VEGETARIAN RECIPES

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Vegetarian Soups from the Middle East

By Habeeb Salloum

Wholesome, tasty, and simple to prepare, vegetarian soups have been on the everyday menu of the Middle Eastern peasant since the dawn of history. Through the centuries, at very little cost, the farmers and laborers of these lands have enjoyed healthy and nutritious broths, refined by their ancestors. Since the days of the Sumerians and the ancient Egyptians, generation after generation has been sustained by these peasant soups. The people, especially those of the countryside, have always been fond of their simple, delectable vegetarian broths. Hence, when Middle Easterners move to other parts of the world, they take with them these culinary delights.

My parents, having immigrated to western Canada from Syria in the early 1920s, were no exception. Having inherited the ingenuity of their ancestors who had farmed in the dry Biblical lands, they raised a healthy family through the Great Depression by the daily consumption of vegetarian edibles developed in their land of origin. When our neighbors found great difficulties in finding enough food to sustain them-selves, we thrived on our vegetarian stews and soups.

Hardy legumes such as broad beans, chickpeas, lentils, and a number of common vegetables which thrive in semi-arid lands kept us well-fed and healthy. Fresh from our hand-watered garden in summer and dried in winter, they were prepared with herbs and spices, becoming the sustenance of our lives. As the basis of various types of savory soups, they graced our table day after day. Even after over half a century, I can still visualize pots of these simmering vegetarian delights diffusing their enticing aromas.

Made from easily obtained vegetables and legumes, these soups are simple to prepare. They are succulent, inexpensive, filling, and do not require exotic ingredients, only herbs and spices to give them zest and tang. There is no need for meat to make a rich and full-bodied stock. Any available vegetable can be simmered with these seasonings to produce a delectable soup-base.

It is an irony that in the Middle Eastern homes of the affluent, vegetarian soups do not usually form part of the meal offered to guests. As long as they do not have visitors who could betray their eating habits, the well-to-do consume these soups privately with great gusto. On the other hand, to keep their status as part of the wealthy class, they disdain them in public, pretending to consider them as the food of the poor.

A good number of Middle Eastern soups are enriched by first sautéing some of the vegetables with herbs, especially fresh coriander, thus making them, besides being wholesome, tasty. Many can be served with a salad and pita bread as a one-dish meal. These hot soups not only satisfy hunger and are healthy, but give warmth, pleasure, and excitement to the diner.

To the peasants of the Middle Eastern lands, they are a necessity of life. To vegetarians in other countries who have gourmet tastes, they are a very healthy and mouth-watering addition to their daily menu.

Recipes

PUREED LENTIL SOUP - SHAWRBAT `ADAS MAJROOSHA
(Serves from 8 to 10)

Try this hearty soup.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
8 cups water
1 cup split lentils, rinsed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of saffron
2 Tablespoons white rice, uncooked
1/4 cup lemon juice

Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté onions and hot pepper over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except lemon juice, and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. Puree; then return to saucepan and reheat. Stir in lemon juice; then serve.

Total Calories Per Serving: 98
Fat: 2 grams

LENTIL AND TOMATO SOUP - SHAWRBAT `ADAS MAA BANADOURA
(Serves from 8 to 10)

Enjoy this delicious soup.

1 cup lentils, rinsed
7 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium size onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups stewed tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup white rice, uncooked
1/4 cup lemon juice

Place lentils and water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, in a frying pan, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic until they turn golden brown. Stir in remaining ingredients, except lemon juice, and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Stir the frying pan contents into the lentils and bring to boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until rice and lentils are well-cooked. Stir in lemon juice and serve hot.

Total Calories Per Serving: 115
Fat: 2 grams

LENTIL AND VERMICELLI SOUP - SHAWRBAT `ADAS MAA SH`IREEYA
(Serves from 8 to 10)

The fresh coriander and cooked vermicelli add an interesting touch to this version of lentil soup.

1 cup lentils, rinsed
8 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
1/3 cup vermicelli, broken into small pieces

Place lentils, water, salt, pepper, and cumin in a pot and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, heat oil in frying pan; then sauté onions, garlic, and hot pepper over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add coriander and stir-fry for 3 more minutes.

