A Warming Winter Soup Pot
By Dennis Linden
Here’s a very timely recipe for the winter season, cooked up by Hilda Villalobos in Melissa’s Mail Order Department, guaranteed to take the chill out of the coldest of January days. The dish has been a special favorite of Hilda’s since childhood, as her father used to make it in the winter. Hilda’s Lentil & Garbanzo Soup Pot combines two of the company’s convenient, ready-to-eat steamed products – Steamed Lentils and Steamed Garbanzo Beans – with a virtual garden of fresh veggies, quinoa and a broth laced with the unique sesame flavor of tahini sauce. Warming, creative and delicious!
One of the pleasures of this time of year is coming in from the chilly out-of-doors to the aroma of a pot of warming goodness wafting throughout the house. Hilda’s soup pot is just that sort of a dish. Her recipe offers an all-day-simmer flavor in less than an hour, so break out your largest soup pot and let the temperature outside fall!
Hilda’s use of our Peeled and Steamed Garbanzo Beans cuts a whole day of soaking plus more than an hour of cooking time over dried Garbanzos. While I generally try to avoid packaged ingredients in my own cooking, I must admit that these pre-cooked Garbanzos are a great item that offer a quick solution to a very mundane and time-consuming process without a penny’s-worth of flavor loss. In Hilda’s recipe these distinctly tasting beans give some texture to every spoonful that melts into a pleasant creaminess on the palate.
Still, the real flavor key to Hilda’s pot is the tahini sauce. This sauce is a stable ingredient in the Middle East that is often mixed into hummus (mashed garbanzo) – so the two are a natural pairing that Hilda uses to her culinary advantage. Such a tasty, tasty touch! Sesame is one of the oldest oilseed plant ingredients in the world; the use of the seeds and oil for cooking have been traced to primitive African cultures centuries before eventually spreading throughout the Middle East.
The secret to a good tahini sauce is patience in the form of a constant stirring of the seeds during to the roasting process. No cooking oil should be added to your sauté pan as the oil in the seeds will release as the seeds heat up. It’s kind of interesting to watch happen! That same oil can burn easily, so be careful not to cross over that culinary line that can go quickly from golden brown to burnt umber. Keeping the seeds moving gives one better control of the cook and changing color. Remember to allow for the fact that the hot seeds will continue to brown for a few minutes off the flame.
By the way, do not overlook or minimalize this recipe’s garnish. Hilda’s lemon wedges are not for color; rather, she completes a traditional Middle Eastern culinary trio of garbanzo, Tahini and fresh lemon. The three have been served together for some 4,000 years -- the combination proves a major flavor foundation in Hilda’s pot of deliciousness. By the way, adding lemon juice to the soup pot will not produce the same flavor profile as the citrus’s acidity would get muddled during the simmer. Instead, one should squeeze the juice into each serving bowl to taste, to best experience this ancient flavor combination.
Hilda Villalobos has been working with Melissa's for 20 years in the Mail Order Department. When not dealing with requests for Melissa’s amazing collection of gift baskets and product packs from all over the country, Hilda enjoys trying out recipes from different cultures and adding her own flavor twists to traditional dishes. We thank her (and dad) for this warming pot of goodness -- I can think of no better way to “endure” a cold winter’s day!
Lentil & Garbanzo Soup Pot
1 package Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Garbanzos
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Lentils
2 cups Quinoa, uncooked
1 Red Onion, Chopped
1 Garlic (7-8 cloves), Minced
2 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
2 Large Tomato, Chopped
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
6 cups Spinach, Roughly Chopped
3 cups Chicken broth
1 Cup Fresh Cilantro, Minced
3 Lemons, 1 sliced into rounds, the rest into wedges
4 Tablespoons Tahini (see recipe or use store-bought)
1 Cup of Sesame Seeds (for tahini)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (for tahini)
Stovetop sauté the Sesame Seeds very quickly, then let cool.
Combine seeds and olive oil in a food processor and blend into a paste the consistency of peanut butter. Add more olive oil as necessary. Measure out enough paste for recipe; the remainder will last for a few months in a glass jar stored in a dark cupboard. Do not refrigerate.
Cook Quinoa according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Sauté the bell peppers, onion, garlic, tomato for 7-8 minutes in a large skillet over low to medium heat.
Add in the spinach and sauté for another few minutes, until tender.
Transfer contents of sauté pan to a large soup pot. Stir in the tahini, cooked quinoa, Garbanzos, Lentils and broth, then simmer on low for 10 minutes to heat to meld all the flavors together. Then remove from heat, stir in the minced cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in large, shallow bowls garnished with a slice of lemon as well as lemon wedges on the side.