My next recipe comes from The Scent of Orange Blossoms. I acquired this cookbook from a college class about women from the Middle East and it’s specifically about Jewish-Moroccans cooking. It is also has sprinkles of history written in-between the recipes which is why my professor added it to her curriculum.
For this particular recipe, the author included a letter from a mother to her two daughters about how life has changed in the city of Fez. She tells them about how when she was young all the generations of the family lived together and worked as a community.
It was not uncommon for multiple generations to live together for many cultures in the past. I know that in my own family history, I had relatives that lived and worked on family farms.
I find pleasure in discovering similarities between vastly different cultures.
Another similarity between my culture and Jewish-Moroccan culture is family comfort food. Dodie’s Bean Soup with Preserved Lemons is such a meal, according to Dodie that is and I’m not gonna dispute her on it.
Here’s what you’ll need
- 1 tablespoon of paprika
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 cups of dried baby lima beans
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cups of chicken stock
- 12 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
- 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 2 lamb or chicken sausages (about 4 ounces)
- 1/2 – 3/4 of preserved lemon rind
- 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper
- 2 teaspoons of salt
Before we begin, this recipe requires some early preparation. Most notably, the preserved lemons. I haven’t been in the mood to ever go and try to buy preserved lemons, mostly because I’ve never seen it off hand and it’s easy to do on your own. I’m sure you can buy it somewhere though. Despite it being easy to do, it is kind of pain and it makes making this recipe hard to do if you just want to make it on the fly one night.
If you are okay with waiting in anticipation to make this soup and want to preserve your own lemons give yourself three weeks. As I said, it’s not hard, but it takes time. What you do is cut a cross into the nub of a lemon and then slice half way down. Pull the lemon apart a bit and then sprinkle as much salt as possible inside. Place the lemon in a mason jar and repeat the process until you have compressed as many lemons as the jar will hold. Leave that jar on the counter overnight and add another lemon. Continue to do this for a few days and be sure to flip the jar each time to evenly disperse the salt. Eventually the rind will soften and that’s when it’s ready to be consumed and preserved even longer by refrigeration.
Again, this process takes about three weeks.
The other preparation for this soup involves the beans and tomatoes. The tomatoes are real easy. You do the cross stitch cut and boil method for that. You only have to boil them for 30 seconds. If you wait until they are completely cool, the skin will just slide off.
The beans are a pain but also easy to do. Ideally you’ll want to soak those puppies in cold water overnight. You should then be able to rub off the skin easily. The quick method is to boil them with salt for three minutes and then let it soak in the salt water for an hour. Both methods work and the skin will come off easily, but it’s difficult keeping track of what is skin and what is bean. It’s kind of tedious and I do recommend asking for help.
Now that I’ve got those disclaimers out of the way, let’s move on to the cooking.
The first step is to mix the paprika with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until a paste forms. Once the paste forms heat it in a large soup pot over medium heat until it darkens. Once the paste is dark enough, add the beans, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir and then cover the pot to let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Once those three minutes are up, lower the heat to a low setting and allow the beans to cook for an hour or an hour and 1/4.
When the beans have softened you can discard the bay leaves and add garlic, cumin, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Stir, cover, and cook for 25-30 minutes.
While this is happening, get your lamb or chicken sausage out and slice them. You will cook your sliced meat in a small skillet with olive oil for about 4-5 minutes.
As soon as the meat is ready, I say it’s ok to add it to the soup, but if you’re nervous about it you can go ahead and dice your lemon rind, wait until those initial 30 minutes are up and add everything together. After you add the meat and lemon the final step is to pepper and salt the thing.
The final result is comforting and tasty. The lemon and cumin are the strongest flavors. I think if I made this again, I’d dial back on the cumin. I also recommend letting the lemon soak into the soup. I actually liked my leftovers of this soup better than my fresh version because the lemon flavor had blended into the soup by then as opposed to overpowering it.
The best part about this soup for me was the garlic though! By the time this soup is ready for consumption, the garlic has softened and becomes this nice ball of mushy goodness. I’m not describing it well at all, but trust me when I say it’s delicious.
So, yeah, this soup was a success and I’d make it again if I had some help. It doesn’t top French Onion Soup, but it’s a contender for sure.
*Some time after this blog was published, I discovered that Trader Joe’s sells preserved lemons. You always find the thing you need after you don’t need it.