Sunday, May 15, 2016

Spring Salad with Halloumi from Honey & Co.

We are in May: the month of exhaustion for teachers and students alike. And in the midst of said exhaustion, a simple, beautiful, and flavorful salad seems just the ticket. Because I don't have energy for much else. Seriously. Do not expect a lot from an educator in May.

I snapped up this bright and peppy cookbook a few months ago at my local used bookstore. Marked down to a mere fraction of the cost of a new cookbook (and without a spot, scratch, or dallop of sauce on it!), this book basically begged to be mine. What, with it's beautiful photographs, Middle Eastern recipes, and association with Ottolenghi, how could I deny it?

Honey & Co. is the brain- and love-child of Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, acclaimed chefs who opened a small restaurant in London in 2012 after having done their time with the famed Yotam Ottolenghi (among others in their storied culinary upbringing).

Srulovich writes that they wanted their restaurant to be "a noisy, crazy, sexy, smoky, messy, food-/love-/people-celebration of a place." And lucky for us, they shared a cookbook that, maybe won't transform your kitchen into a hive of Middle Eastern cum British cooking, but will at least transport you there via your taste buds.

This recipe is pretty simple--the combination of zucchini, peas, and fava beans (also known as broad beans) is spectacular with all of its shades of green. The saffron and lemon dressing is very acidic, but after dotting a little on the halloumi (or all over the salad), we mixed in a little more olive oil and water. It made a fantastic dressing overall.

So, go out, show your local, May-induced-dazed educator some love.

Or bring them this salad. They are, no doubt, equivalent.  I promise.


Spring Salad with Halloumi from Honey & Co.
Adapted from Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East

4 Servings 

4 cups water
1 heaped tsp salt
1/2 cup shelled peas
1/2 cup shelled fava beans (or broad beans)
1 head Little Gem lettuce
1 medium zucchini
3 sprigs of fresh mint, picked
a pinch of salt
a pinch of black pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp for frying
8 ounces Manouri or Halloumi cheese

For the lemon sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small unwaxed lemon, finely sliced, skin and all, seeds removed
a pinch of saffron
1/2 cup of water
1 tsp honey

1. To make the lemon sauce:  Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the lemon slices.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the start to color. Add the saffron and water; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat as low as possible and cook slowly for about 30 minutes. You may need to add more water. Once the lemons are very sot, stir in the honey and mix well. Transfer to a food processor and puree until completely smooth.

2.  To make the salad: Bring the 4 cups of water and the salt to a boil. Plunge the peas in for 30 seconds and then removed with a slotted spoon to a bowl of iced water. Return the water to a boil, and repeat the process with the fava beans--they will need 1 minute in the water. Remove the peas and the beans from the iced water as soon as they are cold (so they don't get waterlogged). Remove the outer skin from the fava beans by pinching them and pulling out the beans.

3.  Separate the lettuce into leaves, then wash and dry them, and set them aside. Use a vegetable peeler to create thin ribbons of zucchini. Mix in a large bowl with the peas, fava beans, lettuce, mint leaves, salt, pepper, lemon juice and oil. Arrange on a large platter or on individual serving plates.

4.  Cut the cheese into 8 thick slices. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pa on medium-high heat and cook the cheese for about 30 seconds. Then flip the slices over to cook on the other side for another 30 seconds.

5.  Place the slices on each individual salad or arrange them over the large serving platter. Dot the lemon sauce all over the salad. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Honey-Basil Lemonade

This is not lemonade. 

This is a vehicle for vodka. Or a topper to a crisp champagne. 

Helene Henderson in her re-issued cookbook, Malibu Farm Cookbook (2014), will try to convince you that you should drink this lovely little concoction without a little hooch.  She'll even tell you that you can make lemonade when life gives you lemons. And I say, mix that lemonade up with something stronger, and sweet business, you have a sweet, herby, tart drink worthy of any summer backyard.

