Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)


Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira) is hearty and fragrant – a soul-satisfying one-dish meal. There are many versions of this soup – some with meat and others like this one, which is vegan. In some families it is traditional to serve this as the “break-the-fast” meal following Yom Kippur. But it could and should be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter. This is a make-ahead meal that only improves with a bit of age.

To show how vastly different our family traditions can be, my family’s break-the-fast meal was always bagels, lox and smoked fish. We came from New York via Russia Poland. But the truth is that I actually don’t like lox and smoked fish in the Midwest just doesn’t cut it for me. So, as I have with much of our diet during the rest of the year, I have adopted a more Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/South Asian food culture. And a heavily plant-based diet.

I came across a version of this soup on the Jewish Food Society website. It’s a wonderful site that has made it its mission to collect stories and recipes of the myriad Jewish communities across the globe. These are recipes that have been passed down through the generations, but which might have so easily been lost. Because so many of these families were forced from their homes under terrible conditions, it was easy for these unwritten treasures to have fallen by the wayside. While I have found that the recipes on the site are not always easy to follow, especially if you are a novice cook, the family histories alone make the website worth a visit.

While we Jews lived among the local communities, we also remained outside of them, keeping to our own traditions. Local cuisine was adapted to meet the laws of kashrut. Harira, Moroccan Chickpea Soup is a perfect example. Moroccan Muslims would eat harira to break the fast on Ramadan. Whereas many Jews ate it to break the fast on Yom Kippur.

The original recipe for this harira uses fine egg noodles and since I am not a vegan, I did as well. However, there is no reason why an angel hair pasta or spaghettini couldn’t be used instead. That is the only change required to make this wonderful soup vegan.

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Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

If you choose to cook your own soaked chickpeas as I have done, you need to start the process the night before. If you prefer to use canned chickpeas, you can still make a delicious and hearty soup. I happen to enjoy cooking my own beans and use the liquid from the cooking process to replace most of the water called for in the recipe. It adds an extra level of nourishment and flavor and helps to further thicken the soup. Unless you are using organic canned beans, however, I would not recommend using the liquid. You could use water, as called for, adding a vegetable bouillon cube or you could use a vegetable stock.

After I had decided to make the recipe I found from the Jewish Food Society, I came across another version from My Jewish Learning, The Nosher. So I ended up doing what I usually do and took the elements that I liked best from both and then tweaked it!

My sister-in-law is from Morocco and I asked what her family’s tradition was for breaking the fast. She told me that their tradition was to eat an egg-drop soup before the fast and cake to break the fast, followed by a full meal. So whatever tradition your family follows – or if you are starting a tradition of your own, I definitely encourage you to fit this wonderful and incredibly soul-satisfying soup in there somehow.

For a version of harira with lamb: Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

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Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained OR one 15 oz. can of drained chickpeas

4 Tablespoons olive or a neutral oil like Canola

3 medium carrots (or 2 large), peeled and cut into small dice or rounds

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon Harissa paste, or to taste (I used 2 Tablespoons of a milder Harissa and added a few crushed red chili flakes)

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup brown lentils OR 1/2 cup red lentils and 1/2 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (If making this in the winter, use canned tomatoes, about 28 oz. can)

3 cups fine egg noodles OR angel hair pasta broken into thirds (About 4 to 5 oz. depending on the kind of noodle that you use)

8 cups of vegetable stock, OR water with a couple of bouillon cubes OR the cooking liquid from the chickpeas plus additional water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

A large handful of cilantro and/or parsley, stems and leaves roughly chopped

Directions

If you are cooking your own soaked chickpeas, place the drained chickpeas in a pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and 4.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any white foam. Cover and cook for 50 minutes at a simmer.

In a large pot, add 4 Tablespoons olive or Canola oil. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 6 minutes on medium high heat or until softened. I like to add 1 teaspoon of salt here. I will probably add more later since it is a big pot of soup. However, if you are using broth or bouillon and depending on your Harissa, you might not need much more salt. You can always add it but you cannot easily remove it!

Once the veggies are softened, add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Now add the Harissa, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and stir through to coat everything well. Cook for 1 minute and then add the tomato paste to the bottom of the pot. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you are using your own chickpeas you can add them to the pot. I find that when I cook chickpeas myself, they retain their shape and bite even when cooked longer. If you are using canned chickpeas, you will add them in later. Your lentils are also added now. Give everything a good stir to coat with the spices and tomato paste.

Next add the tomatoes, broth, water or liquid from the chickpeas, the chopped stems of the parsley and/or cilantro. Don’t worry if there are some leaves in there as well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. This can be done ahead.

When you are ready to eat, return the heat to a boil and add the noodles and canned chickpeas, if using. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and check your seasonings. The soup should be very thick, almost stew like. If you want it thinner then add more liquid. Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Garnish with the chopped parsley/cilantro leaves.

Enjoy!



Chickpea and Spinach Soup (Potaje de Garbanzos y Espinacas)

img_2820For my father’s 60th birthday back in 1973, I made this incredible Turkish Moussaka that was cooked in a Charlotte mold, with a lamb stew stuffing and served with a tomato coulis. It was unmolded for serving and was both stunning and delicious and I swore NEVER to make it again because it was soooooooo much work! For some reason I was thinking about that dish on a nasty day when I was stuck inside and decided to search for the recipe. I thought that I recalled it coming from one of the 12 years of bound Gourmet Magazines that I had inherited from my mother. I started looking through 1973 and did not find the recipe for Turkish Moussaka; however, I did find an article with recipes for soups from Spain. Several looked delicious and I plan on working my way through them, but this Chickpea and Spinach soup from Catalonia also sounded easy so I decided to start with this one. Catalonian cuisine borrows a little from the French across the Pyrenees, Valencia to the south, Aragon and the Mediterranean. I mostly followed the recipe but I did make a few tweaks of my own. I will garnish this with the traditional hard-boiled egg and parsley and will serve it with a good toasted farm bread and an aged Manchego cheese. There is so much spinach in this dish that you don’t even really need a salad, but having one never goes amiss. Of course, you should also serve this with one of the many hearty Spanish red wines that are both affordable and delicious.

Potaje de Garbanzos y Espinacas adapted slightly from Gourmet Magazine, February 1973, p.28-29

Yield: 8 to 12 servings, depending on if this is a first course or dinner

Ingredients

1 pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water to cover (Do not use canned beans here. There really is a difference in the final texture of the soup.) IMG_2813.JPG

1 quart of stock (chicken or vegetable)

2 quarts of water

2 dried or fresh bay leaves

2 small dried red peppers (I used Arbol. Choose a pepper according to your tolerance and preference for heat. Ours is minimal.) img_2815

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

28 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

1 pound of fresh spinach, well washed and coarsely chopped unless you are using Baby Spinach

For the Garnish

1 hard-boiled egg per person if serving as dinner, chopped or sliced

2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

EVOO to drizzle

Directions

  1. Drain the chickpeas. In a large stockpot, bring the stock, water, hot peppers, thyme, salt and drained chickpeas to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.
  2. In a skillet, saute the chopped onion in the EVOO until it is soft. Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon or by hand. Cook the mixture for 3 more minutes.
  3. Add the tomato mixture to the chickpea mixture and simmer the soup for 30 minutes more until the chickpeas are tender but not mushy.
  4. The soup can be made ahead up to this point. When you are ready to serve the soup, return the mixture to a boil and plunge in the spinach. Cook the soup, covered, for 6 to 8 minutes, just until the spinach is cooked. Adjust your salt. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped parsley and the hard-boiled egg. img_2819

 

Christmas Lamb Shanks

img_2629Okay, so I don’t celebrate Christmas and these lamb shanks can be eaten any time. I named them Christmas Lamb Shanks because I am using an heirloom Christmas Lima Bean that I bought through Rancho Gordo, the premier site for heirloom beans and other wonderful one-0f-a-kind goodies from south of the border. I was introduced to this company on a trip to Napa Sonoma that my husband and I took with Frances and Matthew a few years ago. Of course, if you don’t have access to these beans, which are meaty and unctuous and taste ever so slightly of chestnuts, you could substitute a good dried lima bean or other large runner bean.

Chicago is currently under a polar vortex and a former colleague from Russia says that we are living in Chiberia! This dish only takes about 30 minutes of prep time but then you want it to cook low and slow so it is wonderful to make on a day when you are stuck indoors. Alternatively it could probably be made in a slow cooker or cooked overnight and then reheated when you are ready to eat. This dish cries out for a really full-bodied red wine, preferably from California or Oregon, but a Shiraz or Spanish Rioja would also be wonderful.

I really don’t do any serious measuring and this dish can be increased easily – only limited by the size of your Dutch oven. The amount I made is enough for four servings and I used a 5 quart oval Dutch Oven to give you a reference point.

Christmas Lamb Shanks

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

3 to 3.5 pounds of lamb shanks (The lamb shanks these days seem to run really large so I am using only 2. The meat will be falling off of the bone so it is not a problem; however, if you are really looking for presentation, try to find 4 small shanks or serve the 2 on a platter and then remove the meat from the bone.)

1 pound of dried runner beans, soaked 18 hours (I changed the water 3 times before going to bed. You could soak them for less, but I want them REALLY unctuous.)

2 to 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 to 3 Tablespoons of EVOO or Grapeseed oil

1/4 cup of whatever red wine you will be drinking or have opened from the night before

5 large shallots, peeled, split into its 2 parts and left whole

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves which are trimmed, peeled and left whole or are lightly smashed img_2622

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 or 4 chunks each

2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon dried rosemary

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

4 cups of chicken stock

28 ounces of whole San Marzano tomatoes, squeezed by hand into rough chunks

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

8 ounces whole button or Cremini mushrooms

3 Tablespoons of chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Drain your beans which should have almost doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a Dutch Oven or heavy duty casserole (I recommend Staub or Le Creuset) large enough to fit the lamb shanks in one layer and hold everything else, heat the EVOO or Grapeseed oil to hot but not smoking. (If I am being totally honest, I added 1 Tablespoon of duck fat to the EVOO for flavor and its burning point, but since everyone may not have it around, I didn’t want to complicate things for you.)
  3. Make 3 or 4 deep slits in each lamb shank and stuff the slit with a sliver of garlic. This took 2 cloves from the total. Lightly dredge the shanks in the flour, shaking off any excess. I put the flour in a one gallon plastic freezer bag and threw in the shanks and sealed the bag. I tossed the shanks around to coat. It’s easy and you then just throw away the bag. You can season the flour if you wish with salt and pepper, but I didn’t.
  4. Brown the shanks in the hot oil – about 5 minutes a side. They will brown best if you don’t move them around except to turn once. Adjust your heat so the oil doesn’t burn. Once the shanks are browned, pour in the 1/4 cup of red wine to quickly deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits.
  5. Add everything else to the pot except for the parsley and mushrooms and stir through to mix. The beans and shanks should be covered with the liquid from the stock and tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil on top of the stove, then cover and place in the oven. Cook it for 3 hours, checking once to stir things. Then add the mushrooms and cook covered for 30 minutes more.img_2626
  6. Serve garnished with the parsley. Make sure you have plenty of crusty bread to soak up the sauce or some starch of choice. This dish reheats beautifully and only gets richer with time.

img_2631

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

IMG_1546

My birthday was Saturday and my wonderful son and daughter-in-law sent me the perfect gift – a cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey, amazing spices and a gift certificate for cooking lessons of my choice at a local school. I adore Indian food so I immediatelyt started reading Jaffrey’s book over my morning coffee. Some women get seduced by a new pair of shoes. My downfall is cooking ingredients and gadgets. We have some wonderful Indian/Pakistani stores in Chicago and I have things in my pantry that caught my eye, but somehow never got used.

I came across Jaffrey’s recipe for Moong Dal and since I never met a lentil that I didn’t like, I kept reading. While, it’s true that the average American cook doesn’t just happen to have moong dal and asafetida in the pantry, I actually do. I’m sure that I bought both after reading some recipe and then never got around to making it. Well, I am making it now! Jaffrey serves it with Basmati rice, which I always have on hand and she mentions Lemony Ground Lamb with Mint and Cilantro. Coincidentally, I have all of those ingredients and so am planning a mini-feast. It’s only a shame that Frances and Matthew aren’t here to share it with us since I know that they would enjoy this meal as well. Andrew and I are looking forward to many happy meals thanks to our children!

Of course, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, the Moong Dal and Rice together are a wonderful meal, perhaps with another vegetable dish added. This is real comfort food.

