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Thursday, January 15, 2004

Syrian Lentil Chard Soup Recipe

Syrian Lentil Chard Soup
When I was growing up, "leafy green vegetable" meant spinach. At some point swiss chard was added to the repertoire and then bok choy. But that was really it. Oh sure, we had salad every night, but no other cooked leafy greens. Later on I discovered the sharp bite of mustard greens, the silky mellowness of cooked escarole and the spicy bitterness of turnip greens. These days my organic market delivery brings me kale and collard greens too. But I still like spinach and swiss chard for sentimental reasons.

Another category mainly skipped over in my childhood was legumes. We ate Mexican refried beans, chili beans, and baked beans, but that was about it. I guess if I had been raised in the South I might have been exposed to more beans and greens, but I wasn't. In college on a budget I lived on black beans, and in Italy I discovered white or cannellini beans. Out on my own I experimented with lentil stews and soups of all kinds until I discovered a recipe for Syrian lentil and chard soup. That was it. No other lentil recipes need apply.

Beans and leafy greens make a great combo nutritionally. Leafy greens are high in calcium and live in the non-starchy vegetable category and beans are high in protein and iron. You'll find that lots of soups combine beans and greens. While lentils by themselves are somewhat tasty, they have an earthy flat flavor that really comes to life when combined with the sharpness of leafy greens and lots of lemon juice. To top it all off, this recipe adds sauteed onions, celery and garlic to punch up the flavor even more. It's one of my favorite vegetarian meals, perfectly satisfying me for dinner with a hunk of crusty French bread. This recipe is adapted from one by James Beard.

Syrian Lentil Chard Soup--'Adas bi Haamud


1 1/2 cups of lentils
3 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large bunch chard, shredded and chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 rib celery
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon flour
Salt and pepper to taste


Cook the lentils in plenty of water (more than enough to cover) until done, approximately 40 minutes. Add chard leaves and one cup water, reserve the stems. Meanwhile saute the onions, chopped chard stems and celery in a skillet with the olive oil. Crush garlic with a pinch of salt and add to onions, continue to saute until vegetables are softened and golden. Add with the vegetables to the chard and lentil mixture. Stir. Add lemon juice mixed with one teaspoon flour to flavor the soup. Let simmer until it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.