With roots in Persian cooking, one of my favorite cuisines, this rich and delicious soup offers a delicious start to a dinner for four. The soup receives brightness from fresh orange and lemon juice stirred in just before serving It should be served in smallish bowls and dressed with creme fraiche, a drizzle of of saffron oil and some chopped toasted pistachios. It does keep well if you want to make it ahead or make it for two and save two servings for later. This soup is very easy to make except for the peeling of the pistachio, which is just time consuming, more than difficult.
1/4 cup very hot olive oil
1 tsp saffron threads
2 cups shelled raw pistachios
1/4 unsalted butter
1″piece of ginger finely chopped
3 large shallots finely chopped
1 medium leek, finely chopped
2 tsp toasted ground cumin
1 Tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
3 cups chicken stock (homemade is best)
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Juice of one lemon(I used a Meyer)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche per person
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Heat the olive oil in a small pan or bowl (microwave is ok) and add saffron. Allow to rest at least 1 hour. Longer is fine.
Put the pistachios in a bowl, pour boiling water over and cover with a plate. Allow to sit for 1 minute. Drain the water. Use latex gloves and rub small handfulls of the nuts together in your hands to remove the skins. Get as much off as you can. Not all the skins will come off. This is ok. Getting some off will make the color more green and less brown.
Put a piece of pastry paper on a baking sheet and spread the pistachios on the baking sheet. bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.
Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the shallots, ginger. leeks, cumin, paprika, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Saute until the shallots and leeks become soft. Add the stock, 1/2 of the saffron oil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the pistachios. Put the remainder in the pot with the soup. Use an immersion blender to roughly puree the soup. It is ok to still have bits of nuts and shallots. Add the orange and lemon juice then taste for additional salt and pepper.
To serve, coarsely chop the reserved pistachios. Ladle the hot soup into bowls, top each with a bit of the nuts, a swirl of the creme fraiche and a little saffron oil.