Ramadan Soup for Everyone

Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, began this week and continues until Oct. 23. A month of fasting does not mean abstaining from food for the entire time; rather, fasting is observed daily, from sunrise to sunset.

In spite of the focus on fasting, food plays a key role in Ramadan, when the fast is broken, at the evening iftar meal. Light fare is the emphasis, as the body needs gradual sustenance rather than a huge feast, after a day without food or drink. Although dates and other dried fruit are often served first to replenish the system, soup is a staple on the iftar table, offering nourishment without glutting the body.

To that end, I offer a "how-to" for a soup that pays tribute to late-summer produce. For inspiration, I turned to "The Real Dirt on Vegetables" by Farmer John Peterson, an Illinois farmer and sustainable agriculture advocate who's making the big time with a documentary (out on DVD early next year, according to his Web site).

Using his recipe for roasted red pepper soup, I expanded things a bit, adding a healthy dose of small tomatoes for sweetness. The addition of the potato is an amazing trick for creaminess without the use of dairy. The end result is a smoky/sweet melange that warms the belly. The reason I use small tomatoes over large is the skin issue: with those small tomatoes, there was no reason to peel the skins and they pureed seamlessly with the rest of the ingredients.

For Ramadan table ideas, I found "The Arab Table" by May S. Bsisu to be extremely useful, devoting several pages to the topic, including menu ideas. Today's post, however, should be just a springboard. Please add your Ramadan favorites here, in the comments area below.

One last note: Today's soup marks the beginning of "Hot Pot," a weekly soup/stew feature in the blog. Mark your calendars, and please send your suggestions here or by e-mail. Finally, join me today at 1 p.m. ET for my monthly vegetarian chat.

Red Pepper (and Tomato) Soup
Inspired by "The Real Dirt on Vegetables" by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics

Ingredients
4 large red bell peppers
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small potato, peeled and quartered
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ fresh chile, seeded and diced (substitute: 2 teaspoons paprika)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or thyme (or ½ tablespoon dried)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ pint small tomatoes of choice, sliced in half (substitute: 1 large yellow or orange tomato)
1 ounce amber rum, bourbon or whiskey (optional)
vegetable or chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (optional)

Method
Roast the peppers: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice tops of peppers, remove seeds and place on a baking sheet. Allow to cook until skins are charred and blistered, about 1 hour. Place peppers in a paper bag to sweat, to help with skin removal. Clean peppers of all seeds, veins and remaining skin. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat butter (I used a combination of butter and olive oil) and add onion, potato, garlic and chile, cooking until soft. Add herbs, tomato paste and stir to combine, allowing tomato paste to cook for about 1 minute. Add booze (if using), and bring up to a boil. Add tomatoes, peppers and liquid, just enough to cover. Bring up to a boil, then cook on a simmer, until potato is tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove herb sprigs and add salt and vinegar (if using). Adjust as necessary. Puree soup, using a hand-held stick blender or a food processor. Be careful of spattering hot liquid. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Return to pot to reheat or eat at room temperature.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 28, 2006; 10:12 AM ET Hot Pot , Ramadan
Previous: Eat Your Chard! | Next: Yom Kippur Make-Ahead Tricks

Comments

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I know you listed the alcohol as optional, but what were you thinking? You're calling it Ramadan soup and the ingredients include booz? How silly. Maybe you also could have listed some optional ham?

Posted by: Alexandria | September 28, 2006 10:55 AM

Thanks for the recipe! We love to feast after breaking fast, especially with soup, fruit salad, and somasas (patties). We also eat a lot of hummus with pita bread. And lastly since its a special month for us, I try to make a different dessert everyday for my family... it gives them something to look forward to all day. :)

Thanks so much for recognizing Ramadan, with the way we are perceived in the media these days, it's hard to find something positive to say about our holiday. :)

Posted by: Layla | September 28, 2006 11:01 AM

Hey, hey: The hed is Ramadan Soup for everyone. Obviously, if you're observing Ramadan, you wouldn't add the booze. It's a light soup, perfect for breaking a fast, and can just as easily be done without alcohol.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | September 28, 2006 11:17 AM

Many (if not a majority of) people who read this blog will be reading it for the purpose of making a tasty soup. Why should Kim not include the kick of alcohol for those of us who would want it?

This seems very silly to me.

Posted by: Washington, DC | September 28, 2006 11:39 AM

Thank you for recognizing the thousands of Muslims who are fasting this month and giving some of us another great recipe to try. I love to make something different every night as a treat. I also love to invite over my neighbors and friends (Muslim and non-Muslim) to celebrate at night so this should be a fun recipe (will not be using the alcohol though!).

Posted by: Zahra | September 28, 2006 12:00 PM

Sounds great... It's good to have as many options as possible... Thanks Kim!

Posted by: Sara | September 28, 2006 12:13 PM

This soup sounds delicious. I also look forward to Hot Pot. Thanks.

