😉. And also, we used a few of our saved up vacation days to visit friends and watch UVA beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem one weekend and to see our families in Nashville for a cousin’s wedding on another weekend! So we really haven’t cooked quite as much as normal this month!

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Us at Ally’s cousin’s wedding

Our lack of blogging this month is a little bit of a tragedy because January is National Soup Month, and I LOVE SOUP! I don’t know what month is better suited to officially be National Soup Month – what sounds more cozy and warming for chilly nights (and days!) than a big flavorful bowl of soup. It’s actually National Slow Cooker month too (probably for similar reasons…), so we just went ahead and did the two birds, one stone thing with this recipe – ✔️ & ✔️!

I’ve had this recipe saved on Pinterest for literally years I think. It comes from Gimme Some Oven, which actually is the very first blog I think I ever started following. I’ve made many of her recipes over the years, prior to the birth of our little infant blog. Check it out for some great recipes from a veteran blogger and much better pictures than ours! We tweaked her recipe just a tiny bit, adding a little extra vegetables & spices, because the entire world (or the 467 commenters on her post at least…) seems to love the original just as is! One little side note… one day we would like to make our own, traditional enchilada sauce, for this recipe or others. We were just feeling a little too lazy today for finding and roasting our own chilies. But we can only imagine how much better this soup would be when substituting authentic homemade enchilada sauce for the canned stuff!

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Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

(Adapted from Gimme Some Oven blog)
Ingredients:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 10oz can red enchilada sauce
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ears corn (~2 cups)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 4oz can chopped green chiles
  • 1 10oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Optional toppings: cheese, sour cream/crema, avocado, cilantro, jalapenos, tortilla chips, etc
Instructions:
  1. Prepare all of the vegetables – chop up everything that needs chopping and slice the corn kernels off the cob. Cut the chicken into bite-sized portions.
  2. Put all of the ingredients, minus the toppings, into the slow cooker.
  3. Cook 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Taste and adjust salt/pepper if needed. Serve with optional toppings!
Serves ~8

North African Wedding Soup

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This is another one of the recipes that we decided to make this blog for… It’s one of my favorite Pinterest finds, from what’s become a favorite blog – Little Spice Jar. We always tweak our recipes a little bit and this was no different. But, per usual, we’ve forgotten the changes we made from the last few times we made it. So this time, we’ll cross our fingers that it turns out to be the best version we’ve ever made and actually write it down.

These little meatballs are so full of flavorful spices, and the meatballs actually flavor the soup broth itself. This broth has such depth, and the aromas floating through your kitchen are so enticing. The flavors build and build the more you eat. And actually, this is one of those soups that is so much better as a leftover. Do what we did and eat it for dinner, but then enjoy the leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. Feel free to tweak the spices based on your personal preferences, but keep it spice-heavy! It is not super spicy, so if you want it that way, go ahead and increase the spice level. You may have noticed if you’ve read our blog a lot that we love the flavors of the Middle East and Northern African. No exception here. If you’re not familiar with or unsure of the cuisine from this part of the world, please let this soup be your gateway drug. You won’t be disappointed!

Why is this called North African wedding soup? Well, every time we make it, it makes me think of Italian wedding soup – the small meatballs, couscous in place of the orzo, and of course, North African spices in place of Italian flavors. Even more confirmation for this name? Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary! North African wedding soup it is! (I have no idea if there is actually a traditional North African wedding soup – if there is, this is not it!)

