January 11, 2015 On our trip to Toronto last month we stayed in a hotel that we had chosen based on location and convenience. The sad occasion for the trip, (my father-in-law had passed away), seemed to be echoed by the hotel. Built in some era long ago, the front part of the property was leased to a Honda dealership which you actually had to drive through to get access to the hotel parking lot. The pool was in the lobby, and next to the pool was a sushi bar and a restaurant. Nearby was a pool table, some couches and outdoor street lamps that looked as if they belonged in the center of London. Nothing about the decor inspired confidence that the restaurant would produce food that would be in any way impressive. The place was a mish-mash, disjointed, and tired, just like we were. But we were surprised by the eclectic menu which had more than a few vegetarian options. We chose a soup, Harira, something I had never heard of before. What we discovered was a thick hearty Moroccan soup filled with lentils and chickpeas, and tasting of cilantro and parsley in a broth tinged red by tomato, and it was delicious. It was the perfect dish to restore our energy and lift our spirits. Several nights later I took my children and nephew to dinner at a newish local Israeli restaurant and once again Harira was on the menu. Then just a few days after we returned to Los Angeles we had Shabbat dinner at my friend Rachel’s house and she served….. you guessed it, Harira. That’s too much of a coincidence for me, surely someone out there was trying to tell me something. After some research, what I found was not particularly earth shattering, both the lentils and garbanzo beans represent the circle of life, and we have certainly been experiencing that in our family. I planned to make it today but something got in the way. To be continued……
January 23, 2015 We just came back from New York where we welcomed the birth of our first grandchild. Manya Lily, named after my mother Manya, and Norm’s mom, Lillian. The week was filled with emotion, seeing my son with a child of his own, watching my daughter-in-law pour all of her love into this new little baby, holding my granddaughter and whispering her name, and being flooded with memories of my mother, thinking of the past and wondering about the future. After a period of loss, Manya is a blessing, a new beginning that brings joy, hope, and happiness. Today, it seemed appropriate to complete what I hadn’t been able to start just a few weeks ago. I made Harira, with its little round lentils and garbanzo beans, I know that the circle is complete, just as it should be.
3 Tb olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 celery ribs plus leafy tops, diced
3 cloves garlic cloves,minced
1 large ripe tomato, skin peeled and then diced
1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 small bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained
1 -15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, celery and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Add diced tomato and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce, cilantro, parsley, lentils and chickpeas and stir.
Add water, salt, cumin, turmeric and pepper, stirring to mix well. Bring soup to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low. If soup seems too thick, add some water. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve hot, with lemon wedges. Serves 6-8 Note: Traditionally this is served with vermicelli noodles.