This unusual soup is an Iranian Jewish recipe.
It's best served cold and it's even better the second day. You can make it elegant and smooth or leave it with a slightly grainy texture. Both are delightful.
The best part is you can make it ahead of time, and when a heat wave strikes like in New York right now, there's nothing like an ice-cold slurp of deliciousness to cool you down.
A couple of warnings:
The soup's tastes and textures do not come "alive" until the last step so you are likely to go WTF on the CC until the end. Have faith and carry on!
The soup is "rich" so a small portion goes a long way.
Since the CC is the CC, he can't help but point out a few things.
Note the use of nuts and sweetness in what is essentially to modern palates, a savory dish. The medieval origins of this dish are really extraordinarily clear.
The CC's dinner companion noted that the dish tasted "Indian". The CC was forced to point out that much that is considered "Indian" is not Indian at all. The Persians cast a long shadow on not just Indian cuisine but India as a whole.
The Mughal emperors imported not just chefs but also mercenary soldiers from Persia. Indian classical music is a clear outgrowth of Persian models of the same (although, in all fairness, they did take it much much further!) In fact, a significant portion of modern-day Hindi vocabulary is nothing more than your routine Persian vocabulary.
This characteristic use of sweet and savory with a heavy usage of nuts is a hallmark of Persian cuisine and this dish exemplifies it completely.
On a separate note, what makes this recipe "Jewish"? It's just a recipe, right?
The answer is that the recipe can easily be made pareve if necessary. (Just use water instead of stock.) There is a rich tradition in Judaic recipes from Spain, Morocco, Iran and India that are basically vegetarian or so close that their substitution makes little difference.
The medieval Judaic cook loved flexibility at her dinner table as much as her modern-day counterpart. The easiest way to serve your guests is to develop a repertoire of recipes that can bend to the rules of kashrut without breaking them!
There's a learning lesson if ever there was one.
(Source: Yotam Ottolenghi.)
1 2/3 cups raw pistachios
1 leek coarsely chopped
4 shallots coarsely chopped
1/2" ginger coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp roasted ground cumin
4 cups chicken stock (use water if you're vegetarian - vegetable stock will NOT work!)
1 cup juice of Seville orange
juice of 1 small lemon
1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. butter
NOTE: Please read the instructions carefully. There are clear steps and they matter.
Pour boiling water over the pistachios and steep for 1 minute.
Pour 4 tbsp. of the same boiling water over the saffron and let it steep.
After a minute, rub the pistachios under running water to get rid of the skin. You will not be able to get rid of all of it but do your best. This matters if you want the color of the soup to not be a dull brown. If the color doesn't matter, you can skip this step.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Roast the pistachios for 8 minutes. Be careful. They have a tendency to burn. Reserve a few for the garnish.
Heat the butter in a pan. Add the leeks, shallots, ginger, cumin, salt and pepper and fry languidly on a medium-low heat for about 12 minutes. Add the stock and the pistachios and bring to a simmer. Add most of the saffron liquid and let cook at a low heat for about 20 minutes.
Blend the soup with a hand blender until quite smooth. (This was hard. If you blend it again the next day, you get a much more refined soup.)
Take off the heat. Add the lemon and orange juice.
Serve with a drizzle of the saffron liquid and the reserved pistachios.