Friday, January 8, 2010

sweet? hot? no, I'm not talking about me

Heeding the advice from the Mel-Gibson-looking WF employee, I traveled alllll the way to The Spice Corner in the Italian Market yesterday on my way back to Whole Foods. There, on the top shelf, almost out of view was the prize I sought. Not just one, but at least a half dozen boxes containing tubes of harissa sat there, neglected, unpurchased. I hopped up and snagged my long-searched-for treasure, picked up a bag of chili powder and headed for the register. The checkout girl was unimpressed when I excitedly told her that they are the only source in all of Philadelphia for this oddball condiment. Granted, I think that's because she didn't have the slightest clue what it was. Regardless, I got me some harissa.

Yesterday, Mister and I made a joint effort to consume as many of the leftovers as gastronomically possible since my generous workplace has been stuffing my face for the past week and a half. I have to suffer through one more day of the Vice President hand-delivering my special veggie lunch before I can return to the usual bliss of bringing my leftover dinner to eat cold or at room temperature because I hate microwaves. I think I can make's been an awful struggle though.

If you don't know I'm kidding, we need to have a conversation about my humor.

Anyway, tonight, we finally had Warm Chickpea Ragout with Chard, Chickpeas, and Harissa. I have to admit, I was feeling more than a little intrepid as I gently squeezed the harissa into the Tablespoon measure, and I will also admit, I was not exactly generous in my portion. Like I mentioned when I shared my menu, I never trust people who say "Oh, it's not that spicy, it's just kind of hot." I'm Irish. Black Pepper is spicy.

Also, I'm not sure what happened, but I swear I bought the fire-roasted tomatoes this recipe uses, but I will be darned if I could find them tonight. I ended up stealing the whole [not fire-roasted] tomatoes intended for another supper, since I have to get Vegetable Broth anyway. Apparently, SuperFresh hates vegetable broth quarts because they are never in stock. Ever. So, when I find a quart of vegetable broth somewhere, I will also have to remember to pick up more whole tomatoes.

I know you're just reading this and are unaware that I just sat here staring at the screen for five minutes, but I feel the need to share that my momentary stupidity is the direct consequence of trying to figure out just exactly what is wrong with the elephants who live upstairs. Moving on...

I stirred, chopped, saute-ed, and simmered for probably a little less than a half an hour. It occurred to me towards the end of the cooking process that I should have prepared some kind of grain to lay this melange upon, but by then all I could think to make was couscous. Thematically, it definitely would have matched, but I just couldn't deal with it, so we ate our dinner carb-less.
That's very unlike us. I kept waiting for Mister to insist we needed bread and raid the fridge, but he didn't. Instead, he teased me about whether dinner was hot enough for me and made repeated comments about how much he liked it.
I liked it, too. To my incredible surprise and delight, the harissa really did add a "sweet heat" to the meal without making it overbearingly spicy. There were a few times towards the end when I found myself reaching for my water more frequently, but it was actually a thoroughly enjoyable meal. It was also one of the first times I have been able to recognize how the spiciness can bring out the other flavors in a dish. I will definitely make this again, which is fortunate, because that is one big-a$$ tube of harissa in my cupboard. (I didn't curse, Mom - those are dollar signs)

Oh! I also managed to convince Angst that the chard was spinach and he ate three pieces!

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