Plain and simple, this soup is usually a first course offered during Ramadan, the holy month in which Muslims fast each day until sundown. The splash of lime juice makes all the difference, applied just before serving.
With a salad before or after, the soup works just fine as a summer main course.
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BOIL a kettle of water. Score an “X” on the underside of each tomato and place them in a deep bowl. Pour boiling water over tomatoes to cover, and let them sit while you prep the vegetables.
DICE onion and celery, then peel, trim and dice carrots; heaping them all together is okay.
MELT butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add diced vegetables and stir to coat. Cook for about 6 minutes, until softened.
DRAIN tomatoes. Peel them, discarding the skins, then seed them. Dice the remaining flesh.
ADD beef to the Dutch oven; cook for several minutes, until it loses its raw look, breaking it up with a spoon as needed. Stir in allspice, cumin and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
ADD tomatoes, broth and water. Increase heat to high; once mixture comes to a boil and produces foam on top, skim off and discard the foam until it’s gone. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
UNCOVER Dutch oven and stir in the pasta. Cook uncovered just until the pasta is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. If the surface of the soup looks greasy, lay a paper towel on top just long enough for it to absorb the grease, then discard it.
DIVIDE soup among individual bowls. Cut limes in half and squeeze equal amounts of juice into each portion. Serve warm. Yield: 9 3/4 cups (6 to 8 servings)Per serving (based on 8): 180 calories, 14 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar