Here is a simple, hearty soup from the northeastern part of Morocco that has a special twist: The pasta is steamed over boiling water, not cooked in it. The resulting silky texture is impressive.
The recipe calls for cubeb peppercorns, which have a taste of sage and a piney, aromatic quality. They are available at La Cuisine, 323 Cameron St., Alexandria, 703-836-4435.
- For the La Kama spice mixture
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cubeb pepper (may substitute a fruity freshly ground black pepper of your choice; see headnote)
- A good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- For the soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 pound lean ground lamb or beef
- 1 small red onion, grated
- 1 1/2 teaspoons La Kama spice mixture (see above)
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway seed
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 Roma tomatoes, grated (1/2 cup; no seeds or skin)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup rice-shaped dried pasta, such as orzo
- 1/2 cup no-salt added chickpeas, drained
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
For the La Kama spice mixture: Combine the ground ginger, turmeric, white pepper, cinnamon, cubeb pepper and nutmeg. Sift through a fine-mesh sieve. If not using right away, store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.
For the soup: Heat the oil in a medium heavy saucepan. Add the meat, onion, spice mixture, cayenne pepper and caraway seed; cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Clear a space in the middle of the saucepan; add the tomato paste and let it sizzle for a minute or two, then stir in the grated tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, fill a deep saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Fit a colander snugly on top, add the pasta to the colander, cover partially and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, herbs and tender pasta to the soup and serve at once.
Adapted from "The Food of Morocco," by Paula Wolfert (Ecco, 2011).
Tested by Kathy Orton.
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