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Saudi Lentil-Zucchini Soup

(Shorbat Bazeela)

This is a great soup--with a great tradition that goes with it. During the Hadj--which fulfills a Moslem's fifth duty of the five pillars of Islam--many pilgrims to Mecca make a meal of this satisfying soup. While the soup is thick, it is neither rich nor creamy--the cumin is wonderfully aromatic--and the lemon turns the meal into something quite special. Serve hot to 4 to 6 people as a substantial first course or a light meal.

Garnish: 2 lemons, cut into wedges, to serve on the side

Place the lentils, onion, and garlic in a large saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Stir in the potatoes and celery and cook, covered, 15 minutes. Then add the zucchini and cumin and cook uncovered another 15 minutes, until the lentils and potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle each with lemon juice, and serve a lemon wedge with each portion.