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Lamb Tomato Soup

Monday, May 3, 2010

Last weekend New England was covered by a sudden heat wave. It was hot and humid, very much like in August, but not typical in the beginning of the spring. So my anticipation of cool refreshing lazy mornings faded as soon as I stuck my head out of the window at waking up. OK, there is no bad weather, and we humans have to accept everything from Mother Nature. Since the cooking for Sunday had been planned ahead, I decided to follow the plan. It was tomato lamb soup, one of our favorites, genius in its simplicity, accompanied by a vegetable salad. Here is the recipe. It needs only four main ingredients, isn't that wonderful?..

What you need:
2 legs of lamb (not  big ones, but smaller legs that are usually sold in pairs)
2.5 + 2.5 qts of filtered water
2 yellow onions
2-3 big ripe tomatoes
2 celery stalks (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
Salt, pepper
Finely chopped greens (parsley, dill, chives, etc.)

Wash lamb in cold water, cover with filtered water, and put on high heat. Watch until it boils, and the foam begins to form. Discard water with foam, rinse meat, cover with filtered water again, and put on medium heat. This way you will make the best broth that could be proudly called clear soup. Skim more foam, add one whole peeled onion, big chunks of celery stalks, salt, pepper, and boil on medium to low heat until the meat is very tender and almost falling apart from the bone. It took me more than two hours, so the lamb was rather old (more like an old sheep!) Take the meat out and let it cool.
Fish out and discard everything else from the broth.
Dice tomatoes in 2/3 inch cubes. Saute chopped onion in lamb fat skimmed from the surface of the broth. Cut meat in bite-size pieces. When onion is translucent with a hint of carmelization, add tomatoes, onion, meat, and bay leaf in soup, simmer for 1 minute, not more. At the end add thinly sliced garlic, some greens, remove from heat, and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
When serving, add more greens to each bowl, and have black pepper handy at the table.

No worry if you cannot buy small legs of lamb - any lamb with bones will do.
You can easily skip sauteing onion, just chop and dump in soup, and let it simmer until tender, only then add tomatoes. The point is that the tomatoes must be almost fresh.
Greens are very important. You can use whatever you like, just experiment. This time I used cilantro, parsley, and fabulous garlic chives with tiny bulbs that grow in my backyard garden.
This soup is good as it is, but if you wish even more substance (that's what Alex did!), add some boiled rice to a bowl. In this case I would use cayenne instead of black pepper.
Simple, but rich, and ve-e-ery satisfying - this soup is a real feast for body and soul.

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