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You didn’t think I could get through two weeks of dry pea and lentil recipes without making soup, did you? I actually wan’t planning on making this, but this weekend was cold and rainy and we were both itching for some comfort food. So soup it was!

I didn’t want to make my standard recipe though – I wanted to spice things up! I took a quick tour of the internet for inspiration and discovered two things: 1) Not a lot of people are writing about split pea soup and 2) Even less are putting fun twists on it.

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Finally, I stumbled on a Moroccan chickpea soup in an old cookbook. It looked so good that I immediately decided to go with Moroccan flavors in my soup. I adapted this recipe a lot, using smokey ham hocks, two types of dry peas, and piles of spices, I also made croutons with a za’atar inspired seasoning to give the soup a little something extra.

The result was fantastic — a richly spiced, velvety broth with just a touch of spicy heat. Crispy croutons that were so good I had difficulty not eating them all straight out of the pan. Spicy peppers that allowed each diner to customize their own dish. No, this certainly isn’t your typical pea soup.

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[print_this]Moroccan Pea Soup with Za’atar Spiced Croutons

This fragrant new take on split pea soup uses spices typically found in a Moroccan bazaar. You could substitute store-bought stock if you don’t have time to make your own, but you’ll lose the smokiness that gives this recipe an extra dimension. I wasn’t able to find za’atar (or sumac, which is the main component of the spice mixture) so I improvised with a mixture of lemon zest and spices. You can substitute store-bought za’atar for a more authentic flavor.

For the soup:

  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 8 cups water
  • 3/4 cups green split peas
  • 3/4 cups yellow split peas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1 Tbs black pepper
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • croutons and harissa (below)

Add the water and ham hock to a 5-quart dutch oven or a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. Remove ham hock and discard or save for another use.

Add the peas, bay leaf, celery, onions, garlic, saffron, cayenne, cumin, and black pepper. Cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until peas have softened. Remove bay leaf, and use an immersion blender to lightly puree the soup, leaving some of the peas whole if a chunkier texture is desired. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro. Season with salt to taste.

Serves 8.

Approx. 200 calories, 6.5 grams fat, 6 grams fiber, 8.5 grams protein

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For the croutons:

  • 4 ounces Italian bread
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 Tbs thyme
  • 1 Tbs black sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbs marjoram
  • 2 Tbs oregano
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200. Cut the bread into small cubes (approx. 1/2-inch square). Put the cubes in a single layer in an oven-safe skillet and bake for 10 minutes to help them dry out. Combine the spices in a small dish or mortar. Use a pestle or spoon to crush and combine the spices. Toss the bread cubes with the oil and the spice mixture. Place the pan over a high burner and toast the crumbs until they are crispy — about 5 minutes.

Top with croutons and harissa.

Serves 8.

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For the Harissa:

  • 4 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch coriander
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers. Soak in warm water for 15 minutes to allow them to soften. Place the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Use the side of your knife to mash the two together and create a paste. Chop the chilies. Add the chilis, garlic paste, and spices to a spice grinder or mortar and process until it begins to form a paste. Drizzle in the olive oil

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Through June 15, I will be blogging healthy and unique recipes featuring lentils and dried peas under a sponsorship agreement through the USALentil and Dy Pea Council. I will then be choosing my favorite recipe to be in a contest that will be held at RecipeRivalry.com. Although these posts are sponsored, opinions in them are my own and all recipes are original unless otherwise noted.

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I’m sending this post to Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and to Two For Tuesdays