Tuesday, February 9, 2010

harissa: the ultimate in snow removal

Okay, harissa may not be quite hot enough to melt the snow piled all over the sidewalks, street corners, and parking spots in my neighborhood, but it can make me sweat when it's only 20 degrees outside! I read somewhere that in North Africa (not exactly a cold climate), locals employ harissa the way Americans [over]use ketchup. It took me years to put ketchup on my fries, much to Mister's confusion and horror. I cannot even fathom dipping fries or vegetables or ANYTHING in a little pot of harissa - bad things happened when it didn't blend all the way into the broth tonight and I ended up with a significant amount in my mouth. Significant = Barely Visible Speck.

Anyway, let's back up to last night. After a snowy, frosty weekend and a slippery trek to my car, I managed to make it to work yesterday. It wasn't until I was putting a present for Angst (also known as food) in the backseat that I noticed the new beauty mark on my car. Remember how I was worried about the Dueling Backhoes crashing into my car or otherwise harming it? I'm trying to think of the perfect thank you gift for the City of Philadelphia right now - what's the best way to express this sentiment? "thank you for finally clearing the streets in my neighborhood. It's much easier to navigate my car through the half-plowed icy death since you helped me lighten it. I never realized how much the paint on the left side of my car weighed it down until you helped me get rid of it. Here's some flowers." Yes, the Abominable Snow Removers left me a scar in the form of a scratch from the middle of my back driver's side door, across my gas cap, up to my brake light, and it's all the way to the metal - no paint left at all. In fact, it's even indented.

So, I celebrated my great fortune by making The Mariners' Pepperpot Soup. It involved a great deal of chopping, which always helps when you are speechless with excitement about the new detail work on your car. It's a fun soup to make, although I always panic that it doesn't look chunky enough to satisfy Mister. It's fine, though, because what I can't see is that all the rice and a great many of the vegetables are hovering just below the shiny, spiced surface of the broth. It made for some fun picture-taking, though:
When I made the Chickpea Apple Curry the other night, I made extra rice and scooped out one cup to add to this soup. It held the shape of the measuring cup and when I added it to the pot, it just plopped into the center. I found the Rice Meatball pretty funny, so I snapped a picture.
look at how excited Angst is for pepper soup!
not really.

a rainbow of savory goodness

Keeping with my trend of alternating soup dinners with solid food, tonight I made Winter Vegetable Curry despite my strong desire to avoid chopping the head of cauliflower in my fridge. It had to happen sooner or later, though, so tonight was the night. Besides, in an obvious attempt to steal my affections from my husband, Old Man Winter is sending me another Imminent Death Snowstorm tomorrow night. According to The National Weather Service, we're expecting another 10-18 inches between tomorrow afternoon and then throughout the day Wednesday. Sounds like perfect weather for our final soup dinner!
I think it has actually been since last winter that I've made this tasty little curry. It is so good I spent at least half the time I was eating it thinking "you stupid - why don't you make this more often?" Then I remember how much it sucks to chop the whole head of cauliflower. There has to be an easier way to do this that I just don't know. If anyone out there has any ideas, I would love for you to leave me a comment with detailed instructions!
I've been intending to add harissa to about half of the dinners I made this past week, so I'm quite pleased that I actually remembered to stir it in to replace some of the curry paste in this recipe. The recipe calls for 3 Tablespoons of curry paste and 3 Tablespoons of mango chutney. I have discovered that neither Mister nor myself are big fans of mango chutney, so I substituted apricot preserves and that added a nice, surprising sweet bite here and there. In place of the curry paste, I did 2 heaping teaspoons of my now-beloved Frontier brand curry powder and 1 conservative Tablespoon of harissa. It was much hotter than it has been with just the curry powder (I'll admit, I'm a little afraid of curry paste), especially when I got an unmixed chunk of it in my mouth by way of a caulifloret.

The recipe, by Rachael Ray, is one of her [few] vegetarian 30-minute meals and once you've made a mess of the cauliflower...well, chopped it, it comes together very quickly. I'd say there's a total cooking time of almost 20 minutes. I cannot recommend this recipe enough - it tastes great, it's relatively easy to assemble, especially if you cheat and use frozen cauliflower or pre-cut cauliflower. If you go the pre-cut route, be sure to use the cauliflower the same day you buy it or buy it the day you intend to use it - it doesn't keep well. Happy chopping!

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