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.