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Rustic Sourdough Bread, King Tut and an Homage to Steve Martin

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Tomato and Bean Soup with Harissa and Honey

Tomato and Bean Soup with Harissa and Honey

 

 

This healthy Middle Eastern soup is wonderful.

It’s spicy–flavored with a robust harissa paste. It’s full of flavorful and protein-rich Rancho Gordo Marcella white beans. It’s filled with good-for-you greens.

It’s just what you need to warm your soul–whether you are caught in one of the epic snow storms that is battering America’s east coast or are just staring down the rain forecast (finally!) here in Southern California.

This recipe for Tomato and Bean Soup with Harissa and Honey is adapted from one that appears in Greg and Lucy Malouf’s New Feast cookbook, a compendium of one hundred thirty Middle Eastern vegetarian recipes that I just added to my cookbook collection. The cookbook is the seventh in an acclaimed series of Middle Eastern cookbooks by the Maloufs and the first of their cookbooks to be totally vegetarian. Greg Malouf, whose background is Lebanese, is a chef who has worked at renowned  restaurants in England, Australia, and the Middle East. Lucy Malouf is a former financial analyst and caterer(quite a career combination, woudn’t you say?) and Malouf’s former wife. Their cookbooks span the gamut of Middle Eastern cuisines including Persian, Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian, Saudi and Moroccan.

This soup is meant to be served with chopped hard-boiled eggs and a sprinkling of capers but can also be topped with a soft-boiled egg or just sprinkled with chopped cilantro and grated Asiago. The broth is spicy hot, flavored with harissa paste. (I got my harissa at Trader Joe’s. The TJ harissa is imported from Tunisia.)

I don’t have a lot of experience cooking with harissa but found myself particularly enjoying the flavor the paste gave the soup broth. Harissa, for the uninitiated, is a fiery paste fashioned from peppers, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, red chillies, garlic and olive oil that is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly Tunisian cuisine. Interestingly, harissa is one more bit of evidence of history’s extraordinary Columbian Exchange–the transfer of foods that resulted from Columbus’ exploration of the New World. In Tunisia’s case, New World hot peppers were probably introduced as a part of the Spanish occupation of Tunisia in the 16th century.

In this recipe, the hotness of the harissa is tempered by the addition of honey. The proportion of harissa to honey is up to you!

I’ve got my eyes on other delicious-sounding recipes from the Malouf’s beautiful cookbook, particularly a recipe for baby carrot tagine with yoghurt and honeyed pine nuts and a recipe for saffron rice pudding with apricots. My good friend Debbie Parrett gave me a beautiful orangey-red clay tagine for Christmas and I’m thinking it is perfect for the baby carrot dish. I’m sure I’ll be posting more Malouf recipes in the near future.

You can purchase the Malouf’s cookbook through Amazon: Greg and Lucy Malouf’s New Feast.

Here is my adaptation of the Malouf Tomato and Bean Soup recipe. Pay attention to the amount of harissa you add to your soup. The soup can be as fiery or as mild as you want it to be. I’m a fan of hotly-spiced dishes but I found myself dialing back the 3 t. of harissa called for in this recipe. I did find that the heat from the harissa mellowed on the second and third day after making the soup. I always enjoy my soups more on the second or third day after making them. The flavors have time to marry and mature.

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I did. It is everything I want a soup to be. I had a bowl for breakfast this morning. Just excellent!

 

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Tomato and Bean Soup with Harissa and Honey
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Ingredients

  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 1 leek (well-washed and finely-chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1-2 t. good-quality harissa paste (the original recipe called for 3 t. Be careful here!)
  • 1-2 t. honey (or more, to your taste)
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 pound of Rancho Gordo Marcella beans or other dried cannelini beans
  • 14 oz. chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 24 oz. vegetable stock (or more)
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 oz. chard leaves (stems removed)--about two big handfuls
  • 2 cold hard-boiled eggs (coarsely grated)
  • extra-virgin olive oil to serve
  • 2 T. shredded cilantro to garnish
  • Grated cheese (Asiago or Parmesan) to garnish
  • 1-2 T. salted baby capers (well-rinsed) (optional--I omitted them)

Instructions

  1. Soak your dried beans overnight and then cook them covered in water until they are al dente. (I used my Instant Pot.)
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté leek over low heat for 8-10 minutes. When cooked, the leek should be soft and translucent. Add the garlic, cumin, harissa, honey and thyme to the pot and cook until the leeks are well-coated with all the ingredients and the spices are aromatic. This will take only a few minutes.
  3. Add the cooked beans, tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt and pepper to the pot, stir to combine and bring mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the soup for about 15 minutes. Add more vegetable broth to get the right consistency for your soup and to moderate the heat of the harissa.
  4. While the soup is simmering, shred the chad leaves. Add the shreds of chard leaves to the soup pot and simmer for another 5-8 minutes until the chard is wilted.
  5. To serve, ladle soup into large soup bowls and garnish with eggs, chopped cilantro, and a drizzle of the best olive oil you have in your kitchen.
  6. Alternatively, put a slice of grilled sourdough bread in the bottom of a large soup bowl and ladle the soup over the bread and then garnish.
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B’stilla: Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but  (make it) soon.

