Moroccan Chickpea Soup with Za’atar Sticks
Serves 4 to 6 | Start to finish: about 1 hour
Whether you are vegetarian or not, this is a very satisfying soup, and it doesn’t take long to prepare. Packed with an abundance of vegetables, protein-rich chickpeas. and ras el hanout, it will instantly transpose you to a Marrakesh market. Za’atar sticks will quickly impress, yet are simply made with store-bought-ready puff pastry. Serve this dish alongside the fattoush salad. It pairs beautifully with a glass of rose wine.
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1 large yellow onion, small dice (about 2 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, minced (1/2 teaspoon)
6 large sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ras el hanout spice blend (recipe follows)
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced on the bias, into 1-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 large stalks of celery, sliced on the bias, into 1-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 medium fennel bulb, medium dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
4 cups vegetable broth
6 large radishes, quartered lengthwise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup kale, torn into 1-inch pieces
In a wide 6-quart pot, heat the rice bran oil, then add the onions, garlic, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, ras el hanout, and fine sea salt. Saute for a few minutes until fragrant and the onions are soft. Add the carrots, celery, fennel, potatoes, chickpeas, and vegetable broth. Bring up to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the radishes, cover, and continue to cook until vegetables are tender, approximately 10–15 minutes longer. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves, stir in the lemon juice and adjust seasoning to taste. Before serving, place a small handful of kale in each bowl, and ladle the soup over the kale to wilt. Serve immediately with za’atar sticks (recipe follows).
Makes about 25 sticks | Start to finish: about 30 minutes, plus thawing time
All-purpose flour for rolling out pastry
1 pre-rolled frozen puff pastry sheet (about 1/2 pound), thawed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon za’atar spice (recipe follows)
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cut two pieces of parchment paper to fit inside a 13-inch by 18-inch baking sheet. Line the baking sheet with one piece of parchment paper. The other piece of parchment paper will be used when preparing the dough.
Thaw out the puff pastry sheet according to package instructions.
Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry horizontally into a rectangle about 9 inches by 12 inches and approximately 1/8-inch thick.
Brush the entire top surface of the puff pastry with half of the quantity of the olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with half of the za’atar spice. Carefully turn the pastry over onto the reserved pre-cut piece of parchment paper. As before, brush the entire surface of the pastry with the remaining half of the olive oil and sprinkle with the remainder of the za’atar spice.
Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into thin strips, about 9 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Carefully transfer each strip to the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch between each strip.
Bake in the center of the oven for approximately 20–25 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden brown. Rotate the baking sheet from front to back halfway through baking. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Za’atar Spice Blend
Makes 1/3 cup | Start to finish: 10 minutes
The Arabic word za’atar means thyme. Traditionally, it is a blend of dried thyme, oregano, or marjoram, along with sesame seeds and sumac, which adds a citrusy note. Za’atar is very simple to make and works well when added to vegetables, meats, breads, and dips.
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
In a small, dry saute pan over medium heat, dry-toast the sesame seeds until lightly golden, making sure to shake the pan gently to keep the seeds from burning. Transfer to a small bowl to cool completely. Once cooled, combine the seeds with the remaining ingredients and gently crush with a mortar and pestle until the seeds have slightly broken down and the mixture becomes fragrant. Store za’atar in an airtight container until ready to use.