Every Day Moong Dal by Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

Ingredients

1 cup (7 ounces) moong dal (hulled and split mung beans) washed and drained

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon asafetida

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin sees

1 to 2 dried hot red chilies (the short cayenne type) or ground cayenne pepper to taste

1 medium shallot, peeled and cut into fine slivers

Directions

  1. Put the dal in a medium pot and add 3.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any froth.
  2. Add the turmeric, stir to mix and partially cover the pot. Turn the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and stir through. Turn off the heat.
  4. Pour the oil into a small, heavy frying pana nd set over medium heat-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the asfafetida, cumin seeds and chilies, quickly and in that order. As soon as the chilies darken (a matter of seconds), add the shallots. Stir and cook until the shallots brown and then quickly pour the contents over the cooked dal. Stir to mix and serve with the rice.

Lemony Ground Lamb by Madhur Jaffrey

Yield: 3-4 portions

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 2-inch sticks of cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 pound ground lamb (on the lean side)

2 teaspoons very finely grated, peeled fresh ginger

3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 tp 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

1/4 to 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

Juice of one lemon

3/4 teaspoon garam masala

Directions

  1. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-duty frying pan (I like cast iron) and set over medium high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon sticks. Allow them to sizzle for a few seconds, until fragrant. Add the onions. Stir and fry the onions until the edges turn brown.
  2. Add the lamb and ginger, breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon. Stir and fry for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of water, the salt and cayenne. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 40 minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice and garam masala. The dish can be made ahead of time up to this point. When ready to serve, bring the mixture to a simmer and add the mint and cilantro, stirring through. Heat uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Serve with Basmati rice and the Moong Dal, Naan and any chutney of your choice. This can be wrapped in the flatbread and eaten as a wrap, with some chopped fresh tomatoes.

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

lentils de puyThe beauty of Lentils du Puy is that they just never seem to get mushy, which is wonderful if you want to serve them in a salad where they are the star. This is a classic French salad and is wonderful eaten at room temperature. I’m serving lamb chops tonight and lamb and lentils are a wonderful marriage of taste and texture. I also make this salad when I am serving a summer dinner of lamb merguez sausage or any other flavorful sausage. All it needs is a green salad with some ripe tomatoes, a nice Dijon mustard and a crisp wine. Well, okay, I have already admitted that my husband and I are bread people, so I would also serve this with a crusty baguette.

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

1.5 cups Lentils du Puy or other green lentils

6-7 small potatoes like a red baby Bliss or Yukon Gold or a mixture

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt or to taste

1.5 teaspoons dried tarragon or 1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon

6 Tablespoons EVOO

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

20 cracks of fresh black pepper

Directions

  1. Rinse your lentils in cold water and place in a medium pot with water to cover by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. If you are using Lentils du Puy, cook uncovered for about 23 minutes, immediately drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Regular green lentils may only take about 18 minutes. You want them tender but still holding their shape.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, add all of the other ingredients except for the potatoes to a large serving bowl. When the lentils have cooked and been cooled and drained, add them to the bowl with everything else and mix through.
  3. Cook the potatoes uncovered, whole and in their skins until tender but firm – about 14 minutes, but check if a sharp knife easily pierces the potato and pulls out easily. Once cooked, immediately drain them and run under cold water to stop the cooking. The potatoes should easily peel. Cut into large dice and add to the lentils. Adjust your seasonings and enjoy.

 

Rich Bean, Mushroom and Cauliflower Stew

Bean, Mushroom Cauliflower Stew

As I have said many times on these pages, I am not a vegan. However, I do make vegan or vegetarian meals with some frequency. This rich and flavorful stew is something I came up with after cooking up beautiful heirloom scarlet runner beans and chick peas that I had in my pantry from Rancho Gordo. Some of the beans I cooked up will go into a bean soup with smoked pork butt, but I also wanted a vegan dish for the remainder. If you don’t want to cook up your own beans, you could probably substitute canned beans. It won’t be quite the same and I have never seen scarlet runner beans in a can, but a bit of experimenting can sometimes produce wonderful results. However, if you own a slow cooker, cooking up your own beans is really simple and opens up all kinds of bean options for you. Also, I always cook my beans with aromatics – carrot, onions, garlic and some herbs.

I served this stew, with its rich coconut milk-based sauce over plain Basmati rice. It would go equally well over faro or barley or wheat berries. You want a hearty grain that can soak up the sauce, while keeping a bit of chew. The seasonings in this are Indian-inspired but not based on any particular recipe. The dish requires nothing more than a bit of chopped cilantro on top for serving and possibly a green salad. Leftovers heated up will make for a satisfying lunch that should banish the sad desk lunch blues.

