Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Soup weather takes me to North Africa

In a very literal way I've been away for far too long.  I've taken many weeks away from blogging to take care of family business, say some tearful goodbyes. Through all of that I continued cooking those comfort foods which make those near and dear feel warm, loved and special.  Okay..... not all of those meals were for others but you get the idea!  Some of those meals were at the end of very long days when we were lucky to be eating a meal at all. We've all had those days.  I was so happy on those days to come home to a meal in my Crock Pot.  A  new favorite soup for me is Hlelem, it's a Tunisian bean & vegetable soup.  The word Hlelem actually comes from the hand rolled pasta which is found in this soup in from North Africa in Tunisia. I used Spanish Fideo which is easily found in the states the Latin section of most grocery stores. I did make a few changes to this recipe but found it to be a healthy & comforting soup. We've all had long stretches of cold days this winter & warm soup is a good go-to for me. I've dreamed of hoping a plane for a warmer destination more than once.  I might be dreaming of Africa or the South Pacific on those days but I will still put a south of the border spin on a soup like this by kicking the spices up a notch.  I have utilized this cookbook many times in the last few months.  "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker" cookbook.  by Beth Hensperger. I can recommend many of the recipes & always am looking for ways to shorten time in the kitchen on a long work day. 
1-15.5 oz can garbanzo beans, undrained
1-15.5 oz can butter beans, undrained
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves + 1 rib chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup tomato paste
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup fideo or crushed angel hair pasta
1 bunch green swiss chard leaves & stems, leaves shredded & stems chopped
1 to 2 tbsp Harissa
2 tbsp hot sauce (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
lime wedges for serving.

Place garbanzos & butter beans with their liquid, celery leaves, parsley, tomato paste & broth in slow cooker, stir to combine. Cover & turn the setting to low. 

In a small skillet heat the olive oil over med heat.  Add the onion, celery & cook, stirring a few times until softened about 5 min. Add to the cooker, cover & cook on low for 4-5 hours. 

Stir in pasta, then pack in swiss chard; it will cook down. Cover & cook until the pasta 7 chard stems are tender to the bite, 30 minutes to 1 hour longer on low or 10 to 15 min. on high. Stir in Harissa & season with salt & pepper.  Serve hot with lime wedges.  I enjoy the flavor of lime over the traditional lemon for the flavor. 

Beth Hensperger has a recipe for Harissa however I found it in a can recently after a friend of mine showed me where to find this traditional North African ingredient in a local Halal meat shop.  She actually took some to my daughter for a house warming gift.  It is a very spicy version of a tomato paste. 

**While I loved this my husband did feel his was in dire need of "meat". Obviously this defeats the purpose of a "Meatless Monday" meal but to each his own.  It was actually quite tasty with some shredded roast & in my opinion would be good with lamb in it as well.