This latest cookbook comes to us as we're prepping for those upcoming sultry summer days. I get it, those of you in Colorado cannot fathom such a future, given that Loveland just got 15 inches of snow in the last 72 hours, and my New Yorker friends suffered through a baseball game where the weather was more appropriate for a Jets tailgate. 

I get it. Summery lemonade may not even be registering. However, Henderson is promising us Malibu, promising us all fresh Californian cuisine and simple preparations. Malibu Farm is a small Southern Californian business stationed at the end of a pier and comes complete with a cafe, restaurant, and a commitment to small, local farms. Chef-owner Henderson's cookbook boasts oversized pages with breathtaking photography (including a picture of her walking her goats on the beach). This cookbook is aspirational as it is inspirational. So let's start slicing up those lemons and make some lemonade, despite when the weather forecast has been.

Admittedly, I did start with a mighty easy recipe, and the rest of the cookbook promises to be just as inviting.  Watch out Shrimp with Farro and White Beans or Honey Lemon Saffron Chicken--I am coming for you. Only after I have indulged in the Smoked Salmon-Ricotta Scramble (we take brunch seriously here in California) or the Burrata, Nectarine, and Arugula Salad with Sesame Seed Candy (why, oh why is it not nectarine season yet). 

Let's toast the summer, even though it's not here for anyone yet. But let's raise our glasses high, my friends, for I am as ready as can be for those warm days and cool nights, that layer of fog fingering the coast line, and sweet, sweet glasses of lemonade.


Honey-Basil Lemonade
Adapted from Malibu Farm Cookbook

2 Quarts

3/4 cup honey
1 cup lemon juice
1 handful of basil, leaved only
6 cups water

1. In a blender, combine honey, lemon juice, and basil. Process until the honey is emulsified into the juice.

2.  Strain the basil leaves.  Combine the remaining lemon-honey mixture with the 6 cups of water and serve on ice.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Hamburger (with Grilled Red Cabbage Slaw)

There's a lot of pressure when you put the definite article the in front of anything. You're suggesting that yours is the one and only, the end all be all, the real deal. Such is the case with Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor's hamburger recipe from Twenty Dinners. They claim that they, in fact, have The Hamburger Recipe.

I'll let you determine this for yourself.

But it is worth the experiment.

The somewhat fatty meat lends moisture. 

The bourbon lends noticeable and welcome sweetness. 

The jalapeno gives a little heat and pop. 

The sheer quantity of onions guarantees super juiciness. 

This is a nice change of pace from your everyday hamburger.  Seriously, you want to give this a try, don't you? Pile with grilled red cabbage (or heap it on the side, as I did), and you have a real burger.

The slaw was perhaps is a little oily for my taste--you might cut a little of the oil yourself, but the recipe below maintains the recommended oil (as I haven't done any further experiments yet to determine how little you need). 

However, by smacking a quarter of a head of cabbage onto a grill before making a slaw, you're guaranteeing a smoky, succulent companion for an already smashing burger. 

Maybe this is The slaw to have in the summer months as well. 

As a final note, Norooz, the Persian New Year, passed about six weeks ago (which is also an indication of just how long the delay between pictures and post actually is on this here site. Sorry.). A co-worker of mine gifted me and others this gorgeous Barbari bread. Before we had the hamburger, the husband's parents, the husband, and I, we all feasted on bread before we began dinner. It was lovely. I am going to admit it--I used Google here: سال نو مبارک.


The Hamburger
Adapted from Twenty Dinners

6 Servings 

2 pounds ground beef, with 80:20 fat ratio
1 large yellow or sweet onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
3 Tbsp bourbon
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
Grapeseed or vegetable oil
1Tbsp kosher salt
6 buns
Tomatoes, onions, mayonnaise, pickles, or other toppings, including the Grilled Red Cabbage Slaw (below)

1. In a bowl, combine beef, onion, garlic, and jalapeno with the bourbon and Worcestershire sauce. (Depending on how much spice you want, you can use more or less of the jalapeno.) Let the mixture marinate, at least 20 minutes, while you prep other ingredients, including your grill, for your meal.  