Rich Bean, Mushroom and Cauliflower Stew

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients

2-3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 small head cauliflower cut into florets

6 cups of beans (I used Scarlet Runner beans and Chickpeas, but a large white bean or pinto bean with chickpeas would probably work) with liquid or about 2 cups of vegetable broth

8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used Crimini, but white button mushrooms are fine)

1 can of full-fatted coconut milk

2 small onions, coarsely chopped

10 whole cloves

2 rounded teaspoons curry powder (I used 1/2 hot curry powder and 1/2 regular)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

2-3 Tablespoons, chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions

  1. In a 3.5 – 4 quart Dutch oven, heat the EVOO. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent – about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the cloves and the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower and the mushrooms with the ginger and the spices and stir through to coat the cauliflower.
  4. Add the beans and about 1.5 cups of the bean liquid or vegetable broth if you are using canned beans. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add in the coconut milk and stir through. I like a lot of liquid, but if you don’t want quite so much, do not add the entire can of coconut milk. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes more.
  6. Serve over the Basmati rice and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

Lamb Shanks with Flageolet Beans

lamb with beans

Since next week is going to be all about the bird, I decided to give my husband lamb this week. Everyone in my family loves lamb in all of its forms, but I especially love lamb shanks because they are so easy to make in so many different ways and they are always hearty and delicious. They may not be a show-stopping “company” dish, but anyone who eats this homey meal will be glad that they are considered family.

The lamb shanks I got were on the large side – about 1.5 pounds each, so just two of them will give me dinner for four. However, sometimes they come a lot smaller, so how much you use will depend on the size of the shank. The presentation has a bit more of the wow factor when you serve someone an entire shank, but the taste is just as wonderful if you serve the meat off of the bone, as I did here. Whoever does get the bone will have the added plus of getting the marrow to enjoy. Careful measuring is not necessary here. And if you don’t have flageolet beans, those wonderful pale green, small, slightly kidney-shaped French beans, then use a good white bean – a Great Northern or cannellini or some large heirloom bean. This dish takes LOTS of garlic and fresh rosemary, but the slow cooking removes any of the bite from the garlic, leaving just that wonderful flavor where you can eat entire cloves and go “yummmmmmmmm.” I made it last night in a Dutch oven for tonight’s dinner. You could probably do this in a slow cooker as well once you have browned the lamb.

Lamb Shanks with Flageolet Beans

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cups flageolet or large dried white beans, soaked for 8 hours or overnight

3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 onion, chopped

1 generous Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

10-12 cloves of fresh garlic

3 cups chicken stock, preferably unsalted

4 lamb shanks – about 1/2 -3/4 pound each

About 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, seasoned with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper and whatever dried herbs you like (oregano, thyme, rosemary) for dredging

1 pound baby carrots

2 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash or pumpkin puree (optional)

1/4 cup hearty red wine (whatever you plan on drinking with this or whatever you have left-over) (optional)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Dredge (this just means roll the shanks in the flour to coat) the lamb shanks in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess
  2. In a Dutch oven or covered casserole dish, heat the EVOO. When the oil is hot, place the shanks in and turn and cook on a medium high heat until nicely browned. Add the onion and stir until softened.
  3. Drain the beans. Add all of the other ingredients to the casserole. If you are using salted chicken stock, only add about a teaspoon of salt at this point. You can always add more later.
  4. Bring to a heavy simmer, cover the Dutch oven/casserole and reduce the heat so the ingredients simmer but do not boil. This can then be cooked on the stove for 2.5 hours or in a 325 degree preheated oven, until the lamb is practically falling off of the bone and the beans are tender. Check occasionally and give a stir to make sure that nothing is sticking and that you have enough liquid. If it is getting a bit dry, you can add more stock. Taste and adjust your seasonings to taste.
  5. This can all be done ahead and warmed when you are ready to eat it. I think it actually gets even more rich and flavorful if made a day ahead. Serve with bread and salad.

White Bean Soup with Pesto and Chorizo

The weather this week has been pretty bleak – chilly, windy and rainy. This always turns my thoughts to soup and this white bean soup with pesto and chorizo is one hearty solution to banish the damp. It is thick and satisfying and only needs a salad and bread to make a complete meal. If you don’t have or like chorizo sausage you can substitute Andouille or a good garlicky sausage. It would still be delicious without any sausage, but for me, the sausage just puts it over the top.