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One of my favorites from our wedding ❤  Photograph by Lauren D. Rogers Photography

North African Wedding Soup

(Adapted from Little Spice Jar)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chopped carrots
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the beef, tomato paste, and spices through nutmeg. Combine well.
  3. Then form into small meatballs and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  5. Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the pot and top with several turns of black pepper, the Aleppo pepper, and the fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are fragrant/browning and carrots have begun to soften, ~10-12minutes.
  6. Pour beef broth into the pot and adjust heat to a light simmer.
  7. Add the meatballs and the couscous, partially cover if needed, and continue to lightly simmer for ~15 minutes, until the couscous is soft and tender.
  8. Taste and adjust for salt as needed, then serve.
Serves 6-8
Quick response to a question I’m anticipating. Why bake the meatballs, won’t they cook in the broth? Yes, they would. Baking them briefly allows for two important things in my mind – 1) it helps the meatballs hold their shape and 2) allows the meat to leech some of its fat somewhere other than your broth. Yes the fat tastes delicious and yes, you’re losing some of the spiced flavors, but it can definitely make your soup cloudy and oily. 

Southwest Summer Corn Chowder

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I love so much of the produce in the summer… Berries, stone fruit, fresh veggies… But the summer corn might just be my favorite! The corn I saw this week was huge and beautiful! I tried to take it home by the armful, but restrained myself and only took home 8 ears. Mind you, there’s only two of us, so that’s a fair amount of corn for the week. But it allows us to create delicious corn chowder! Now, I know our last recipe also had “southwest” in the title, but y’all are just going to have to deal with that theme for the week.

This chowder recipe really highlights the delicious summer corn. If you’re wary of spice, and are looking skeptically at the jalapeno and poblanos in this recipe, don’t worry! They just serve to add a nice smoky depth of flavor to the dish. This isn’t a spicy dish. When you eat it, all you’ll be noticing is the sweet corn!

(Also. Please don’t judge the recipe on its unappealing photo. I know it’s not very pretty. If we’re being honest, when it was almost done simmering, I got all pout-y and grouchy, because I thought it was ugly. Selim had to remind me that taste > image – and he’s right. The chowder tastes good, and still tastes good even though it’s not pretty. Hopefully you agree!)

Southwest Summer Corn Chowder

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 large poblano pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeno, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (16oz) white beans
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional toppings: lime, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, jalapenos, crushed tortilla chips, etc
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Slice poblano peppers in half and scrape out the seeds. Rub the outside with 1 tsp of oil.
  3. Roast peppers for 20 minutes and then remove to the side to cool.
  4. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat.
  5. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Top with a few shakes of salt and pepper.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 5 minutes.
  7. Once cooled enough to handle, coarsely chop poblano peppers. (A lot of people prefer to remove & discard the skins at this stage too – we don’t, but feel free to do so!)
  8. Add peppers, white beans, corn, spices, and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a light simmer.
  9. Simmer over this low heat for at least an hour.
  10. Remove 2 cups of soup to a food processor. Combine with the cup of milk. Blend until smooth.
  11. Return this mixture to the pot. Stir to combine. [You can do more or less depending upon how thick you’d prefer your chowder.]
  12. Simmer another few minutes, and then serve. I’ve been eating it without any toppings, but surely a little cheese or something can only improve things.
Makes 8 servings

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

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We haven’t shared that many soup recipes on here, but soup probably makes up a good third of my diet. I love soup! This is just another reason why I was born to marry into a Turkish family. If you ever make it to Turkey (which I can’t suggest more highly), you’ll see that delicious soups are frequently served as a starter to evening meals and eaten for breakfast and lunch as well. Soup with every meal?! Basically my idea of heaven.

We’ve made and shared High Plateau Soup, another Turkish soup recipe before – it’s rich, creamy, and incredibly unique – at least for my American palate! This soup has entirely different flavors, very reminiscent of soups Selim’s aunts and grandmother made for us in Turkey. Red lentil soup (kirmizi mercimek çorbasi) is hearty and filling, easy to make, and delicious. Make for a week of lunches like I did, or maybe next Monday, if you subscribe to #MeatlessMondays!

