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Food Friday Recipe : Bissara

By Miansari66 via Wikimedia Commons

Tune in to Food Friday this week, when Chef Ric Orlando will join us in the studio to talk about veggies and staying healthy on a vegetarian diet!

More than once, my wife Liz and I enjoyed steaming bowls of bisarra, the North African fava bean soup, at a tiny Moroccan lunch counter in Astoria, Queens, for breakfast. After enjoying the soup, may I say we were revved for the day? This silky soup, finished with toasted cumin, olive oil and a bit of cayenne makes a perfect cold-weather breakfast, but ain’t bad for lunch or supper either.  It’s also excellent in warm weather served cold.

You can make this the traditional way with dried favas, but they require overnight soaking, at least three hours of cooking, pureeing and fine straining–too much work! So for ease and great flavor I use yellow split peas instead. 

This soup can be made a day or two in advance, stored in the fridge and reheated.  Served cold, it also makes a tasty dip. Hummus, watch out!—served with celery or bell pepper strips, pita or even rice crackers for dipping. Served hot it is perfect with  a flatbread like warm buttered pita or naan.


2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 pound yellow split peas

Extra virgin olive oil as needed

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pinches of cayenne


1. In a small dry skillet toast the cumin over high heat shaking the pan until aromatic and mocha brown in color, about two minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

2. Rinse the split peas in a colander and transfer them to a large heavy pot. Add enough of the olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan and turn the heat to medium. Add the garlic and 1 tablespoon of the cumin. When the oil starts to sizzle, stir to combine and cook 1 minute more. Be careful not to brown the peas. 

3. Add the 4 quarts of water and the parsley.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer actively, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very soft, about 45 minutes.

4. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree very well, returning each batch to the pot. Add the lemon juice and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the soup is nicely thick, about 8-10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle generously with olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining cumin and add pinches of cayenne to taste.  Serve.

Serves 4, with leftovers

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