Hearty Soups for Autumn

Thick, chunky, plant-based soups, flavored with savory Middle Eastern spices

Few cuisines offer as wide a range of plant-based dishes as those that come from the Middle East. Originally, it was a question of survival. Traditional Middle Eastern ingredients like tahini, lentils and chickpeas, and dishes like falafel, hummus and baba ganoush survive well in the desert heat, while meat and dairy do not.

Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox, sisters who were raised in Barcelona by Lebanese Jewish parents, are founders of the renowned blog, mayihavethatrecipe.com. They decided to write their new book, Tahini & Turmeric (Da Capo Lifelong Books), to honor the Middle Eastern dishes from their childhood—with a vegan twist. “I wanted to show people that vegan food can be exciting and full of flavor,” says Cohen. “And what better way to do it than using Middle Eastern ingredients?”

The 101 delicious recipes are easy to prepare; they feature bright colors and brilliant flavors with enticing herbs and spices like turmeric, saffron, cardamom, sumac and more. Here are two favorites, from Tahini & Turmeric.

Hearty Spiced Chickpea, Lentil, and Root Vegetable Soup

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Makes 3 quarts

The inspiration for this recipe comes from a traditional Moroccan soup called Harira. Full of vegetables, beans and spices, it’s incredibly satisfying and bursting with flavor.

Store in the refrigerator for up to four days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 parsnips, diced
  • 1 medium-sized celery root, diced
  • 1 small rutabaga, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried red lentils, picked over and rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup dried French lentils, picked over and rinsed well
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Combine the salt, turmeric, cumin and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onion starts to brown slightly.
  3. Add the spice mixture to the pot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the carrots, parsnips, celery root and rutabaga and continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add 6 cups of water, the red and French lentils, and the chickpeas. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the lentils and vegetables are tender.
  5. Add the canned tomatoes, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat, add the cilantro, and stir well.

Meal-in-a-Bowl Bean and Israeli Couscous Soup

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 55 minutes
  • Makes 3 quarts

Inspired by our mom’s vegetable soup, we created our own hearty version by adding chickpeas, black beans and Israeli couscous. It’s substantial enough to serve as a meal on its own. Store in the refrigerator for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium-sized carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Good-on-Everything Spice Mix (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons (or 2 cubes) vegetable bouillon
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium-sized zucchini, diced
  • 1/3 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot. Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the carrots, onion, celery and shallot, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the spice mix and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add 6 cups of water, the vegetable bouillon, and the diced tomatoes, black beans, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the zucchini and Israeli couscous, stir well, and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and add the parsley or cilantro before serving.

Good-on-Everything Spice Mix

  • Makes 3/4 cup

This combination of spices is the one we use most when we cook. It adds a slightly smoky, savory flavor, and a beautiful color to anything from vegetables, beans and protein to soups and stews.

  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight jar for up to three months.

Excerpted from Tahini & Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics—Made Irresistibly Vegan by Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, longtime journalist and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes (Workman Publishing), Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine. She has been cited as an industry expert by Huffington Post, Fox News and New York Magazine and contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. Berg co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg

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