'Ush little baby don't say a word...
You'll be too busy stuffing your face to say anything anyways. This recipe for a classic Persian "herb soup" has been handed down through my best friend's family and remains to this day one of the best and unique dishes I've ever eaten. Maybe it's the blend of aromatic herbs or the hearty beans and lentils, or maybe it's the toasted garlic and crunchy almond-sliver garnish. Maybe it's love and tradition. Whatever it is, it will make your other soups feel bad about themselves on a cold winter evening when this recipe becomes your go-to. We call it Ush, and once you've tried it you won't care what it's called -- you'll just want to make sure there's enough for second and third helpings.
It's easiest to prep prior to cooking since this dish has a good bit of chopping. Take 1 bunch each of fresh cilantro, parsley, and chives (or substitute a stalk of leek if preferred) and wash and chop them finely. I find it easiest with so much herb to bunch the leaves and pinch them together, working your way down the stems. Finish chopping and set aside in a small bowl. Chop up 2 onions and 2 cloves of garlic (3 cloves if you like a little extra punch -- I do).
You can also prep your beans in advance, draining and rinsing one can of black beans, one can of kidney beans, and one can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Set this medley aside as well for later.
Start with the garlic cloves and chopped onions and get them toasting in your pot. A little browning is good -- it sets the flavor base for you to build on, and once it's nice and golden pull it out and set aside too.
The ush begins in earnest now with 1/2 cup of lentils in 2 cups of water, over medium heat. Cook lentils halfway through (about 20 minutes) before adding 2 1/2 cups of water along with your beans and 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach. Take a big spoon and push that around so it settles nicely, and let this simmer for about 10 minutes.
Now the coup d'ush! Stir and add all your chopped herbs (and slow down enough to smell that beautiful aroma). Add to this 1/2 of the fried onion and garlic (and set the other half aside again for your garnish). With the herbs add 4 more cups of water and 1-2 cups of barley (more = thicker, you set your own pace on this). In place of barley you can do noodles for a lighter feel if that soups your fancy. Traditional recipes call for egg noodles, but a nice ramen or rice noodle would do fine if you take that course. Follow all this with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper.
Stir this in together and bring it up to a boil, just for a few minutes to bring it together before reducing to low heat for a nice simmer. Let it go for at least 30 minutes (longer is better!) until ready to serve.
Ladle out a heaping portion and top with a dollop of sour cream -- we use Toffuti for a light and deliciously vegan texture, and sprinkle your fried onion and garlic atop. If that's not perfection enough, get your slivered almonds and add about 1 tsp for extra crunch.*
*When you reheat leftover ush, I strongly recommend toasting additional onion and garlic garnish. If you do (seriously, just do it), you can toss the slivered almonds into the skillet too for a mind-blowing combination.
That's all for now. Enjoy!