B’stilla: Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but (make it) soon.

    I ate my first B’stilla years ago in Casablanca. I fell in love. (Cue the music: As time Goes By.) We had travelled to Spain to visit Jim Shelton, a teacher friend who had moved to Alicante. Then, on a romantic whim, we booked […]

Cranberry Beans with Polenta

Cranberry Beans with Polenta

I’m late to the party. (What’s new? I know.) To be honest, I didn’t even know I liked soft polenta, but it is pretty wonderful, particularly mixed with generous amounts of butter and grated asiago (or parmesan) cheese. In this dish, the polenta is topped […]

A Mushroom-Spinach Soup With A Whole Lot of Character

A Mushroom-Spinach Soup With A Whole Lot of Character

 

 

 

“When I was born I was so ugly the doctor slapped my mother.”

–Rodney Dangerfield

 

Close your eyes and this soup is absolutely delicious. Stare at it in your bowl…not so much.

How do you write about (let alone photograph) a recipe that is just plain ugly? Do your say that the soup is “big boned?” Aesthetically challenged? Has a great personality?

This is an adaptation of a Melissa Clark recipe from the New York Times where, as of today, fifteen hundred and sixty-four people have weighed in on this recipe and the reviews are ecstatic–5 stars (out of 5 stars).

I loved it, too. It’s rich and hearty. The combination of spices is genius. It takes a very talented (and risk-taking) chef to even think of putting cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice in a mushroom soup.

And, who needs a beauty queen at the table anyway? With soup– as it should be in life, it’s all about character.

Mushroom Soup
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Ingredients

  • 6 T. unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil (I used butter.)
  • 1 1/4 pounds mushrooms (I used cremini but you could mix it up by adding oyster mushrooms, chanterelles and/or shiitakes to your mix)
  • 1/2 pound shallots (finely diced)
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 2 t. chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • 3/r t. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 2 1/2 t. kosher salt (to your taste)
  • 5 C. water
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • Fresh lime juice (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 C. cooked barley
  • Plain yogurt (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter (or olive oil) in a soup pot. Saute one-half of the mushrooms and one-half of the shallots in the oil. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the other half of the butter, mushrooms and shallots. Return all the sautéed mushrooms to the soup pot.
  2. Add tomato paste, thyme, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice to the pot and cook until the spices are fragrant for about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in 5 C. water, salt and black pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in the baby spinach and let the soup cook until the spinach is wilted (about 1-2 minutes).
  4. Remove some of the chopped mushrooms from the soup pot and set aside. Using an immersion blender or blender, coarsely puree the soup. Add the chopped mushrooms back into the soup.Add the cooked barley. Add the lime juice to your taste. Thin with additional water if needed. Serve with shreds of spinach to garnish and a generous dollop of yogurt stirred into the soup. Alternatively, serve with shaved parmesan.
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Here is the link to the original recipe from this recipe was adapted: Mushroom-Spinach Soup with Cinnamon, Coriander, and Cumin

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Spiced Persimmon Tea Cake: Perfect for a Blustery Morning in SoCal

Spiced Persimmon Tea Cake: Perfect for a Blustery Morning in SoCal

Here I sit on a blustery December day in Southern California enjoying a hot cup of my favorite Darjeeling tea and a slice of this spice cake. Sweet Juliet is curled up at my feet enjoying a quiet nap. Mmmm. Life is good. I think […]

Sweet Home-Baked Beans

Sweet Home-Baked Beans

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Sarah, Me and MaryJane

Sarah, Me and MaryJane

 

“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.”
–Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam had it right. Bread elevates the soul.

Studies conducted in the United States and in the United Kingdom indicate that baking bread reduces anxiety and increases happiness. Research by Boston University brain science professor Donna Pincus, for example,  has shown that the act of simply mixing the ingredients for bread together can have a calming effect on the brain. She writes, “Baking actually requires a lot of full attention. You have to measure and focus physically on rolling out the dough. If you’re focusing on smell and taste, on being present with what you’re creating, that act of mindfulness in that present moment can also have a result in stress reduction.” It all stops negative thoughts in their tracks.

Sarah and I must be outliers in these bread studies, though.

Sarah is my neighbor and a fellow cooking enthusiast. We’re the two tamale divas of an earlier post (Here) .  We know our way around the kitchen. Collectively, we have more than a hundred years working in our kitchens. (We both started cooking as toddlers.)

