Pulses are the foods you probably know as dry peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Oldways has long celebrated and promoted eating pulses as they are a staple in all heritage diets. In fact, the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses to heighten public awareness of the nutritional, economic, and environmental beneﬁts of these little beans. Read more from the ﬁrst Fresh Friday of 2016 to learn about the International Year of the Pulse and just how good they are!
Technically, pulses are part of the legume family. Pulse refers to the dried seed, whereas legume refers to the whole plant. High in protein and ﬁber and low in fat, pulses are an aﬀordable way to add substance to meals. Pulses are not just good for people, they’re also good for the earth. Consuming pulses contributes to environmental sustainability, as legume crops require very little nitrogen-based fertilizer to grow, have a small carbon footprint, increase soil health, and use less water than other crops.
Pulses are a staple of the Mediterranean diet (and all heritage diets!) and have been used for millennia to add ﬂavor and texture to any number of dishes, including soups and stews. Here are a few healthy Mediterranean pulse soups to keep you warm all season long.
Pasta fagioli is an Italian soup of pasta and beans, typically cannellini beans, great northern beans, or borlotti beans and a small, tubular variety of pasta known as ditalini. The base of the dish typically includes olive oil, garlic, minced onion, celery, carrots, and, often, tomatoes or tomato paste. You can increase its body and savory-ness by adding a Parmesan rind to the simmering soup.
Ribollita is a rustic Italian [Tuscan] soup made from bread, beans, Tuscan (lacinato) kale, and cabbage. Ribollita translates to “reboiled.” The name comes from the fact that, historically, leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day was thickened with day-old bread in order to stretch a meal during times when food was scarce. To this day, ribollita remains a hearty, comforting soup that’s packed full of nutrition and ﬂavor.
Caldo Gallego is a traditional, simple yet hearty soup from Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain, made with white beans, potatoes, plenty of leafy greens, typically turnip greens (grelos in Spanish), and ﬂavored with various types of pork (salt pork, chorizo). Another nourishing Spanish soup/stew is fabada, a rich and hearty bean stew from Asturias, Northern Spain, made with fabes (creamy white beans), chorizo, and blood sausage.
Throughout Greece, you’ll encounter fassolatha, a humble white bean soup (utilizing, for example, great northern or navy beans) ﬂavored with tomatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and fresh herbs. As well, you’ll ﬁnd fakes, a lentil soup simmered with aromatics, such as garlic, carrots, onions, bay leaves, and oregano, and ﬁnished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, Greek no doubt, and red wine vinegar to brighten the soup. Both are humble soups and staples in Greek kitchens.
Harira is a savory Moroccan soup made with dried legumes, lentils, chickpeas, and fava beans. While the preparation of harira varies from one household to the next, it’s traditionally cooked with lamb and plenty of herbs and spices (e.g., saﬀron, ginger) to ﬂavor the stock. While harira is enjoyed year-round in Moroccan households, its largely associated with Ramadan and served alongside a spread of other food to break the fast.
Lablabi is a Tunisian chickpea soup typically eaten for breakfast. The chickpeas are mixed with a combination of olive oil, garlic, cumin, and a spicy chile paste known as harissa. Lablabi is served over small pieces of stale crusty bread, which thicken the soup, and served with poached eggs and any number of garnishes, such as capers, yogurt, and fresh herbs.
Makhlouta is a hearty Lebanese soup/stew, which translates into ‘mixed’ in Arabic, referring to its assortment of beans (such as red kidney, black eyed peas, garbanzo, and fava beans) and whole grains (such as bulgur/cracked wheat).
With the new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to make a large batch (or two) of your favorite hearty bean soup to keep you and your loved ones satisﬁed and warm.
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