When I first starting making this soup, you couldn’t buy ready-made pesto or even canned cannellini beans that easily, so I had to do everything from scratch. If you use some quality shortcuts like a good commercial stock and canned beans and prepared pesto – this soup is a snap to make and honestly just as wonderful. And if you don’t own an immersion blender, this should be a gift to yourself! It saves time and energy – yours and the environment’s. There is less clean-up than with a blender or food processor and you can even puree things that are hot without risking that mess you can make with hot soup in a blender. I am grateful to Frances and Matthew every time I use mine.

white bean soup

White Bean Soup with Pesto and Chorizo adapted from The Peasant Kitchen by Perla Meyers, which unfortunately seems to be out of print 

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons EVOO

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

28 ounce can chopped San Marzano tomatoes in juice

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 – 15 oz. cans cooked white beans like Cannellini OR 5-6 cups cooked white beans

4 cups Chicken Stock, preferably unsalted (you could use Vegetable if you want)

1 teaspoon (or to taste) Kosher salt and about 25 cracks of fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup broken up uncooked thin spaghetti or Angel Hair pasta

6 ounces (or more to taste) good quality pesto (look for one where basil is the first ingredient and where it uses olive oil and prefereably has pine nuts or walnuts)

6 ounces thinly sliced chorizo or other sausage (for this recipe, I prefer Spanish chorizo over Mexican – it’s dryer which is better with the soup.

Grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese for garnish

Directions

  1. In a 6 quart stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 Tablespoons of EVOO. Add the onion, garlic and parsley and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onion has softened.
  2. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano and continue cooking for another 6 or 7 minutes.
  3. Add 2 cups of the cooked beans and one cup of the stock. Then season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. If you are using an immersion blender, you can blend the mixture, with the heat turned off, immediately. You want it mostly smooth but don’t go crazy if there are some bigger bits. If you are using a blender or food processor, you must let the mixture cool down or you will have a mess. This will also need to be done in batches. See how much easier it is with an immersion blender?!
  5. Add the remaining beans an the rest of the stock. Season with salt and pepper and add the pasta. Stir. If y ou are not goin to eat this right away, you can allow the pasta to soften with the heat turned off in the covered pot. Otherwise, cook the pasta for about 8 minutes in the pot of soup.
  6. Add the chorizo or other sausage and the pesto. Stir through. The soup should be thick, but still soup.
  7. Serve with a dollop of pesto and some grated cheese. Leftovers will keep and they will thicken some. It’s up to you if you want to thin it out with some additional stock. I LIKE thick soup.

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Turkey

split peas

As soon as there is any chill in the air, I want to make soups and stews. And I am the kind of person that generally likes a soup to be thick enough to stand up a spoon! I think about and read about and plan food ALL the time, but I am not into chi-chi foods. The very thought that people pay good money to have a mist of  truffle reduction sprayed in their direction and have it called “dinner” is unfathomable to me. I appreciate innovation as much as the next person, but when I sit down to a meal, I want to know what I am eating and I want it to have real bite and mouth-feel. Pea soup is not especially pretty and likely will not be served at an elegant dinner, but there are few more sole-satisfying soups on a chilly night. Serve it with good bread and a salad and you have dinner. This can easily be made ahead – even frozen – and it will just get better and better as long as you don’t burn it when re-warming it. I make a LOT. It makes great lunches for the week as well. You can easily halve this recipe. There is just something so safe and comforting having a big pot of soup on the stove….    Split pea soup

Split Pea Soup

Yields: About 3 quarts of soup

Ingredients

2 pounds split green peas or a mix of green and yellow

3-4 stalks of celery, with leaves, sliced

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced

1 large turnip, peeled and cubed

2 smallish potatoes (red or Yukon Gold), peeled and diced

2-3 smoked turkey legs (I look for the ones with the darkest color) You can also used a smoked pork butt or ham hocks

1 teaspoon whole cloves

6 cups broth (chicken, or beef is fine)

