Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Happy Persian New Year!

I actually think the Persian New Year (Nowrūz) was back in March, but a friend of a friend posted on Facebook about this bean and noodle soup that is traditionally made in Iran for their New Year celebrations, and I was intrigued. Technically, it's called Ash-e-reshteh, but I like to think of it as Middle Eastern pasta fagiole!

Of course, I made a few changes to the recipe. I used less stock for a thicker soup, I used mung beans instead of lentils, because they intrigued me in the co-op and I've never had them before. I added chives along with the rest of the herbs, because I have a ton of them growing in my garden right now.  Also, instead of yogurt as a garnish, I used prepared tzatziki that we had knocking about in the fridge, and it was the PERFECT compliment to this soup! Finally, as is my way, I converted this to be made in the crock pot, which worked great.

One thing I would like to note concerns the inclusion of mint in this recipe. I have been making a concerted effort to force myself to enjoy mint in savory applications, but I am not yet having much success. I would definitely make this soup again, but I would leave out the mint next time--that's just my personal preference. You do as your own conscience (and palate) dictates.

Crock Pot Persian New Year's Soup with Beans, Noodles, and Herbs (Ash-e-reshteh)
(Source: adapted from Louisa Shafia, Lucid Food: Cooking For An Eco-Conscious Life via Epicurious, June 2010)
Yield: serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 cup dried kidney beans
1/2 cup dried fava beans or 1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans (I couldn't find favas, so I used some large dried navy beans)
3 yellow onions, divided 
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup dried lentils (I used dried mung beans, just for fun)
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock (up to 12)
*I added 1 large (or 2 small) bay leaves

salt and pepper
1 large handful fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces (I would omit this next time!)
6 ounces thin egg noodles or linguine, broken into thirds (I used fresh pasta)
1 bunch leafy greens, stemmed, and coarsely chopped (I used fresh spinach)
1/4 cup fresh dill leaves, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
*I added 1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
plain yogurt (or tzatziki!)

Rinse the dried beans (the chickpeas, kidneys and favas) then cover them with water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil hard for ten minutes. This is a key step. Not only will it help the beans cook faster in the crock pot, it will kill those pesky kidney bean toxins.

Meanwhile, dice one of the onions. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add four of the minced cloves of garlic and the turmeric. Sauté for one more minute, then scrape the mixture into the crock pot. Drain the boiled beans and add them, and also the (rinsed) lentils (or mung beans). Pour in the stock, and toss in the bay leaf. Cook on low for seven hours or high for three and a half, or until the beans are almost tender. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Add more stock if the beans have absorbed a lot, to a desired consistency.

Slice the remaining two onions into thin half moons. Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat and add the remaining three tablespoons olive oil.  Sauté the onions, stirring frequently, until they are brown and caramelized. Add the remaining garlic and sauté for one more minute. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Add the noodles to the soup and cook on low for another hour (=eight total for the soup on low, four on high), or until the beans and the noodles are sufficiently tender. Or you can boil the pasta separately and add it just before serving. When the noodles are done, turn off the crock pot, add the leafy greens and the fresh herbs, and just let them wilt in the hot soup. Serve with a large dollop of yogurt (or better yet, tzatziki!) and some of the caramelized onions.

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