Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Moroccan Chickpea & Lentil Soup

Moroccan Spiced Chickpea & Lentil Soup
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Serves 8

• 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
• 1 medium white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
• 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
• 1 fennel bulb, peeled, cored and chopped (about 1 cup)
• 1/2 tsp ground ginger
• 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• Pinch of saffron threads (optional)
• 2 cans (14 oz each) chopped tomatoes with their juice
• 2 cloves of garlic, minced
• 2 TB sugar or to taste
• 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
• 1 cup dried lentils (green, brown, red or yellow), picked through and rinsed
• 3 cups canned chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
• 4 sprigs cilantro
• 4 sprigs parsley
• 2 dried bay leaves
• sea salt, to taste
• pepper, to taste

• 1 garlic clove
• 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
• 4 to 5 TB extra virgin olive oil
• Juice of 1 lemon, plus zest
• 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and deveined
• 1 bunch cilantro
• salt to taste
• pepper to taste

For the Charmoula
Mix the garlic, cumin, four tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice and jalapeño in a food processor. Pick cilantro leaves from their stems. Add the lemon zest and cilantro and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Pulse mixture a couple of times, scraping mixture down from side of the bowl in between pulses. Add the remaining olive oil if needed.

The mixture should resemble a rustic pesto. Place in tightly closed container and refrigerate for up to two days.

For the Soup
In a medium sized pot (about 4 quart capacity) with a lid, heat the olive oil at medium heat and add fennel, gently cooking for a couple of minutes while the fennel releases its natural juices.

Add the red and white onions, cook until soft and translucent, but without turning brown, stirring mixture from time to time, about 12 minutes.

Add tomatoes and increase heat to high until the mixture comes to a simmer (about 5 minutes). Add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic and saffron if using, letting them infuse the mixture with their flavors for a few more minutes.

Add the lentils, vegetable stock, sprigs of cilantro and parsley and bay leaves and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Season with salt, pepper and sugar, stirring the mixture a couple of times. Cover pot and let simmer for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

Add the cooked chickpeas and cook uncovered for another 5 to 7 minutes until heated through. Mix well, season again with salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Remove bay leafs and sprigs of cilantro and parsley.

For a thicker soup, remove about one cup of the cooked lentils and chickpeas from the soup and process them in blender, adding some extra liquid if needed. Add the blended mixture back to the soup.

For a thinner soup. add extra vegetable stock.

Serve hot with 1 tablespoon of Charmoula sauce on the top of the soup, if desired. It adds a wonderful tangy flavor with a subtle kick.

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