October 29, 2008
October 24, 2008
Okay, this is my most shameless conjunction to date. This fabulous statue, dating back some 8,000 years and part of a family group at the Amman Archeological Museum, doesn’t have anything at all to do with this particular bowl of lentil soup.
This statue and the other 31 in existence were discovered at Ain Ghazal in 1974 when a highway was being bulldozed from Amman to the nearby city Zerqa. Back when I worked in Washington, DC, I’d fallen in love with one of them–it is dramatically spotlighted in a hallway at the Sackler Gallery–and now here I was, pretty much on the spot of its creation.
Ain Ghazal was inhabited for over 2000 years, starting around 7250 BCE, and over time its people developed complex rituals, created and buried these mysterious plaster statues, domesticated sheep and cattle, built plastered homes, and became subsistence farmers who grew wheat barley, chickpeas, peas, and…and…and…LENTILS. Whew, I knew I’d come up with a nexus if I did enough research.
To honor this great moment for me, standing in the museum surrounded by these sweet-faced ET-like creatures (and let’s not even think about the astonishing other exhibits–like actual Dead Sea Scrolls; ancient copper scrolls that tantalize with a story of a still undiscovered treasure site; Nabatean pornography; skulls and life-size pottery mummies; limestone and marble statues; the list is endless and endlessly rich), may I invite you to make and eat a bowl of Jordanian lentil soup? Hisaa al adas is a classic made from brown lentils, rice, herbs, and spices. Hisaa al adas bhamud, recipe below, is a rich lemony classic made of red lentils, vegetables, herbs, and spices–absolutely sensational!
Hisaa al adas bhamud for 4
5 cups water (or light broth)
1 and 1/2 cup red lentils
1/2 pound zucchini, chopped fine
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped fine
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 large clove garlic, crushed with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cilantro and/or parsley, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: sprigs of mint and lemon slices
Bring the water (or broth) to a boil and add the lentils, return to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Add the zucchini and potatoes, reboil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the onions in oil over low heat until transparent, then stir in the garlic and cilantro/parsley for a minute, then the cumin, and scrape everything into the soup, which has finished cooking, and simmer for 10 more minutes. When ready to serve, stir in the lemon juice, taste for seasoning, and ladle into bowls with a sprig of mint for garnish–or serve the mint and lemon slices on the side.
October 15, 2008
October 7, 2008
Brisk Friday night in Paris with woodsmoke in the air–Karen was on time, Barbara took the bus, Pat and Ana snaked thru 3 metro transfers to get to La Ferrandaise , just a few hops from the Sorbonne on the left bank. Absinthe on our minds. We’d been fantasizing all day, recalling the collective artistic madness this so-called Green Fairy spawned in the 19th and early 20th century. I said, “I’ll order soup so I can put this on my blog.” Fine, they said, now let’s order the Absinthe. So there you have it: a picture of the soup and a picture of the elaborate Absinthe apparatus.
What about La Ferrandaise (8 rue Vaugirard, former home of controversial author Knut Hamson)? Beef specialities from the Auvergne region of France. Nice atmosphere but a cranky staff and a menu with ups and downs, not as exciting as it was when Ana and Barbara first stumbled on it and its absinthe connection last year. The absinthe turned out to be a big glass of liquid licorice, pleasant–though no green fairies actually tapped us on our shoulders. Much stranger than the absinthe was the soup, Velouté de coco, julienne de concombre acidulée (take a breath), crouton au raifort. “It’s a cold soup,” the waitress said, clearly warning me off it. “I love cold soup,” I said. “Bring it on.” And she did…but it was hot. Imagine ceremonially pouring hot and creamy white bean soup over a bouquet of icy, marinated cucumber strips at table–and topping it with a crouton strip dabbed with horseradish.
Well, you know, here we are, four women all pooped out on a Friday night after an intense work week, being rushed through our decadent glasses of absinthe. I let it pass. But when the course was cleared, I asked why that cold soup was served hot. “The manager thought you’d like it better hot,” she said. “He was wrong.” I said. “I was disappointed.” No comment.
So no recipe for this one. Maybe it would have been quite nice cold. We’ll never know. But I can highly recommend a hot French white bean soup that I think you’d like, brought to you straight from Ernest Hemingway gallivanting through the Pyrenees, with or without his fave absinthe: Hemingway White Bean Soup.