6 cups tap water

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place the smoked turkey legs in a large Dutch Oven or heavy pot with a lid. smoke turkey legs
  2. Rinse the split peas in a colander and pick out any stones or things that don’t look like they belong (it’s generally some other grain or a pea that didn’t split properly). Immediately add them to the pot. If they sit in the strainer for too long they will stick together like cement!
  3. Add all of the other ingredients to the pot except for the salt and pepper. pea soup ingredientsAlways add these at the end. Since I am using homemade stock, it is unsalted. You can buy unsalted stock and I recommend that, but if you use stock with salt, wait to adjust seasonings since the salt may become more intense with cooking.
  4. Cover the pot and slowly bring to a simmer. This is a abig pot and you don’t want to rush it and have the peas burn.
  5. When the liquid comes to a simmer, skim it if necessary to remove any scummy stuff, which is actually just some of the protein being given off by the turkey. I didn’t need to skim this time.
  6. Once the pot is simmering, make sure it is covered tightly and let it gently simmer for 2 hours. Periodically check it and give the pot a stir so the peas don’t stick to the bottom and burn. You should have enough liquid. but if you must add some, add boiling water so everything is covered by about 2 inches of liquid.
  7. Once the two hours are up, allow the soup to cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, remove the turkey legs and on a cutting board, remove the skin and bones with your fingers. Keep the meat to the side until you finish the next step. If you are using a pork butt, just remove the butt and cube the meat.
  8. You can puree the soup using a food mill or an immersion blender. Frances and my son gave me an immersion blender a couple of years ago and it is one of the most beloved kitchen appliances I have. It’s even ORANGE!
  9. Now add the meat back to the pot. Check your seasonings and add your salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: When this soup cools down, you WILL be able to stand a spoon up. Don’t rush to add liquid to thin it out. Gently warm it and only after you see the consistency, consider adding any additional liquid.

Vegetable Chili Con Carne

chili con carne with vegetables

I have made this recipe many times, including a meatless version where I substitute different beans for the meat. It always disappears. I found the recipe in Jane Brody’s Good Food Book. Not only does it taste wonderful, but it is colorful to look at and you can enjoy it guilt-free. I usually serve it with homemade cornbread and a green salad. Full disclosure – I almost always make this with a good quality canned bean or variety of beans. However, I happened to have some heirloom beans from Ranch Gordo in my pantry that I decided to cook up first. I was introduced to Rancho Gordo beans on a trip to Napa Sonoma with Frances and our son a couple of years ago. We had a wonderful dinner at the Culinary Institute of America and they made these scrumptious beans – just full of great flavor. I was hooked. I can’t find them in stores in Chicago, but they are easy to purchase online. They have varieties that I have never seen anywhere else and they will add such wonderful flavor, color and texture to soups and salads and chili. One large bean cooked up so beautifully that all I did was add a bit of truffle oil and some shaved parmesan and it was dinner just as is.

This chili freezes well and is a great pot luck addition to any buffet. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd. Try it – you won’t be disappointed.

Vegetable Chili Con Carne adapted from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book

Yield: 6 – 8 Servings

Ingredients

Chili Base

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons EVOO

1 pound very lean ground beef or substitute with three 15 ounce cans of drained and rinsed beans (black and chickpeas make a great combination)

1 28 ounce can of tomatoes in puree, coarsely chopped (if the tomatoes are packed in juice, add 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste)

2 15 ounce cans drained and rinsed kidney or pinto beans

1 large diced sweet pepper, any color

2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (optional)

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 cup fresh, canned or frozen corn kernels

Seasonings (Make sure that your spices are FRESH!)

2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

5 teaspoons chili powder (Rancho Gordo also makes a wonderful chili powder)

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1 Tasblespoon crumbled oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Garnishes

Plain Greek yogurt

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Cilantro

Directions

  1. In a very large deep, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent.
  2. If using meat, add it now, breaking it up and stirring it until it is browned. If you are using very lean meat, you should not need to drain off any fat. If using only beans, then add the mixed beans now and immediately go to Step 3.
  3. Add the tomatoes and the puree (or if the tomatoes are packed in juice then add 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste) and all of the seasonings. Heat the mixture until it is bubbling. Then reduce the heat, cover tightly and simmer the chili for about 30 minutes.
  4. Add the kidney or pinto beans, peppers, carrots and celery. Simmer the chili, covered for another 30 minutes. Then add the corn, cover the pot and simmer for about 10 more minutes.
  5. Garnish and serve.