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Pamphlet Cooking: “Armenian” Soup

“Armenian” Soup

Last week’s Tomato Soup Cake recipe reminded me that, in addition to my stacks of proper cookbooks, I have also amassed quite an impressive pile of pamphlets, brochures, and small spiral-bound recipe collections. Most of these I acquired thanks to The Book Thing, an awesome organization here in Baltimore that redistributes books to the community free of charge. A few times a year I donate all the books I don’t need anymore and browse the cookbook shelf to see what new treats might catch my eye. And it’s these slim paper volumes—often old advertising gimmicks for baking soda or similar—that are my favorite scores.

My stash includes quite a few tempting offerings such as “The Little Book of Excellent Recipes” by The Mystery Chef (future post, promise!), but in flipping through a few of them I landed on a soup recipe in the less exotic sounding “CSA Pantry Collection #4” that I decided to test drive. As it turned out, CSA in this case stood not for community supported agriculture, as I had assumed, but rather the Celiac Spruce Association. Their recipe for Armenian Soup included dried apricots and a single potato swimming in a full 2 quarts of water. Currently challenged by yet another snow storm and freezing temperatures required some creative pantry thinking on my part if I was going to execute, so I used the pitted dates and sweet potatoes I had on hand and ended up using half the amount of stock called for. Which is to say I wouldn’t blame “CSA Pantry Collection #4” for this bastardized recipe, but between its inspiration and the bitter, bitter cold, I ended up with a soup that was appreciated thoroughly without having to slide down the street to the grocery store.

That all said, I’m not sure what the Armenians would have to say about it.

 “Armenian” Soup

“Armenian” Soup

1/3 cup red lentils
6 dates, chopped
1 large sweet potato, cubed (no need to peel)
1 quart vegetable broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped

The real joy of this recipe: its simplicity. Place all ingredients in a 4 quart sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

That’s it. You’re done. Let’s eat.

Pas Grand Chose


After two consecutive weekends making sourdough bread using recipes that took literally days to complete, I was transfixed by this little gem while paging through the new King Arthur Flour catalog with my morning coffee: a recipe for French Herb Bread. It wasn’t just that I had recently stumbled across an adorable little bag of Herbes de Provence in my pantry (a souvenir of a French vacation–sadly, not mine). It was that the whole kit and kaboodle went into the mixing bowl in one go and would come out of the oven just a few short hours later. I was smitten, and the butter wasn’t even melting on the bread yet.

By 8:15 a.m., it was measured and mixed and proofing in the oven. By lunchtime, there was toast and by 11 p.m. there was still time for just one more slice before bed, with no one else the wiser. Good thing it’s a quick mix.

French Herb Bread

Look, ma! One bowl (and practically clean already).

French Herb Bread
from King Arthur Flour

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 T olive oil
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) AP Flour
2 T nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup dried potato flakes
2 T herbes de Provence
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast

Place warm water and yeast into a bowl or stand mixer. Stir to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients and mix, then knead, by hand or by dough hook. Mine was soft and light, but not sticky. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for one hour.

French Herb Bread dough

After the first rise is complete, deflate dough and shape into a loaf. Place in a lightly oiled 9″ x 5″ loaf pan, cover loosely with greased plastic wrap, and allow to rise again until it has crowned about an inch over the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F. My second rise took no more than 30 minutes, so don’t delay getting your oven to temperature.

Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.