Sweet New Year Soup

Tonight, as the sun slips below the horizon, we will begin our celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Traditional Rosh Hashanah foods tend toward the sweet and the circular: sweet for a sweet new year, and circular to represent the seasons that run one into the next, year after year, around and around. Instead of the usual braid, we even twist our challah (egg bread) into a round this time of year. 

We eat lots of fruits, especially apples, prunes, pomegranates, dates and apricots. Chosen vegetables might include sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, and leeks (sliced into rounds of course). Dishes made with black-eyed peas and lentils are a frequent addition to the table. And there is always lots and lots of honey, especially for dipping bread and apple slices.

We usually eat fish, too, to represent our wishes for blessings in the coming year. Here is an interesting bit of trivia for you: At Rosh Hashanah, it is traditional to serve a whole fish, with the head intact, to symbolize the beginning (or head) of the new year. Trivia bit number two: I know of only one family who does this. It’s not us.

Among the many recipes I saw this week, including such lovelies as roasted beets and pesto, green beans in tahini-honey sauce, and orange-pomegranate salad from the local News, I decided to share this gorgeous red lentil soup recipe from Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes, by Laura Frankel. Our friends have been known to share large pots of this soup from time to time, and I am always extremely grateful. It’s a perfect soup to make this New Year ever so special. But don’t think that you need a special reason to make this soup; it’s the kind of recipe that will turn any meal into an occasion.

NOTE: You could also add a half-dozen whole, intact, raw eggs to this soup, leave them to cook slowly in the juice of the soup, and then scoop them out when the soup is ready. Rinse and refrigerate them, to be cracked open later and eaten separately. The flavors of the soup will be absorbed across the shells to make the eggs taste unbelievably good.

3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
3 stalks celery, diced small
1 large Spanish onion, diced small
1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed and diced small
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups dry red lentils
1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained OR two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
1 28-ounce can crushed plum tomatoes with juices
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 quarts vegetable stock
1 tsp. each Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
Chopped cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley)

Saute the carrots, celery, onion, fennel and garlic (in batches if necessary) in a large pan on medium to medium-high until lightly browned. Transfer the vegetables to a crockpot.

Add the lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, coriander, cumin, lemon juice and stock to the crock pot. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-9 hours. NOTE: If you use canned chickpeas, plan on cooking for just 4 hours.

Season with salt and pepper, with more to taste, before serving. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.

L’shanah tovah, to a good new year!

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