Posted by: Martha | September 28, 2006 12:21 PM

"On the tape, al-Masri also urged Muslims to make the holy month of Ramadan a "month of holy war."

"I congratulate the Muslim nation on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, the month of jihad (holy war). I ask God to make it a month for honor and victory for Muslims," the voice said.

Posted by: stegman | September 28, 2006 12:40 PM

Kim-

You must be one of a few food editors/writers who have recently recognized Ramadan. thanks so much.
ignore the first chatter. We muslims know how to alter recipes according to our dietary laws. My mom continues to make the best potato soup without the bacon.

Posted by: Mona | September 28, 2006 1:46 PM

you're a racist loser. this is a soup recipe for goodness sake and you have to make up some nonsense from "al-masri". who is al-masri, dear stegman the arabic linguist? the egyptian...ohhhh....scary. that's like saying "john doe said we should start a war." "the voice said..." very original.

you really need to get professional attention for your obsession with "jihad." perhaps you should make the soup, WITH a healthy dose of alcohol, sit back, and relax, and stop thinking everyone is out to get you.

RAMADAN MUBARAK!!!

Posted by: to stegman | September 28, 2006 1:54 PM

For Hot Pot: Years ago one of the first recipe finds I ever made on the Web was "The Soups of Mahi Koc" ( http://www.cryptocode.net/mahikoc/ ). Not only are there some really tasty soups in it, especially the super-simple orzo soup, but it's a neat example of someone gathering old family recipes.

Posted by: T. Carter | September 28, 2006 1:55 PM

Hi Kim,
Thanks for your thoughts on Soup during the month of Ramadan, it indeed is a very common first course when we break out fast after sunset. In my family lentil soup and split pea soup are very popular to have but I'll certainly try that out as well!

Posted by: Tareq | September 28, 2006 3:31 PM

Appreciate you recognizing Ramadan. Our society is changing every day, especially in the DC area, and we need to understand each other to better live together. Thanks again.

Posted by: KB | September 28, 2006 3:32 PM

Kim, I make and eat and LOVE soup, any time of year. Can't wait for the weekly posts; what a great idea!

Posted by: RebaChan | September 28, 2006 4:23 PM

Hello! In Iran, they traditionally break the fast with a Persian stew/soup called "Ash" (pronounced Aww-sh). Here is a recipe based on Najmieh Batmanglij's popular English-language Persian cookbook "The Food of Life". Traditional "Ash" is time-intensive to make, but you could look at the recipe and cut corners and use shortcuts in your kitchen as desired/to your taste. The "gheimeh" topping is optional--it adds additional flavor to the soup. When I lived in San Diego, my uncle would make Ash year-round and all of the neighbors would come over and ask about the incredible smell wafting throughout the street. We (reluctantly :) parted with bowls and bowls of the soup so they could taste. I would like to mention that this soup is not just a part of religious Ramadan; it is a part of Persian culture.

This Najmieh Batmanglij recipe popped up on my google search in many places, but this website's version was the easiest to print:

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~mjw/recipes/soup/ashe-reshteh.html

Posted by: Iranian in D.C. | September 28, 2006 5:16 PM

I consider it a point of honor eating pork and drinking raki during Ramazan.

Posted by: Mehmet--Ankara | September 28, 2006 5:52 PM

for the genius' out there, the alcohol in booze does not survive the heat of cooking. the reason to add whiskey is for the taste as the alcohol burns off.

Posted by: Fahd | September 28, 2006 6:51 PM

otherwise i'll say that soup is clutch for iftar.

Posted by: Fahd | September 28, 2006 6:53 PM

Thanks for the recipe. I am single and usually go to the mosque to close the fast! lol...however i do cook at home and will give your recipe a shot...sometime.

To Mr Stegman and Mehmet: Go away and waste someone else'e time.

Posted by: Aamir Ali | September 28, 2006 7:17 PM

FYI, for those interested, throughout Ramadan, I will be posting a different relevant recipe each week. Next up: Arab flatbread! Stay tuned, and Happy Ramadan.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | September 29, 2006 11:38 AM

You can't mention Ramadan and soup in the same sentence without mentioning harira,the famous Moroccan soup enjoyed by many fasters during Ramadan.In Morocco, it is served with shebbecia, a deep fried cookie that is dipped in honey and coated in toasted seseme seeds.

Posted by: Sherri | October 2, 2006 2:57 PM

thanks for the stuff on ramadan, kim! it's great to read about it. i'd definitely love to try this soup out. lentil soup is also a very common one to break the fast with. very hearty and healthy. this will be a nice change!

Posted by: dmt | October 11, 2006 3:35 PM

Thanks for the recipe. In my family we usually start with red lentil soup, but we sometimes have molokhia. Molokhia is a plant that gets chopped so fine, its practically pureed and then boiled in beef broth and garlic. The soup has kind of a slimy texture, but it's sublime when done well.

Posted by: r_in_ohio | October 27, 2006 2:28 PM

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