I was inspired this Saturday by a morning stroll through the farmers market. The herbs and greens were fresh and in abundance! I bought pounds of spinach, cilantro, mint, parsley, and scallions and set out to make Ash-e Reshteh, a famous thick winter soup made in Persian families for New Year or special occasions. It was only fitting that the temperature dropped below 50F this weekend, confirming that we’ve entered the coolest months in San Francisco.
I can’t describe in words how healthy yet filling this vegetarian (vegan if you leave out the “kashk”) soup is. See the ingredients below to get an idea of how many vegetables and legumes go into this magical creation!
Note: this recipe can be made in a slow-cooker or in a large pot on the stove.
- 1 large white onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 large red onion, sliced thin
- 4 cups spinach, chopped
- 3 cups cilantro, chopped
- 3 cups parsley, chopped
- 2 cups mint, chopped
- 20 stems scallions or chives (green part only), chopped
- 3 tbsp. turmeric
- 1/3 cup red kidney beans, soaked and drained
- 1/3 cup chickpea (garbanzo) beans, soaked and drained
- 1/2 cup lentils
- 6 oz. “Reshteh” noodles (can be substituted with Linguine noodles)
- 3/4 cup “Kashk” (concentrated whey)
- 1 tbsp. flour
- 2 tbsp. dried mint
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- The night before, soak your red kidney beans and chickpeas in water. The water should be at least 4 inches above the beans, as they will grow and soak up the water quickly. Drain.
- Sauté white onion and 4 cloves minced garlic in 1 tbsp. of oil over medium-high heat until browned (8-10 minutes). Now add 2 tbsp. of turmeric until the garlic-onion mixture is well coated.
- In a large pot, add red kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and garlic-onion mixture. Then add your chopped parsley, mint, cilantro, and scallions. Last, add as much spinach as possible (you might have to push down the spinach, let it cook down and wilt a bit, and then add the rest). Add 8.5 cups of warm water to the pot and season generously with salt.
- On very,very low heat, allow the soup to cook for 1.5-2.5 hours, stirring every half hour or so, and being careful that the bottom doesn’t stick. The greens should cook so well that they are indistinguishable. Taste it as it goes along, monitoring the thickness. It should be almost as thick as a stew, and the liquid should NOT be clear. 1 tbsp. of flour can be added to thicken the soup as needed.
- 30 minutes before you remove the pot from heat, take about 1/2 cup of the soup broth and mix well with 3/4 cup of kashk. The two should be well incorporated, and then poured back into the soup. Stir well – the color of the soup should lighten by a few shades.
- Increase the heat to a low-medium so it begins to bubble.
- About 20 minutes before you remove the soup, break the reshteh noodles in half and add to the pot. Monitor as you would any pasta, tasting 10-15 minutes into cooking to be sure the noodles don’t overcook.
- Meanwhile, saute the red onions and garlic in 1 tbsp. of oil for 10 minutes until they are a dark golden color. Add 1 tbsp. of turmeric and dried mint. Continue to toss for one minute and then set aside.
- Remove the soup from heat, and distribute in medium size bowls. Top with fried onion-garlic-mint mixture, a generous dollop of kashk, and a dash of dried mint. Serve warm.