Red Lentil Soup

(Adapted from Ozlem’s Turkish Table)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 red potatoes, cubed
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Lemon wedges, extra red pepper flakes, and/or  for serving if desired
Instructions: 
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot.
  2. Once the oil is heated, add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the lentils, potatoes, carrots, and stock to the pot. Simmer for ~30 minutes, until the lentils and vegetables are cooked.
  4. Stir in the cumin, paprika, and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Lower heat and cook for a 10+ additional minutes.
  5. Taste and add salt & pepper as desired.
  6. Stir in lemon juice just prior to serving.
  7. Serve with lemon wedges, mint, and/or extra crushed red pepper flakes.
Makes 4-6 servings.

Bright Lemon Chicken Soup

I’ve put off posting this recipe for almost a week now. Mostly because I’ve been busy with my current rotation and was feeling pretty uncreative. The creativity bug hasn’t bitten me in the meantime, but I didn’t want to forget this recipe because I really enjoyed it. The lemon makes a basic chicken soup just that much brighter and more enticing! Sorry for the lack of creative commentary 🙂

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Bright Lemon Chicken Soup

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 large lemon (zest & juice)
  • 8 cups of flavorful chicken stock
  • 2 large boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 (dry) cup pearl couscous
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Chives
Instructions:
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Poach the chicken breasts for ~5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in large pot. Once hot, cook onions in the hot oil. Top with a few turns of fresh black pepper and cook for 8-10 minute until soft and fragrant.
  3. Zest and juice the lemon. Add these to the pot, along with the stock and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add these to the pot.
  5. Allow the soup to lightly simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring every once in awhile.
  6. Add the couscous to the pot. Increase the heat slightly. Couscous should be done after 6-8 minutes.
  7. When couscous is plump, remove from heat. Serve topped with a few snips of chives.

Sopa de Fideo (Almost)

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As is my usual plan, when I’m uninspired and looking for something to make, I turn to a) the internet and b) a random cuisine from around the world. Is it because I’m American and have always eaten “American” food, that I think it’s the least interesting cuisine out there? Or is it because legitimate “American” food doesn’t really exist – just a combination of bits and pieces of all of our immigrant roots? I think it’s probably some combination of the two. Whichever reason, I was thinking Mexican for my dinner creation. And I wanted something a little different. I feel like in this country, we just assume that Mexicans live solely on tacos, burritos, and the occasional chimichanga. There’s so much more to Mexican cuisine than that (obviously), but I’m the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about it.

Why did I call this post Sopa De Fideo (Almost)? Well, turns out the fideo connotates a specific type of noodle. Fideo looks like spaghetti noodles that have been broken into smaller pieces (and as such, most recipes you see for sopa de fideo tell you to purchase spaghetti and break it into smaller pieces.) Before I read more about it, I thought, “Hmmm… that orzo I have in the pantry would be a perfect substitute for broke spaghetti pieces…” Little did I know by substituting orzo, I essentially took away the namesake of the soup.

Oh well…

Historical, ethnic accuracy? FAIL

Delicious soup? WIN

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Sopa De Fideo

(Adapted from Cooking the Globe blog)
Ingredients:
  • 2 + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 14oz crushed tomatoes
  • 3 + 1 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 16oz orzo
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional garnishes: cilantro, avocado, cheese, crema
Instructions: 
  1. In a large pot, warm 2 tsp of olive oil. Add the chopped onions and cook for 5-6 minutes, until fragrant and translucent. Top this with a few turns on fresh black pepper.
  2. Add the minced garlic, continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Now, combine the garlic/onions, tomatoes, spices (cumin, cayenne, allspice), and 1 cup of stock in a blender or in a bowl with an immersion blender. Pulse until smooth.
  4. Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil in the original pot. Once warm, pour in the orzo. Toss to coat with oil. Toast the pasta, stirring frequently, so it becomes golden, but does not burn. Give this ~5 minutes.
  5. Now return the blended mixture and the remaining cups of stock to the pot. Stir to combine.
  6. Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. The pasta will plump up and the soup thicken a bit.
  7. At the end, stir in the lime juice.
  8. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as you like.
  9. Serve with one or several of the the garnishes!
Makes ~ 10-12 servings