Noodle soup that fortifies

On shopping lists for the meal before the Yom Kippur fast, noodles may be the most popular item - after the chicken, of course.

By FAYE LEVY
September 28, 2006 14:42
4 minute read.
Noodle soup that fortifies

noodle soup 88. (photo credit: )

On shopping lists for the meal before the Yom Kippur fast, noodles may be the most popular item - after the chicken, of course. The time-honored tradition of serving noodle soup makes a lot of sense. If you're making a rich soup from a whole chicken, what better complement is there to the flavorful broth? True, there are families who opt for kneidlach or rice, and some energetic cooks even prepare homemade kreplach (Jewish ravioli), but on many tables noodles are the standard soup garnish. In Israeli homes, the soup is often made the Ashkenazi way, flavored with onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, parsley and dill. I also add fresh thyme, a must in French chicken soup because of the wonderful aroma it imparts. Most people add salt and pepper with a light hand, so the soup won't provoke thirst during the fast. My mother, who liked clear soups, preferred the soup served the old fashioned way. She felt that fine egg noodles were the only embellishment needed in the broth, along with a few slices of carrot. Serving in this manner showcases the delicate taste of the broth, but in my home we like chunky, filling noodle soups loaded with legumes and vegetables. Such satisfying soups are full of wholesome nutrients and help to sustain you during the fast. You'll find such soups in Jewish kitchens around the world. According to Gil Marks, author of The World of Jewish Cooking, the Bukharans make a hearty noodle soup with chickpeas and plenty of vegetables: tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, green peppers, turnips and radishes. Seasonings include cooked garlic, paprika, ground coriander and cilantro (fresh coriander). Moroccans make a similar soup with macaroni, fava beans and vegetables, wrote Pascal Perez, the author of North African Cooking (in Hebrew). Along with paprika and cilantro, they add hot red pepper; it is best omitted before the fast. An American friend of mine often enriches her chicken noodle soup with lentils in the Syrian style. Jennifer Felicia Abadi, author of a book of Syrian-Jewish recipes called A Fistful of Lentils, also adds lentils to her chicken noodle soup, along with ground coriander. She serves the soup with lemon and orange wedges, so that each person can squeeze a little juice into his or her bowl of soup. Persians make a variety of noodle soups with legumes, opting for white beans or a mixture of beans, along with spinach. Although they add several spices - notably garlic, turmeric and mint or cinnamon, cooks are careful not to overdo the seasoning, as the Persian palate prefers subtle flavors. Noodle soups with these additions are perfect as a prelude to the fast. "There is no dish more comforting or sustaining than a bowl of noodle soup. It's the ultimate 'Mommy food' in any country," wrote my friend Nina Simonds, author of Asian Noodles. Her Japanese chicken noodle soup is flavored with rice wine, fresh ginger and green onions and finished with chopped toasted walnuts. If you're looking for something a bit adventurous, these tasty accents can impart a pleasant note to the holiday soup, but before Yom Kippur it's better to be stingy with salty ingredients such as the customary soy sauce. You can cook noodles directly in chicken soup, but many cooks boil them separately and drain them, then add them to the soup at serving time. There are two reasons for doing this: First, the starch from the noodles would cloud the soup, and clarity is part of the appeal of fine chicken broth. Second, if you cook the noodles in advance and leave them in the soup, they lose their pleasant, slightly springy texture and get very soft. Ashkenazi Jewish cooks generally don't strive to have their noodles firm and al dente like Italians do, but they shouldn't be mushy either. Still, not everyone agrees. In his recipe for Syrian brown lentil and noodle soup, Matthew Goodman, author of Jewish Food, emphasized that when cooked the traditional way, the noodles are supposed to be mushy. As with most aspects of cooking, it's all a matter of taste. NOODLE SOUP WITH CHICKPEAS AND CILANTRO Choose very fine soup noodles or break spaghetti or vermicelli into short lengths. Instead of seasoning the soup with cinnamon and allspice, you can add a pinch of cumin and turmeric. If you've made your broth from a whole chicken or chicken pieces, you can add some of the chicken meat to the soup. 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil 1 large onion, chopped salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 carrots, diced 1 turnip, peeled and diced (optional) 2 celery stalks, sliced 3 garlic cloves, chopped 400-gram can diced tomatoes, drained 6 cups flavorful chicken broth 1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme (optional) 1 cinnamon stick or 1 /4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or to taste 1 /4 teaspoon ground allspice or to taste 3 or 4 zucchini or summer squash (keeshou), diced 1 1 /2 cups cooked chickpeas or white beans, drained 1 1 /3 cups very fine noodles (soup noodles) 1 /3 cup chopped cilantro or parsley Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan or stew pan. Add onion and saute over medium heat until golden. Add carrots, turnip, celery, garlic, tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer. Skim foam from surface. Add thyme, cinnamon and allspice. Cover and simmer, skimming fat occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add zucchini and chickpeas and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Cook noodles uncovered in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 7 minutes or until just tender. Drain well. Discard thyme sprig and cinnamon stick. Add half of cilantro to soup. Taste soup and adjust seasoning. Add noodles to each bowl of hot soup and sprinkle with remaining cilantro or parsley. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Faye Levy is the author of Feast from the Mideastand 1,000 Jewish Recipes


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