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Recipes from our mothers

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Category: Soup

Moroccan Harira


Earlier this week I received this email from my mom:

I’m planning to make Harira soup today, it is a hearty legume soup from North Africa. My mom used to make the soup to end the Yom Kippur fast. I make it whenever the weather calls for it, either with bite size lamb or vegetarian. It calls for chickpeas, one can go the lengthy process of soaking the chickpeas over night and then cook them for an hour or so before adding it to the soup or simply open a can. What version would you prefer?

I asked her for both versions. Here’s her reply:

We just finished eating the Harira I’ve made today, it came out so good that this is the recipe for this week, just as I prepared it.
I prefer to soak and cook the chickpeas, however, it requires planning.
Omit the meat for a vegetarian version.


A few things:

This stew is very lamb-y. If you’re not totally into lamb, I recommend leaving it out. We’re both big fans and licked our bowls clean. Paul-Jean loved this stew and remarked several times how excited he is about this blog. About the soup, he said (and I quote) “it warms my very soul”.

This is a time-consuming recipe. It’s wonderful and worth it, but give yourself at least 2-3 hours on a relaxed day.

Dried chickpeas typically take 1-1.5 hours to cook if you soak them overnight. I learned today that if you have chickpeas that have sat in your cupboard for 7 years(!), you can cook them, but it’ll take over 2.5 hours, and some will still be a little crunchy. Note to self, don’t do that again. Cooking chickpeas was surprisingly easy, so I’ll definitely need to try making them from scratch with fresher chickpeas.



Moroccan Harira

Serves 6-8

1 cup dried chickpeas soaked over night or
1 14oz canned chick peas
1 lb lamb, grass fed preferably (I used shoulder) cut into bite size
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 ts. ground ginger
1 ts. turmeric
1 3” cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 celery stalks coarsely chopped
1 med. carrot coarsely chopped
6 cups water
1 cup small brown lentils (soaked for about 1 hour)
2 med. ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
sea salt and pepper to taste
zhoug or harissa (optional)

If using soaked chickpeas, drain and transfer to a saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook until tender, from 40-90 minutes, depending on chickpeas.
Combine the meat, onion and oil in a large heavy duty pot. Saute over medium heat until meat is brown and the onion is golden. Stir in the ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon.
Add bay leaf, celery and carrot and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour or so, until meat is tender.
Add drained lentils and tomatoes to the meat and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft.
Divide the chickpeas. Add 1/2 to the pot, place the other half in a blender with some soup broth and puree. Stir the pureed chick peas into the soup, add salt and pepper and mix well. Simmer covered for about 20 minutes.
Stir in the cilantro and serve immediately, adding zhoug or harissa if desired.
I like adding a couple tablespoons of cooked brown basmati rice to my bowl.

Carrot & red lentil soup with lima beans


Six weeks ago I moved to Brooklyn with my husband, Paul-Jean. He got a job in Manhattan so we upped and moved from the heart of Illinois right to the Big Apple. The main thing I’ve noticed since living here is how easy it is to eat out. We have a tremendous amount of excellent food within a few blocks of us. It’s just so easy. And as someone who loves food (like, really loves food), I’ve been having a field day.

The thing is, it’s not cheap. While Paul-Jean and I tend to split a main and an appetizer, it’s still a tremendous amount more than we’d like to spend. Plus there’s nothing like home cooking at the end of the day. At least home cooking in our household.

I grew up in a home where my mother cooked daily. It’s been a passion of hers her entire life. Our dining room perpetually had piles of Bon Appétit magazines in random, precarious stacks.  At one point she had almost 20 years worth of them and knew exactly which recipe came from which issue.

Clearly, we love food in our home. So in the spirit of coming back to home cooking after six weeks of pure gluttony, I asked my mom to send me a recipe a week. Both to catalog her cadre of incredible recipes, and to have an excuse to make something yummy and nourishing and homey.

My mom grew up in Israel to parents who hailed from Turkey (my grandmother) and Greece (my grandfather). They both spoke Ladino growing up, the language of pre-inquisition Spanish jews, so our roots go back to Spain, and probably North Africa before that. My grandparents met in Spain, and once World War II hit they took a long trek to Israel via France, Morocco, and Tangier. My mother has three sisters, each born in a different country as the growing family made their way to safety.

The food I grew up with is clearly influenced by our Mediterranean roots. We have a love of simple, clean flavors and lots of fresh, gorgeous veggies.

The first recipe arrived this weekend. Red lentil soup and carrot soup with lima beans. It’s one of my favorites, and Paul-Jean and I enjoyed it tremendously! It was the perfect warming, nourishing food for the first really cold day of the year. I served it with crusty rye bread and roasted broccoli and romanesco.


From my mom:

Anyway, today I made the red lentil and carrot soup with lima beans. Normally I add ginger but I ran out of it, instead I added a handful of fresh mint that I bought in today’s farmers market. Turned out really good. I squeezed fresh lemon juice and a bit of zhoug into my bowl , yum yum.



Carrot and red lentil soup with lima beans

serves 4-6

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup red split lentils
1 cup frozen baby lima beans, thawed
6 cups water
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

I like to soak the lentils in water for about an hour, rinsing before adding to the pot.
Sauté the onion garlic and ginger in oil over medium heat, just until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add carrots and continue to cook until crispy soft.
Add water, lentils and lima beans and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until lentils are tender. Stir in salt and pepper.
Just before serving add the cilantro and stir.

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