Add frying pan contents and vermicelli to lentils and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes or until vermicelli and lentils are well-cooked.

Total Calories Per Serving: 108
Fat: 2 grams

CHICKPEA SOUP - HASA AL-HUMMUS
(Serves from 6 to 8)

Here's a basic, yet delicious, chickpea-based soup.

1 cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, then drained
8 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium size onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped into small pieces
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground mustard seeds
1/4 cup lemon juice

Place chickpeas and water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour.

In the meantime, heat oil in a frying pan; then stir-fry onions, garlic, and hot pepper until they begin to brown. Add frying pan contents with the remaining ingredients to the chickpeas. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour or until chickpeas are well-cooked.

Total Calories Per Serving: 133
Fat: 4 grams

TOMATO AND CHICKPEA SOUP - HASA AL-TAMATAT MAA HUMMUS
(Serves from 8 to 10)

Enjoy another version of chickpea soup.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 Tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 cups tomato juice
6 cups water
1/4 cup white rice, rinsed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Heat oil in saucepan; then sauté onions and garlic over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Total Calories Per Serving: 109
Fat: 3 grams

BROAD BEAN SOUP - FOOL NABED
(Serves from 8 to 10)

Fresh broad beans are best for this recipe, but pre-cooked fava beans can also be used.

2 cups large broad beans, soaked for about 24 hours
8 cups water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Drain beans and remove skins. Place beans in saucepan with water and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1-1/2 hours or until well-cooked. Allow to cool. Puree in a blender; then return to saucepan and bring to boil, adding more water if necessary. Stir in remaining ingredients, except parsley, and bring to boil. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Place in bowls; then garnish with parsley before serving.

Note: Cooked fava beans - another name for broad beans - in cans can be substituted for the dry broad beans. The fava in cans are usually cooked with their skins, and hence the soup will be much darker in color. Substitute 4 cups of the canned fava for the 2 cups of the dried. Combine with remaining ingredients, except parsley, and purée; then bring to boil and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.

Total Calories Per Serving: 108
Fat: 2 grams

BROAD BEAN AND VEGETABLE SOUP - SHAWRBAT FOOL
(Serves from 8 to 10)

Here's another broad bean soup.

2 cups large broad beans, soaked for about 24 hours
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 hot pepper, finely chopped 2 medium tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 medium potato, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
8 cups water

Drain beans, remove skins, and set beans aside.

Heat oil in a saucepan; then sauté onions, garlic, and hot pepper for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour or until broad beans are well-cooked, stirring a few times and adding more water if necessary.

Note: 4 cups of pre-cooked fava beans can be substituted for the 2 cups of dry beans. If the cooked fava beans are used, cook the soup for only about 40 minutes.

Total Calories Per Serving: 144
Fat: 2 grams

VEGETABLE SOUP - HASA AL-KHADR
(Serves from 8 to 10)

A touch of ginger adds a lot to this soup.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
7 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

Heat oil in a saucepan; then stir-fry carrots, onion, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add potatoes, tomatoes, and coriander leaves and stir-fry for another 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients a nd bring to boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour or until vegetables are well-done.

Total Calories Per Serving: 87
Fat: 4 grams

Habeeb Salloum is a freelance writer from Canada.


About The Vegetarian Journal and The Vegetarian Resource Group

This article originally appeared in the September/October, 1995 issue of The Vegetarian Journal, published by:
The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-8343
E-mail: vrg@vrg.org
WHAT IS THE VEGETARIAN RESOURCE GROUP?

Our health professionals, activists, and educators work with businesses and individuals to bring about healthy changes in your school, workplace, and community. Registered dietitians and physicians aid in the development of nutrition-related publications and answer member and media questions about vegetarian diets. The Vegetarian Resource Group is a non-profit organization. Financial support comes primarily from memberships, contributions, and book sales.

The contents of this article, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

This article may be reproduced for non-commercial use intact and with credit given to The Vegetarian Resource Group.

Copyright 1995 by The Vegetarian Resource Group.




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