Cold Pistachio Soup, Anyone?

Last week was the latest in my series of New Persian Kitchen dinners. It was at Porsena, Chef Sara Jenkins’ classy Italian joint in the East Village. To my surprise, of the more than ten recipes from the book that her incredible kitchen crew cooked up, everyone listed the Cold Pistachio Soup with Mint and Leeks as one of their favorites.

I want to say here that Chef Sara and her Executive Chef, Sal Celona, amazed me with the way they turned out my recipes. Neither of them had worked with Persian ingredients like dried limes, angelica powder, and barberries before, but you never would have known it from tasting the food!

One Iranian friend who was at the dinner said that the Rice with Rose Petals and Barberries was “second only to my mom’s—and I have to say that because she’s my mom!”

There is no finer praise than that.

Since the shot glasses of cold pistachio soup were one of the highlights of the evening, I want to share the recipe with you. It’s a traditional Persian soup, and I’ve put my own spin on it to give it a bright green hue. The recipe calls for using leeks — both white AND green parts — and that’s key to giving it a vibrant color. Enjoy!

Cold Pistachio Soup with Mint and Leeks Soup-e Pesteh

Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 pound leeks, green and white parts, coarsely chopped
1 cup pistachios
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt
7 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
About 2 cups loosely packed fresh spearmint
Juice of 2 lemons
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stir- ring occasionally, about 10 minutes, until soft. Cook the leeks in batches, if they don’t all fit at once.

Stir in the pistachios, garlic, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the spearmint. Transfer to a blender, blend until smooth, and add salt to taste. Serve warm, or pour into a shallow baking dish and refrigerate for 2 hours, until thoroughly chilled. Season with lemon juice and pepper, and serve.

Photos: James Rotondi


9 thoughts on “Cold Pistachio Soup, Anyone?

  1. This sounds like a very unique flavor combination — at least to me, unschooled in all the flavors of Persian food. I will have to try it one day soon! It sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on all your success with these cookbook-dinners. They sounds fantastic!

  2. This looks so refreshing. I’m going to get some pistachios shortly in order to make this. i was looking at your recipe for CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE WITH HINTS OF ORANGE (LACTOSE-FREE) but the amount and type of tofu was unfortunately left out of the recipe. If you can get me that info, I will update the recipe on the Rachel Ray website where your recipe is listed. Fyi_ I can’t wait to check out your cookbook!

  3. I actually made this for lunch today, having noticed the recipe while thumbing through the book last night, and noting that I had a couple of leeks that needed to get used up soon. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything too wonderful, but my wife and I were really surprised at how delicious it was. This might become a new staple for summer lunches.

  4. Louisa, thank you so much for posting the recipe, pics, and story, and also thanks to reviewer Zachary for giving me the guts to try this. I made it to precede a Moroccan-ish chicken meal for Rosh Hashanah – and a cold soup was perfect for a warm evening! I served it in wine glasses, and it looked very impressive. It was fun to serve, because no one had ever heard of, or tasted, anything like it. And, everyone loved it!

    I will surely be making this in the future – it was pretty simple – the only difficulty might be in obtaining the quantity of mint leaves. (But, don’t stint!) One reason this recipe is so perfect is that although extremely flavorful, it very thin and not too filling to precede a big meal. Also, although I made it with chicken stock, I might try water next time – especially useful for veg, vegan, and non-dairy meals. I also want to mention that it tasted very good warm, also.

    So, thanks for your notes and the recipe. I am really glad I made it!
    And, here is a question – do you use raw or roasted pistachio nuts?

    1. Hey Lori,

      I’m so glad you liked the soup! I always think of it as a seasonal soup that’s good in summer, when there is lots of fresh mint to be had. And yes, go ahead and try making it with water, or even vegetable stock, to make it vegetarian-friendly. I usually just go to the bulk section of the market and get whatever shelled pistachios they have. I don’t think they’re toasted, but toasting them lightly in the oven for a few minutes will give the soup a richer flavor.

      1. Thanks for the info. I don’t usually have bulk pistachios available, but if anyone has a Trader Joe’s nearby, they sell them shelled, unsalted, and roasted (as well as raw.)

  5. This is so happening and I can’t wait. Also, wanted to send a big kudos your way for always including technique instructions for those of us who do not have hi-tech-y things like stand mixers and food processors. You are perhaps the only person on the internet who understands that people made delicious food before the vitamix, and that washing a food processor is way more difficult than washing a good chopping knife.

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