Thursday, December 15, 2011

North African Vegetable Soup

When shopping for Christmas presents on Amazon last week, I came up a few cents short of the $25 minimum order that qualifies for free shipping.  So, I looked around in the food/kitchen part of their website for a little something for myself and found this prepared harissa from France.  The four-pack cost about $15.  En tube, no less!

Then I felt like a jackass when I Googled "harissa recipes," hoping to find recipes using harissa, and instead found a slew of harissa recipes I could have easily made myself.  Oh, well.  I still got something to remind me of the wonderful time I spent in Geneva and of all the weekend shopping trips in France with my Swiss and German roommates, buying groceries with ingredient lists in several languages because they were being sold throughout the European Union.

So, when I changed the search to "recipes using harissa," this Moroccan vegetable stew recipe from Sara Moulton came up in the results.  This worked out well, since I'm a little under the weather today (and, thankfully, home from work), so I haven't had an appetite for the Indian yumminess that I made the other day.  Whenever I have a cold, all I really want is liquid, so I turned this stew into a soup, used up several veggies that had been hanging around for a while and got to use some of the harissa to boot.  I made numerous changes, as shown below the photo, based mainly on what was on hand:

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups vegetable broth (I used Better than Bouillon veggie base)
1.5 cups thawed frozen yellow squash, sliced in 1/2-inch rounds
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
harissa for serving

In a soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add celery and garlic, stir and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Add the next three ingredients and stir to combine.  Add tomatoes and sweet potato, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  If sweet potatoes are not tender after this step, add the squash and chickpeas, raise the heat slightly, cover and simmer another 5-10 minutes or until sweet potatoes and squash are tender.  Turn off heat, stir in cilantro and serve.
I tasted the result before and after adding the harissa, and it's really good both ways.  I was able to taste the cinnamon more before I added the harissa than after, but I also liked how the harissa gave the broth a little more color than the liquid from the canned tomatoes could do on its own.  The harissa wasn't quite as hot as I expected (maybe I'll taste a difference once I'm no longer congested), but it was still very tasty and has great potential for being used in other soups and stews as a zippier alternative to tomato paste, particularly in Turkish recipes like chickpea and zucchini moussaka that I blogged about last year.

I'll be taking it easy for the rest of the day so that I can go back to work tomorrow and also be well enough to enjoy all the fun stuff going on this weekend, like tomorrow's holiday drop-in at work and Columbia Veg's "'Tis the Season to Party Like Veg*ns" potluck!

Hope everyone's having a happy and safe holiday season, and I'll be seeing some of you soon!

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