13 January 2010

Harissa, Here I Come

My favorite day of the week is Wednesday.  Not because it signifies the half-way point of the work week, but because it is the day the newspaper contains the Food Section.  Not that there aren't plenty of online places to get good  food information and news, but there is just something I love about holding the newspaper in my hand and breathing in that print smell. 

My recipe file is full of recipes I have cut out of the newspaper over the years.  It's fun to every once in a while go through them one by one and reminisce, almost like you would with a stack of photographs, because for me each recipe has a memory or story tied to it:

The 3 Tres Leches cakes I baked for my students one year because I truly believed that there was no better way to learn about a region than to taste its food.  (And selfishly, this is one of my favorite cakes.)

The failure that was the Rum-Glazed Spiced Pecans. What can I say about this one other than the best part was that we were left with an almost full bottle of dark rum to kill the nasty flavor of the spiced pecans.

The Pumpkin Cheesecake that I managed to convince my mom to let me make one year for Thanksgiving. For holiday meals it is hard to get permission from the family to deviate from the norm. If it's not pumpkin, cherry or pecan pie, it typically does not go on the table.

The Japanese Pork and Shrimp Pot Stickers that I made on a whim this fall and turned out to be fabulous!
Sorry, got a little off topic there. Back to today's Food Section. The planets must all be aligned or something because the main topic this week is soup (blogged about it yesterday), there is a recipe for a Tunisian soup (studying Africa in class this month) and best of all, it contains harissa (an ingredient I have been dying to try for a long time). I need to go buy a lottery ticket because this is obviously my lucky day.


The soup is called Hlelem and is a Tunisian vegetable and bean soup.  I plan on making it over the upcoming three day weekend.  That should give me time to track down some of the ingredients I don't already have in my pantry.  

Recipe from the Houston Chronicle:

HLELEM    (Tunisian Vegetable and Bean Soup)
From The New Book of Soups by the Culinary Institute of America

½ cup dried lima or butter beans
½ cup dried chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup diced celery
¾ cup minced onion
1 quart chicken broth
1/3 cup tomato paste
4 large Swiss chard leaves, stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces, leaves shredded
1/3 cup angel hair pasta, broken into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons harissa
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Soak dried lima beans and chickpeas separately overnight in three times their volume of water. Drain and cook them separately in two times their volume of fresh water until they are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and reserve cooking water from both . Combine lima beans and chickpeas; set aside. Combine cooking waters and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add garlic, celery and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add broth, reserved bean cooking liquid and tomato paste. Mix together until well blended and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

About 10 minutes before serving, add cooked beans and chickpeas, Swiss chard and pasta. Simmer until pasta and chard stems are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add harissa and stir until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in heated bowls, garnished with chopped parsley.

Note: Harissa is a Tunisian hot sauce or paste usually made with hot chiles, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil. It's available at Middle Eastern markets and specialty stores.

Makes 8 servings, each 150 calories (26.5 percent calories from fat), 4.5 g fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 7 g protein.

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