FoodGirl and the kitchen

A Healthy Favorite From the Middle East

Most Chicagoans know of this wonderful Persian restaurant called “Reza’s”. It seems to reign as a favorite among all Russians, partially because of the influence of the Georgians and the Armenians.

For as long as I can remember my family went to “Reza’s”. I always had this giddy feeling when I knew we were going for dinner there. I would daydream about it in school and look forward to it all day. The food was always great, inexpensive and filling. To this day I still crave Reza’s food and get as giddy as I did when I was a ten-year-old girl.

I have duplicated almost every recipe they have at the restaurant. Except one!.. Their soup. It’s a delicious vegetarian lentil and tomato soup that is packed with flavor.

One spice that is indicative of the Middle Eastern cuisine is sumac.

If you have never seen sumac, I recommend that you try using it in all your Middle Eastern recipes. It is regularly used in that region of the world. It has a tart flavor to it and was originally used in food before the Romans introduced lemons. It goes well with chicken, beef, and hummus… Well, almost anything. In fact, you will usually see it sitting on the tables next to the salt in pepper in most good Middle Eastern restaurants. 7-Spice is also very popular and frequently used. It’s a spice blend with cumin, ground coriander, paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom. It really gives that Middle Eastern flare to the dish.

Persian Lentil and Tomato Soup


1 cup lentils, rinsed

7 cups vegetable stock (I use Trader Joe’s, which is very flavorful)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups stewed tomatoes, crushed

2 teaspoons salt

1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoon sumac

3 teaspoon 7-spice

1/4 cup brown basmati rice, uncooked

juice of 1 lemon


1. Add lentils to stock and bring up to a boil. Cover and continue cooking on medium low for 25 minutes.

2. Sautee onions and garlic together and let them sweat. You do not want any color.

3. Add tomatoes, parsley and all seasoning and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add onion mixture and rice to the lentils and stock. Turn down the heat and let it cook for about 25-30 minutes on medium heat, until the lentils and rice are tender. At this point, add lemon juice.

5. Pour into a bowl and add a dollop of Middle Eastern yogurt called “Labne”.


Make sure you check Mila’s blog at for more tips and tutorials.

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