2.  Add the parsley and peeper to the meat mixture and combine well. Try a pinch of the meat and adjust the seasoning to taste. Divide the meat into 6 balls, and gently form them into patties.

3.  Once the grill is very hot, use your grill brush to scour off any bits from the grate. Roll up a dish towel, coat it lightly with oil, and rub it along the grate so that your food doesn't stick.

4.  Salt one side of the meat. Place the patties salt side down on the grill and let cook for 4 minutes with the lid open. After 4 minutes, salt the tops of the burger, and then flip the patties over. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes or until they are done to your preference. You can tell by touching the patty--if it gives easily and it's soft, it's still rare. Once you feel a little resistance, it's medium rare. Firmer than that is getting into medium and then well-done territory.

5.  Grill some buns and layer the patties with your toppings of choice.

Grilled Red Cabbage Slaw
Adapted from Twenty Dinners


6 Servings 

1 cup sesame oil*
1 1/4 cups tamari soy sauce
1 4-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium head of red cabbage
2 small handfuls of fresh cilantro, chopped

* Would 1/2 cup be enough? You tell me.

1. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Trim the root of the cabbage, quarter it (or cut into 6 wedges if it is very large), and put in a large bowl. Pour the oil mixture over the cabbage wedges and let it marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature.

2.  Preheat the grill until very hot. Remove the cabbage wedges and tap against the bowl to shake off the marinade. Throw the cabbage down on the grill, avoiding the center--the hottest part of the grill. Reserve the marinade to use as a dressing for after the cabbage is cooked. Close the lid of the frill and allow the cabbage to roast. After 7 minutes, flip the pieces, and cover. Cook for another 7 minutes. Now move the wedges to the center of the frill to blacken, turning every couple of minutes so it doesn't burn to a crisp.

3.  The outermost leaves will start to peel away. Pull them off until all of the layers have seared and have blackened slightly. Chop all the cabbage into thin strips, toss with the dressing to taste, add cilantro, and serve.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Strawberry (and Rhubarb) Poppy Seed Crisp

I love poppy seeds. These kidney-shaped black seeds from the opium poppy are highly nutritious, for they boast high levels of iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and magnesium. Further, they are a good source of B-complex vitamins. They even are chock full of oleic acid, which helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol." 

But let's face it--I love them because I like to pop them with my teeth.

As a teenager, I always ordered the lemon poppy seed muffins or the lemon poppy seed breads when faced with the vast array of pastries at the coffee shop. As I munched the overly lemony pastry, the seeds would pop and crunch. 

And according to Wikipedia (site of all reliable information), it's a fine thing that I have enjoyed them, for they not only promote health but also wealth and, apparently, invisibility.  That just might be the opium talking.

I did a lot of experimenting with this recipe, but I leave it--for the most part--intact below. This crisp is a simple, gluten-free dessert, boasting almond flour and oatmeal as its crumble.

However, here are some of the changes I made: 
  • I used Bob's Red Mill 5 Grain Cereal instead of oats because I had some on hand that I wanted to use up. My version was no longer gluten free, but it was rife with all the goodness of flaxseed and barley and rye. Plus, I vowed this year to have less food waste, and now my package of cereal is gone.
  • Further, I did combine rhubarb (left over from making the syrup for this drink) in with the strawberries, for I did not want to waste such a beautiful vegetable just because it had been soaked in sugar. It did mean that I cut back a little on the sugar combined with the strawberries.

What I loved about this recipe is that it is overflowing with poppy seeds. In fact, you have to really like them to enjoy this crisp, for the seed popping opportunity is quite high. So much so that the husband, who recently had some oral surgery, had to avoid this dessert, as he didn't want any errant seeds to interfere with his healing. 


Strawberry (and Rhubarb) Poppy Seed Crisp
Adapted from Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Eat

6 Servings

1¾ pounds hulled strawberries, quartered
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
Grated zest of 1 organic (unwaxed) lemon
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 cup almond flour
1 cup steel-cut oats
2 handfuls of slivered almonds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Grated zest of 1 organic (unwaxed) orange
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1. Put the strawberries into an ovenproof dish with the 3 tablespoons of sugar, the lemon zest and the vanilla seeds. [I added rhubarb that had been soaked in sugar leftover from this recipe and reduced the sugar to 1 tablespoon.]

