Apr 062014

Persian Noodle Soup

I love soup all year round — hearty and filling in the cold months, lighter and brothy in the warmer ones. And for the transitional months, something like this take on Persian Noodle Soup.

I was first introduced to this dish on one of those one-thing-leads-to-another internet rabbit trails. Eventually I circled back to several links for “Persian” noodle and bean soups. Like this one, and this, and this, and many others. In fact, there seemed to be so many versions floating around that I realized I’d been missing out on something that is obviously pretty popular.

I’m sure there’s a truly authentic version of this soup, and that mine isn’t it — but it’s delicious all the same. (To that end, and based on the research I did, feel free to substitute ingredients as needed and/or as inclined.) The end result is aromatic broth thickened with yellow split peas and punctuated with red chile, egg noodles, chickpeas and butter beans, slivers of spinach, chopped cilantro and dill, squeeze of lime. Amazing… For a vegan version, simply omit the dollop of creamy garnish and swap out the tablespoon of butter in the onions for an extra tablespoon of olive oil.

Recipe: Persian Noodle Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large Fresno chile (or you could use jalapeño, serrano, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
2 liters vegetable stock (I used Rapunzel brand vegetable bouillon cubes to make mine — the no salt added version)
4 ounces yellow split peas (or you could use red split peas, or brown or green lentils)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed (or about 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 15-ounce can butter beans, rinsed (or about 1 1/2 cups cooked beans) (or you could use borlotti, cannellini, navy, pinto beans…)
kosher salt, to taste
about 200 grams thin, dried egg noodles (I had a 500 g bag, and used a little less than half of it)
2 big handfuls of fresh, large spinach leaves, slivered
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
sour cream, crème fraîche, or plain yogurt (a heaping teaspoon or so per serving)
toasted chopped walnuts (less than a teaspoon sprinkled on each serving)

To make the soup, heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and chile and cook until softened a bit — just a few minutes. Add the turmeric, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and cook briefly, stirring, just to lightly toast the spices. Then add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the split peas and cook until just barely tender. This will vary — start checking at about 15 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and beans and bring soup back to a simmer. Add kosher salt to taste.

Keep the soup at a simmer while you make the caramelized onion garnish. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and a couple of pinches of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized. Set aside.

Add the noodles to the simmering soup and cook until al dente. Again, this will vary, depending on the type of noodles you use. But start checking them about 10 minutes earlier than the package indicates. When the noodles are done, stir in the spinach, cilantro and dill. Squeeze the lime into the soup and then taste for salt. I added several more pinches at this point.

Serve immediately, garnishing each serving with a big spoonful of caramelized onion, a dollop of sour cream, and a light sprinkling of toasted walnuts.

balverne-rosePairing: Rosé

Soup can sometimes be tricky to pair with wine — but this one has so many different textures and garnishes that it’s not problematic at all. And there’s something about the hit of fresh herbs and the dollop of tangy cream that just say spring and rosé to me. There are lots of choices, from all corners of the world. I tend to have better luck with European versions, since I’m looking for crisp and dry rosé, and that seems to be a no-brainer from many parts of France, Spain, Greece and more. But there are also some lovely choices from California, like two of the wines below.

Balverne 2012 Rosé of Sangiovese Chalk Hill ($20). A pleasant surprise out of California — bone dry, with sour cherry, blood orange, wild strawberry and light spice notes. Find it!

Lasseter Family 2012 Enjoué Sonoma Valley ($24). Pretty, delicate, floral, crisp — very nice. Juicy strawberry, watermelon, aromatic citrus peel, finishes dry. Mostly Syrah, with dashes of Mourvèdre and Grenache. Find it!

Ela 2012 Vinho Verde Rosé ($10). Juicy strawberry is fresh and slightly fizzy, with soft acidity balanced with some drying mineral notes. Would also work nicely with spicy foods — think extra red pepper sauce on falafel with tahini sauce. (I speak from experience…) Find it!

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