Harira looms large in Moroccan culture, often served at weddings and other celebrations, but the soup practically unites all of Morocco during the holy month of Ramadan. Then, no food or water is taken from sunrise to sunset. But once the light fades and cannons announce the end of the day's fast, that is the moment of Harira, the one "break fast" dish all Moroccans eat each evening. Served with dates, dried figs, fried honey cakes and other finger foods, each diner takes his Harira as he pleases.
In this recipe, some liberties have been taken, but hopefully we have not offended tradition. The often-used lamb, chicken, chickpeas and eggs weren't included, and our accompaniments were modified by what is to be had close to home.
The soup can wait a day in the refrigerator. Add the final fresh coriander garnish at the moment of serving.
Cook to Cook: Greek walnut and honey baklava pastries cut into small bites can stand in for the honey-drenched fried cakes often eaten with Harira in Morocco.
2. Blend in the lentils, paprika, tomatoes and broth. Bring to a gentle bubble, partially cover, and simmer 45 minutes, or until the lentils have dissolved and the soup tastes rich and good. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed. Add a little water if the soup is too thick.
3. While the soup cooks, set out small plates for each diner with the accompaniments—lemon wedges, about 2 figs and dates for each, a little of the ground spices and bite-size pieces of pastry.
4. To serve the soup, sprinkle it with the 2 tablespoons of coriander and ladle into bowls.
From The Splendid Table's® How to Eat Weekends: New Recipes, Stories & Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by American Public Media. Photographs copyright © 2011 by Ellen Silverman. All rights reserved.
Jim Gaffigan is a comedian who loves to eat -- except for vegetables. "Generally I'm not a fan," he says. Food figures large in his latest book, Food: A Love Story.