2. Mix the almond flour, oats and poppy seeds in a bowl and add the orange zest, and break the butter into little chunks and add it to the bowl. Use your fingers to rub the mixture together, lifting handfuls of it out of the bowl to get some air into the crisp topping. Once the mixture looks like breadcrumbs and there are no big lumps of butter, add the slivered almonds. Stir in the remaining sugar. 

3.  Pile the mixture on top of the strawberries and bake in the hot oven for 25 minutes, until the top is golden and the strawberries have shrunk and started to caramelize around the edges. 

4.  Serve with a dallop or a drizzle of yogurt, cream, or ice cream on top.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bicicletta (White Wine Spritz)

Who knew there were so many apertivo subcultures in Italy? Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau, that's who.

This breezy little bar-cart book from Baiocchi and Pariseau tours you through those sub-cultures, and our authors bring you to the other side where you, too, can sip on a spritz on your own (Italian or otherwise) veranda. However, I would recommend this compact book for your next Northern Italy vacation or a gift for your most enviable friend who is about to embark on said vacation.

Baiocchi is the editor of the drink site Punch, which publishes fabulous narrative nonfiction on wine, spirits, and cocktails. Pariseau is the site's former deputy editor. These two know their libations, and they put that knowledge to the test when they road-tripped through northern Italy in a Fiat 500 researching the regional spritzes. What I want to know is why they didn't invite me.

Even better, they know how to write. The opening sections take you through spritz history--with stops focused on the watered wine of Greece and Rome; on the delicate palates of the Austrians who were stationed in northeast Italy and liked their wine a little less strong or bitter (their own proclivities were for the Riesling or the Gruner); on the leg warmers, hair bands, and white wine spritzers of the 80s; and on the Aperol spritz phenomenon of the present day. They then take you on a tour of what they call the "Spritz Trail" from Turin to Trieste, and cleanly detail the three main components of a spritz:

  • Effervescent: The name spritz comes from the German spritzen meaning "to spray."  You need bubbles. Period.
  • Low Alcohol: This is a beginning of the evening drink. Cool your jets.
  • Bitter: As the spritz is to be consumed in the pre-dinner hour, the bitterness is intended to "open the stomach."

Prepared with a smashing wine, a dash of something bitter (Aperol, Campari, Cynar), usually a little citrus, and topped with sparkling water or a bubbly wine, the spritz is served in a lowball, martini, or a wine glass--your choice. The whole point is that it's a laid-back look on life. So don't get too hung up on the particulars.

I decided to choose something simple and classic, something for which I had all the ingredients on hand--The Bicicletta. Our authors claim that it is so named  after the preferred mode of transportation in which its drinkers toddle home after several drinks. I claim that this is such a sweet little drink, worthy of an afternoon plaza-side pool-side, table-side, or our case, ivy-side.

At the conclusion of the book, our faithful authors give us a smattering of bar snacks to marry to our spritzes, reminding us that in Italy, one does not knock back a drink nor does one sip without a little nosh. So let's slow down, take it all in, and delight in the blue hour between the late afternoon and dinnertime.

Spring and some early backyard sitting is officially here (even if one needs to wrap oneself up in blankets to do so).

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Adapted from Spritz: Italy's Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes

1 drink

1-2 ounces of Campari
3 ounces white wine
Soda water
1/2 wheel of lemon, for garnish

Build the ingredients in a wine glass over ice and add the garnish.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Rhubarb Rose Gin Gimlet

If a sorority could have a drink, they would be wise to choose this one.

Sweet, hyper pink, and packing a punch, this little concoction is a fine addition to anyone's backyard barbecue or next sorority rush party (for those of legal age, of course).

