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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.

It’s Getting Hot In Here: Yemisir Kik Wot


There is just not a beautiful way to serve a scoop of lentils. No matter how amazing they taste, how perfectly they are spiced, the visual is just not that inspiring. Or maybe that’s just me. Do you have a secret you’d care to share?

Anyway, as I mentioned a couple days ago, I was infatuated with the Yemisir Kik Wot I had tasted recently and wanted to try my hand making it at home. Thanks to a favorite cookbook of mine and some internet research, I made a plan. It wouldn’t be 100% authentically Ethiopian, perhaps, but that mattered much less to me than that it be really, really good.

First, I made my berbere paste.

one pot

And then I made a Yemisir Kik Wot that was only a slightly tweaked version of this recipe, adaptations based on what I had on hand, the potency of my spices, and the fact that I could not seem to pry the lid off my canister of turmeric (!!) more than any serious reason I saw to alter the original.

The kitchen being absent of any freshly baked injera, I served mine with a pile of kale sautéed in oil, garlic, and ginger, with a dab of harissa on the side, since I just happened to have some on hand (ahem).

Yemisir Kik Wot
variation on this recipe from Marla in the Kitchen

1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. ginger, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 1/2 tsp. berbere paste
3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
12 oz. small red lentils
4-5 cups vegetable broth, as needed

Heat the oil in a 4 qt. soup pot and sauté the onion until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for several minutes more. Next, add all the spices to the pot, stirring continuously to prevent burning. After a minute or two, add the tomatoes and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently.

Finally, add the stock and lentils, and simmer until they are very soft and have melded together, about 45 minutes.

Thoughts on a Celeriac


I have always wanted to buy a celeriac, but I never had a reason.

Still, when swiss chard, more swiss chard (not that I have anything against an additional bunch of awesome swiss chard!), or a bulb of fresh, organic celeriac presented itself as a shopping decision two weeks in a row at my CSA stand, I could not resist temptation. Luckily my copy of Yotam Ottlenghi’s Plenty had not one but two recipes for this knotty little root vegetable, and I had all the makings for one of them. Good thing since, based on recent dinners, the husband was beginning to think that our vegetable drawer was producing an infinite swiss chard supply of its own volition.

Though I was disappointed to weight my “one small celeriac” and discover that it was significantly smaller than the small 1.5 lbs. vegetable indicated in the recipe, I recovered as soon as the cooking was done and the eating began. Celeriac is a type of celery, as you might have suspected, but in this case it’s the root bulb that is its most attractive feature. To me it conjures a parsnip/potato/celery cross in taste, but it’s significantly less starchy than your typical Yukon. I found it to be quite wonderful, and will be keeping an eye out for more of these little hobbit treats at this weekend’s market. Apparently, they store well!

The variety of textures alongside the amazing tastes are what really make this dish a standout in my mind. In addition to the loveliness of celeriac, the lentils keep their shape and marry very well with the herbs, vinegar, and oils. The hazelnuts add richness and crunch, while the mint keeps things just on this side of summer. This seems to be one of those dishes that just keeps getting better as it marinates in the fridge, so do not fear the leftovers. Even at room temperature, this would serve as a phenomenal picnic or brunch dish without its features getting muted.

Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint

From Plenty by Yotam Ottlenghi

1/3 cup whole hazelnuts
1 cup French green lentils
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
4 thyme springs
1.5 lbs. celeriac bulb, peeled and cubed
4 T olive oil
3 T hazelnut oil
3 T red wine vinegar
4 T chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper

Roast the hazelnuts in a 275˚F oven for 15 minutes. Cool and roughly chop.

Combine rinsed lentils, water, bay leaves, and thyme in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are al dente. You definitely want them to retain their shape. Drain.

While the lentils cook, bring a second pan of well-salted water to a boil and cook the celeriac for 8-10 minutes, until just fork-tender. Drain.

As soon as the lentils are drained, pour them into a large bowl and stir in the red wine vinegar, the olive oil, and 2T of the hazelnut oil, salt and pepper. Add in the cooked celeriac and half the mint and hazelnuts and toss. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Plate, using the reserved mint, nuts, and a drizzle of hazelnut oil to garnish.