Legume and Grain Soups for Cold Winter Days

Italians and Palestinians had similar simple soup recipes, each using their local, favorite grains

Grain soups and stews are fulfilling and cheap, and therefore you can find them in many cuisines around the world and the Jewish Diaspora, from the the Polish barley krupnik soup to the North African Shabbat overnight stew of wheat and meat called arissa, that in some households is served as a soup.

While researching these dishes, I’ve found that the Italians and Palestinians had similar simple soup recipes, each using their local, favorite grains. Many Italian farro soups and Palestinian freekeh soups have a very short list of ingredients. Grains, onion, water, the occasional marrow bone, and some olive oil to drizzle on top is all it takes to make you happy and warm on cold winter days.

A few farro recipes call for beans and chickpeas as well. That inspired me to add dried fava to the freekeh recipe. The two recipes below, farro and pinto bean soup and freekeh and fava soup, can be easily altered. Substitute the grain for a grain of your liking, such as barley, wheat berries or even rice, and use the legume of your choice.

Farro and pinto bean soup

Farro is available at Italian markets and health food supermarkets, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
If you have an old parmesan rind, add it to the soup while cooking for a deep wonderful flavor.

Serves 6

Ingredients
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced to ¼ inch slices
1 celery stalk, chopped
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cups dried pinto beans, soaked in water overnight (or any other dried beans)
1 bay leaf
Parmesan rind (optional).
6 cups Chicken stock (Use water or vegetable stock instead of chicken stock if you keep kosher)
1¼ cups farro, washed
3 cups chopped spinach
1½ teaspoons kosher salt

Directions
1. Put olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onion, carrot, celery and fennel seeds and sauté for 8-10 minutes. Drain pinto beans and add to pot, together with bay leaf, parmesan rind and stock or water. Bring to boil, skim any foam, then lower the heat to lowest, cover pot and cook for half an hour.

2. Add washed farro to pot and cook an hour longer. Add more water or stock if the soup gets too think. After an hour discard the bay leaf and parmesan. Add spinach to pot and cook for 5 minutes longer. Serve in soup bowls, drizzle olive oil on top.

Freekeh and fava soup

Freekeh and dried fava are available in Middle Eastern markets and health food supermarkets, such as Whole Foods.

I used green-color dried fava, which you can substitute with brown fava, or any other legume. However, do not use the peeled yellow fava. Those will break completely during cooking which will not work well for this recipe.

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 cup green or brown dried fava, soaked in water overnight, drained
2 marrow bones (optional)
1 cup freekeh, washed
5-7 Swiss chard leaves, green parts only, chopped
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
Olive oil for drizzling

Directions
1. Put fava beans and marrow bones, if using, in a large pot and cover with 6 cups water. Bring to boil, skim foam, then add freekeh and bring to boil again. Reduce heat to lowest, cover pot and cook for 1½ hours. Add chopped Swiss chard and salt and cook for 10 minutes longer.

2. Serve in soup bowls, drizzle olive oil generously on top.

Vered Guttman
Vered Guttman