I'm feeling the inclination to tip-toe into 2011. I'm concerned that if I step on one squeaky floorboard, all hell could break loose. For the most part 2010 was good to me, it was busy, interesting, unpredictable and fulfilling. I feel very, very fortunate. I consider every day I'm happy and healthy a gift. On the flip side, it was a difficult year for a number of people I know and care about, and to them, I hope 2011 shines better and brighter.
2010 was the year I finished this, spent three weeks here, and made many pots of soup along the way. I hung out at the cabin. And we camped, and camped some more. As far as 2011 is concerned, it looks like I'll be ushering in the new year with a nasty head cold and an awesome bowl of noodle soup. I can tell you with confidence, sparkling wine and throat lozenges are a terrible pairing.
That said, I'm looking forward to shaking this bug quickly to take a crack at making 2011 memorable and meaningful. I've been thinking about some of the things I'd like to focus on this year, and I've come up with a list of sorts...Here goes. I'd like to get out of San Francisco for trips near and far. Top of the list: London, Japan, the Pacific Northwest, and Kauai. I'm feeling the pull of a road trip, not sure of where yet though, Marfa? Across Canada? I've always wanted to drive to the tip of Baja, but I'm not sure that's the best idea right now. What else? I'd like to jog to the beach more often. And I'd like to take this big guy out more often. I want to commit to brewing beer once a month, and also stay current with the New Yorker. I want to cook from lots of books. Cook alongside lots of cooks. Get to know less familiar ingredients better. And revisit favorite recipes more often. I want to try keep things simple. I'm sure I'll think of others, but this is what is top of mind right now. What about you? I love hearing your new years thoughts and resolutions.
Today's recipe is exactly what I've been craving. I've cooked it twice now, and it's the perfect recipe to usher in the new year with, particularly if you have a cold. But let me back up a bit, and let you know how I came across it. One of my Aussie pals works in a bookshop in Melbourne that focuses on food and wine titles. She always has great insight into books and recipes, and she mentioned hosting Greg & Lucy Malouf in the shop one night. They made a trio of breads for the event from Saraban: A Chef's Journey Through Persia that sounded wonderful, and I had it in the back of my mind to flip through the book as soon as I could find it. I stumbled on the book at Omnivore Books, and bought it on the spot. The New Year Noodle Soup caught my attention, and I'm thrilled it did. At its core it is a bean and noodle soup featuring thin egg noodles swimming in a fragrant broth spiced with turmeric, cumin, chiles, and black pepper. You use a medley of lentils, chickpeas, and borlotti beans, making the soup hearty and filling without being heavy. You add spinach, dill, and cilantro. You add lime juice for a bit of sour at the end. And then you've got a number of toppings to add when you serve the soup - chopped walnuts, caramelized onions, and sour cream. It's a long ingredient list, but worth it. I think I'm going to double up on the next pot. It was delicious reheated for days, even with the noodles in there. The book itself is amazing, and I can't wait to explore it beyond this soup.
So here we go. 2011 it is. My hope is that each of you has a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year. I'd also like to add a heartfelt thank you for your ongoing insight and encouragement. Can you believe we're coming up on eight years together? It seems surreal to me. xo-h
New Year Noodle Soup
If you don't have beans that have already been cooked you can use canned ones. Or you can soak the garbanzo & borlotti overnight, and add them after the broth comes to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes, then stir in the yellow split peas/lentils. This way the beans/lentils should be done cooking around the same time. The original recipe calls for fresh borlotti beans, which aren't in season. I used dried borlotti that I cooked a couple weeks back, then froze until now. And, on the noodle front, I couldn't help but add more than what the original recipe called for. You can actually use more/less noodles - even when it seemed like too much, they always manage to get slurped up in a soup like this.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 long red chili OR green serrano, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 1/2 cups / 2 liters good-tasting vegetable stock/broth
100g / 3.5 oz yellow split peas or brown lentils
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed if using canned
2 cups / 350g cooked borlotti beans
fine grain sea salt
120 g thin egg noodles, fresh or dried
3 1/2 oz / 100g fresh spinach leaves, finely shredded
1/2 cup finely shredded cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
juice of one lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
100 ml sour cream or creme fraiche
50g / scant 2 ounces of toasted, chopped walnuts
Heat the oil in a large, thick-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the chile and cook until they soften, a few minutes. Add the spices and cook for another thirty seconds, just long enough for them to toast a bit, then stir in the stock. Bring to a boil and add the split peas/lentils to the pot. Cook until they are just tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in the cooked chickpeas and borlotti beans. Once the beans have heated throughout, season with salt to taste.
In the meantime, you can prepare the toppings. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat along with a couple big pinches of salt. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until golden and caramelized, 8 - 10+ minutes. Set aside.
Just before you're ready to eat, add the noodles to the simmering soup and cook until al dente. Stir in the spinach, and cilantro and dill. Add a big squeeze of lime to the pot or serve wedges along with each bowl of soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
Serve right away, each bowl topped with a big spoonful of caramelized onions, some creme fraiche, and a sprinkling of walnuts.
Serves about 4.
Adapted slightly from the Ash-e Reshteh / New Year Noodle Soup recipe in Saraban, by Greg & Lucy Malouf
Prep time: 20 minutes - Cook time: 40 minutes