But making bread….yikes! No calming mindfulness for us. Our hands shake as we wait for the yeast to kick in and make the dough rise. Sarah’s southern accent gets way more pronounced, and I start compulsively washing dishes. Juliet just  hides under her favorite blanket to wait out the storm.

We call it bread stress.

Sarah and I know we need help.  (I could make a bad knead joke here but I’m a better person than that.)   After all, as M.F.K. Fischer wrote, “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” Who doesn’t want a kitchen chock full of innocence and delight? Sarah and I do. It’s just…hard.

So, this week, in our quest for better mental health, Sarah and I were off in our search for the perfect dinner roll–culling through recipes, measuring ingredients, searching for the dough hooks for our respective antique KitchenAid stand mixers… and facing down our bread stress demons.

First, we tried an Amish dinner roll from the King Arthur Flour site. The recipe has a gazillion positive reviews–raves really. We could do this.

But, alas, while our rolls were mostly pretty, they were sort of cakey and the dough was borderline sweet. We wanted airy, yeasty-tasting rolls. You know. The kind of rolls that just beg you to slather on more (and more) butter and taste so good that you eat five at a sitting.

Here is a photo of one of the Amish rolls. That photo has breakfast roll written all over it–not dinner roll. Yes?

 

So we continued our search for the perfect dinner roll. This time we found this King Arthur recipe for soft dinner rolls. It looked perfect and the baker reviews were quite good. And, when we had questions,  the ever-patient MaryJane was waiting in the wings.

MaryJane?

MaryJane is one of the real-life baking gurus on the baker’s hotline at King Arthur Flour in Vermont (855-371-2253). Her job is to cheerfully answer telephone inquiries that come in from all over the world about bread making. It is an amazing free service to be able to talk to a real live baker in an era when most telephone inquiries throw you into the abyss of telephone hell–recorded messages and endless options to listen to ever more recorded messages. King Arthur’s bakers are kind, too. They don’t snicker when you confess to them that you forgot to add the butter.

Here is a link to KAF’s web page about the baker’s hotline: King Arthur Flour Baker’s Hotline.

The King Arthur Flour Company has quite a backstory, too.  Their website proudly boasts of their historic ties to America and American food: “We’ve been providing bakers with superior flour since 1790: from Martha Washington’s apple pie through the invention of the chocolate chip cookie, from flour in wooden barrels to bags at the supermarket, we’ve been there. Simply put, King Arthur Flour and American baking have been close companions since the very beginning.”

Thank you (and happy Thanksgiving) to MaryJane and The King Arthur Flour Company. You saved our day, calmed our jagged nerves and buoyed our lagging self-confidence. Juliet came out of hiding, too. It’s all good.

This is an adaptation of a King Arthur Flour recipe from their website. Here is the link to the original recipe: KAF Soft White Dinner Rolls

 

Soft White Dinner Rolls
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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 t. instant yeast
  • 7 to 9 ounces lukewarm water (I used nine ounces)
  • 12 3/4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 1/4 ounces sugar
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 5/8 ounce nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 C. potato flour (or 1 3/8 ounces instant mashed potato flakes)
  • Melted butter to brush the tops of the rolls

Instructions

  1. Put your dry ingredients and the butter directly into the bowl of your stand mixer. Use a whisk (or the paddle of your stand mixer) to blend the ingredients together. Put the dough hook on your mixer and then slowly add the lukewarm water to the dry ingredients. (Be sure your water is lukewarm (100 degrees or less). Water that is too hot will kill the yeast.) Knead for 5-7 minutes in your stand mixer. Your dough should be sticky when the kneading is finished.
  2. Remove the dough from the mixer bowl onto your counter or a lightly-floured cutting board. Knead briefly by hand until your dough is smooth and soft (like an ear lobe). Form the dough into a ball and put it into a greased bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap Let the dough rise until it is doubled. This will take about an hour.
  3. Gently deflate the dough (press your finger into the center of the risen dough) and turn it out onto a lightly greased surface. Press the dough down gently.
  4. Gently divide the dough into 12 to 16 pieces.
  5. Shape each piece of dough into a round ball, being careful not to work the dough too much. Place balls of dough into lightly greased muffin tins. Cover the tins with lightly-greased plastic wrap and set the muffin tins in a warm place for about an hour. You want the dough to rise until it is very puffy.
  6. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls in a 350 degree F. oven for 25 minutes. You want golden brown domed tops and slight-colored sides for the rolls.
  7. Remove rolls from the oven and cool on a rack. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter. You may choose to sift a little white flour on the tops of the muffins.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Breads
7.6.4
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Ole! Cranberry Sauce with Chiles

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