Whole-meal soups were not familiar to me when I was growing up. Usually soup was a first course, like clear chicken soup with a few noodles and carrot slices or tomato soup with a little rice. I had no idea that serving a meal in a soup bowl is a custom common to many cuisines. In France I got to know the Gallic style of hearty beef soup with marrow bones and vegetables, pot au feu, a traditional Sunday lunch, which was so popular that there was even a Parisian restaurant devoted to it, Le Pot au Feu. Vietnamese cooks one-upped the French. They are so fond of their pho, or beef soup with noodles, that their restaurants often are named for it (such as Pho #1), even if many other dishes are served. The greatest influence on my soup-making came when I became part of the Levy household and saw how central soup can be to the daily menu. In my mother-in-law's kitchen, aromatic cumin and turmeric flavored Yemenite beef soup with potatoes was frequently served for lunch, the main meal of the day. I adopted the habit of serving soup often as a main course, as it was so convenient and easy. Soon I discovered other tasty, whole-meal soups from the Sephardi/Middle Eastern kitchen. My in-laws' Tunisian neighbor taught me to make her beef and potato soup, which also had white beans. Like my mother-in-law's, it was seasoned with turmeric (but not cumin), and with paprika and hot red pepper as well. In Kurdish kitchens a somewhat similar soup is prepared, according to Varda Shiloh, author of Kurdish Cooking (in Hebrew), but instead of placing everything in the pot at once, cooks first brown the beef cubes with onions and garlic for a richer flavor, and then simmer them with beans and tomatoes. Turkish Sephardi Jews also saute the meat and onions for their beef and bean soup, wrote Esther Benbassa, author of Cuisine Judeo-espagnole, and accent the soup with tomato paste, garlic, parsley and paprika. In some homes the soup is the highlight of the Friday evening dinner and often is served for Shabbat's main meal as well, and, says Benbassa, gets even better by being slowly heated on the hot plate. Another favorite among Turkish Jews is a meaty soup with potatoes and rice, with a colorful mix of vegetables - cabbage, celery, zucchini, carrots and sweet peppers. Such meat soups have a lot going for them. First, beef soup main courses with plenty of vegetables are not only frugal choices, they are wholesome too. You don't need much beef to give the broth a meaty richness, and you benefit from the vegetables' texture, nutrients and fiber. Second, these whole-meal soups keep well and reheat beautifully, either in the pot or as individual portions in a covered bowl in the microwave. Best of all, these warming winter entrees are so simple to make. As Barbara Kafka wrote in Soup: A Way of Life, "Anyone who can boil water can make soup." SEPHARDI BEEF AND BEAN SOUP Makes about 6 servings Garlic and plenty of parsley brighten the flavor of this hearty soup, an easy-to-make meal that is perfect for a cold winter day. It takes planning to allow time for the soup to simmer, but it cooks mostly unattended and has the added bonus of keeping the kitchen nice and warm. In some homes, eggs in their shells are added, and then the dish resembles a soup version of hamin. For a colorful version with lots of vegetables, see the variation below. 4 450 gr. dried small or medium white beans (about 21â„2 cups) 4 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil 4 3 medium onions, sliced 4 700 gr. beef chuck (shoulder), cut in bite-size cubes, or beef stew meat 4 1 beef bone (optional) 4 6 garlic cloves, chopped 4 2 Tbsp. tomato paste 4 11â„2 tsp. paprika 4 3â„4 cup chopped parsley 4 salt and freshly ground pepper 4 1 tsp. sugar (optional) Sort beans, discarding any broken ones and any stones. Rinse beans and drain. Heat oil in large saucepan, add onions and saute over medium heat about 7 minutes or until golden. Add beef cubes and saute, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add beef bone, beans and 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in garlic, tomato paste, paprika and 1â„4 cup parsley and return to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 21â„2 hours or until meat and beans are tender; add boiling water from time to time if soup becomes too thick. Remove bone. Season soup to taste with salt, pepper and sugar. Stir in remaining parsley. Serve hot. BEEF SOUP WITH VEGETABLES In the recipe above, omit all or half the beans. While the beef is cooking, cut 1 large carrot in thick slices, peel and dice 1 turnip, slice 2 celery ribs and peel 3 or 4 potatoes. After the beef has cooked for 2 hours, dice the potatoes and add to the soup. Add the carrot slices, turnip and celery and cook for 30 minutes. Add 2 or 3 diced zucchini or pale-green squash (kishuim) and 2 green or red peppers in thick strips. Cook for 10 more minutes or until the vegetables are tender. To vary this soup, you can add 1 to 11â„2 cups of pumpkin cubes along with the potatoes, or 120 grams of green beans along with the zucchini.n Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes and Feast from the Mideast.