It's rhubarb season, and it's time to start trotting this perennial rhizome out for all of your treacly desserts. Often paired with strawberries (which I will do soon in a dessert, I promise you), this hearty vegetable has a strong, tart, and distinctive taste that makes your mouth pucker and becomes the perfect pairing for sweet prosecco and earthy gin.

In Tara O'Brady's twist on the classic gimlet, that gin and rose's lime juice concoction from the 1950s, one can be sweetly pleased while sipping on some rhubarb in the backyard.  Curious about the origin of the gimlet?  Apparently it comes from The Long Goodbye from Raymond Chandler:

We sat in a corner of the bar at Victor's and drank gimlets. "They don't know how to make them here," he said. "What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."

Certainly, O'Brady strays from the proper, hard-boiled, neo-noir roots of Chandler, she presents a gimlet for the sorority set. And I ain't knocking it.

It almost appears to be a delicate little drink. However, take heed, there are three shots of liquor per glass. Which might be just what you need after a long week. I don't judge.

Happily, I made way too much syrup and had plenty left over to put in glasses of ice-cold sparkling water later.  You know, the next morning, when you need to nurse that headache.


Rhubarb Rose Gin Gimlet
Adapted from Tara O'Brady's Seven Spoons: My Favorite Recipes for Any and Every Day

8 drinks

Rhubarb Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
12 ounces rhubarb, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup water
2 pieces lime peel

Rose water
8 lime wedges
16 ounces (2 cups) gin
8 ounces (1 cup) Prosecco or Cava

1. To make the syrup:  Sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb in a heavy saucepan. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the water and lime peel and stir gently. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer until the rhubarb has softened and the juices are thick, about 12 minutes. Discard the lime peel, then strain the syrup into a clean container through a fine-meshed strainer. Use a fork to turn over the solids and to release any trapped juices, but do not press down on them (or the syrup will become cloudy). Set aside the rhubarb for another use (see this recipe for what I did with them). Refrigerate the syrup until it is cold.

2.  To make the cocktails: In a glass of your choice, stir 1 ounce of rhubarb syrup with a few drops of rose water. Squeeze the juice from a lime wedge, then drop in the wedge. Add a handful of ice, pour 2 ounces of gin over the ice and give everything a shake or a swirl. Top with 1 ounce of Prosecco or Cava. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Insalata Smoothie (or Juice)

I am a smoothie drinker. Almost every morning for breakfast.

While one might imagine I do it for all the health benefits that smoothies provide (It's salad! In a jar!), my predilection for blended fruits and vegetables is deeply rooted in laziness. 

You see, I like to sleep. I like to sleep a lot. I particularly like to sleep in the mornings. Which means I do everything I can to eek out another 10 minutes in bed. 

Enter the blender.

The night before, I gather up all of my ingredients and put them in a leftover plastic bag from the grocery store or into a bowl (sometimes I need to do two of these--one for frozen goodies and the other for refregerated ones). And then the next morning, at the last possible moment, I blend up those veggies, and pour them in a recycled jar, cap it, and take my breakfast on the go to be consumed sometime mid-morning while sitting at my desk. 

It is not glamorous. It does not smack of health consciousness (or the dreaded "detoxifying" which I have some issues with). It hardly even counts as being mindful of sustainable farming or slurping my daily requirements of fruits and vegetables. 

People, it's laziness, plain and simple.

Thank goodness there are plenty of people out there willing to support my laziness. This recipe comes from the improbably named Fern Green's smoothie and juice book, entited Green Smoothieswhich I wrote about here.

The smoothie is definitely chunky, in part because I don't have a high-end blender. Sigh. Some day. Also in part because Green did not recommend this particular vegetable combination as a smoothie; instead, she suggested it as a juice.  Which I made as well.

Isn't it pretty? The beet makes both the juice and the smoothie that deep purple, and certainly the beet's earthiness is the dominant note in both drinks. However, this combination is a salad in a glass, and even with an extra pinch of salt, it's eons ahead of (and lower in sodium) than any canned or jarred vegetable drink on your grocer's shelves.

You'll find me sipping on this at work, sometime around 10:30, when I am finally, fully awake.

