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Pomegranate Soup

This is a popular winter soup in Iran. In her book, In a Persian Kitchen (Charles E. Tuttle Co. 1960), from which the following recipe is adapted, Maideh Mazda writes: "When pomegranates are in season, the Persian housewife wouldn't hesitate to serve this soup to her family several times a month." Her recipe includes 1/3 cup of sugar that I left out. This pale pink soup is scented with mint and cinnamon. It only improves with age.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/2 pound ground beef

1 small onion, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt, plus to taste

8 cups water

1/2 cup rice

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup Italian parsley, chopped

1/2 cup scallions, chopped

1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds or 1cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon dried mint

Lime juice, to taste (optional)

Put the meat in a bowl. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt and mix well. Make meatballs the size of walnuts.

Put water in a 3-quart pot and bring to a boil. Add a dash of salt and rice and cook for 15 minutes; add spinach, parsley and scallions and cook for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove seeds from fresh pomegranate until you have about 1 1/2 cups (or substitute pomegranate juice). Add pomegranate seeds and meatballs to the soup and let cook for another 20 minutes on a low heat, or until the meat is done.

Rub dried mint in the palm of your hands over a small bowl to make it powdery. Add remaining cinnamon and pepper to the mint. Add this to the soup just before removing from the heat.

Taste soup, and add salt and lime juice to taste.

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