Need other smoothie recipes?  Try these:


Insalata Smoothie (or Juice)
Adapted from Green Smoothies

2 smoothies or 10 ounces of juice 

1 green pepper
1 beet
2 celery stalks
3 radishes
1/2 cucumber
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Instructions for Smoothie:
Blend all of the vegetables together with 1 1/2-2 cups of water. Add the salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to the glass (or jar*, which is how I always have my smoothies) and stir.

Instructions for Juice:
Juice all of the vegetables together. Add the salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to the glass and stir.

*Here's my reason for the recycled jar, by the way:  "The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services estimates that it takes 1 million years for a glass bottle to decompose in the environment." Yikes.  Thus, you will note the jars seen here are an old pepperoncini and an old salsa jar. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Vegetarian Harira

Winter is officially over, but there are gray days still happening. We all know I love gray days, and gray days call for soup.

Enter harira.

Harira is a Northwest African soup generally served during Ramadan as way to break the daily fast. Typically made with small chunks or strands of lamb, this stew erupts with fragrant herbs and spices--including ginger, saffron, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, and red pepper--and thickens late in its cooking with a swirl flour and water. It bursts with complex flavor, satisfying chickpeas and lentils, and unexpected pasta.

And, Heidi Swanson, in her latest cookbook, Near and Far, makes this hearty dish into a flavorful vegetarian option that doesn't make you miss the lamb at all.

There is no doubt Swanson has a huge following of devoted home cooks (or take-out orderers who happen to read blogs for fun). Her blog certainly paved the way for those, like me, who have too many cookbooks, perhaps too little time, and a penchant for writing and photography. Her cookbooks are as delightful as her almost daily musings, and like many, I have copies of them all. 

However, her ingredients list can sometimes be a little precious: prickly pears, sansho peppers, chive blossoms in this cookbook.  It's not that these things aren't available--it's more that these things are available only in the best stocked grocery stores that sometimes require an out-of-the-way trip. 

Thankfully, I have The Bowl whenever we're in the Bay Area. However, I know that this is not a cookbook I'll be lugging up the coast, where the grocery stores--while still impressive--lack some of these edibles. 

Rest assured, however, that this stew can be made with what we probably all have on hand--some beans and pasta, maybe some lentils--but will require a quick jaunt to the store for usually easy-to-find saffron and fresh veggies. Once you have gathered all your goodies, this soup comes together with ease and a little time. 

And it makes way more than you think it will make. In fact, we halved the recipe, and I had two days of lunches at the ready. 

While Ramadan doesn't begin until June this year, Swanson's take on this soup is certainly worth whipping up, for a pot of this bubbling away on your stove will stave off any lingering winter colds as we move into spring. Gray days, sunny days, whatever your late March and early April days bring.


6-8 Servings 

1 bunch cilantro
Extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 medium onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
Pinch of saffron (about 30 threads)
2 1/2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups (about 10 ounces) cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups water
4 to 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup  freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
3 oz angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch pieces
Chopped fresh dates, to serve

1. Chop the cilantro stems finely and set aside in a pile. Chop the leaves and reserve separately. Heat several spoonfuls of the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, crushed garlic, ginger, and cilantro stems, stir to coat, and cook until everything softens a bit, 5 minutes or so. 

2. Add the saffron, salt, cinnamon, sweet paprika, red pepper flakes, and cumin to the pot. Stir well before adding the chickpeas and lentils. Stir in 4 cups of the water and bring to a simmer.
3. In a separate large bowl, gradually whisk the remaining 2 cups of water into the flour, a little at a time to avoid lumps. Add the lemon juice, tomatoes with their juice, and most of the remaining cilantro. Stir well, breaking up the tomatoes somewhat. [I did this with my hands, breaking up the tomatoes as I went.] Add this mixture to the soup and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Once at a simmer, cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked through.

4. When you have about 5 minutes left, stir in the oregano (or marjoram) and pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, adjust the seasoning and serve topped with dates, the remaining cilantro. Drizzle each portion with some more olive oil and serve.