Monday, July 29, 2013

Coconut-Chai Fudge Pops: Dairy-Free Frozen Treat for Food 'N Flix July: Monsoon Wedding

Weddings are always a fun and crazy setting for a movie. Make that a Punjabi wedding in New Delhi where family and old traditions and current practices clash and you have Monsoon Wedding, a colorful, feel-good romance film and our Food 'N Flix selection for July.

Directed by Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala, The Namesake and Vanity Fair are just a few of her other films), Monsoon Wedding is the story of the Verma family. Father Lalit, is trying to pull off a large wedding for his eldest daughter Aditi. Aditi, is set to marry Hemant, currently living in Texas, in an arranged marriage while she still pines for her married lover. The wedding preparations are complicated by the lackadaisical event planner Dubey, who finds himself falling for Alice, the family's house maid. Family is arriving from all over and their various stories and sub plots, combined with the threat of having an outdoor wedding smack in the midst of a monsoon season add drama to the proceedings.

I love this movie--the color, the music and dancing and the themes of love and family. I first saw it when it came out with some good girlfriends after going out for an Indian feast and I bought the DVD when it came out. It's sweet and fun and although Aditi (the bride) spends most of the movie pouting and I want to smack her because her groom is great (and hot!) and her ex-lover is just creepy--things of course seem to work out for everyone by the end. ;-) Even owning it, it had been a while since I had watched the movie all the way through so I was happy when Heather of girlichef, our Food 'N Flix founder, picked it. Monsoon Wedding isn't necessarily a foodie movie, but it's a wedding, it's India, and food finds its way into the film with glimpses or mentions of tea and pakoras, coconut curry, mangoes, wedding sweets, salt lassi,and samosas.

I took my inspiration from the chai tea mentioned or shown a few times and "chuskis"--ice pops that popped up in the film. The ice pops in the film were red and yellow but I was craving the Coconut Black Chai Tea that I enjoy hot and made with chocolate non-dairy coconut milk during the cooler months and thought it would be tasty as a frozen fudge pop. Seems perfect for a warm summer monsoon to me. 

Coconut-Chai Fudge Pops
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 6 pops--depending on mold size. Drink any extra over ice!)

2 cups non-dairy chocolate coconut milk (or sub chocolate almond milk, reg milk, etc.)
3 bags coconut-flavored black chai-flavored tea (or regular chai tea)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
honey or agave to taste, optional

In a small saucepan, heat chocolate coconut milk until just boiling. Add tea bags, ground cinnamon and cardamom and stir. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add vanilla extract, stir and taste for sweetness, stirring in a bit of honey or agave if needed.

Place into pyrex measuring cup and place in the fridge for a few hours to cool. When mixture is chilled, fill popsicle molds and place in freezer for at least 4 hours or until completely frozen.

Unmold and enjoy!

Notes/Results: Cool, sweet and yummy. For dairy-free fudge pops, these are nice and creamy and the flavor of the spices and coconut come through nicely. They are more chai spice-flavored than chocolate, so if you want a more chocolate-flavored pop, add in some cocoa powder or chocolate syrup when heating up the milk. Because the chocolate-coconut milk that I used was sweetened, I didn't add any more sweetener and they were perfect for me. I will make these again. 

Heather will be rounding up the entries for this edition of Food 'N Flix shortly at girlichef. If you like food and movies and foodie movies, join us for August when we will be watching When Harry Met Sally, hosted by Caroline Makes.

I am also linking these up to girlichef's Summer of the Popsicle!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pea, Lettuce & Fennel Soup with Asparagus Mimosa: Healthy Green Duo for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

A healthy and gorgeously green duo made up of two recipes that I was tempted to try based on their combination of ingredients. First, the Pea, Lettuce & Fennel Soup, a Giada De Laurentiis recipe that I saw her make on her show a while back. I am fond of fennel and I thought that the contrast of its mild licorice flavor with the sweetness of the peas would be interesting. Then, my love of anything with capers pulled me to Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for Asparagus Mimosa from his "Plenty" cookbook. Capers paired with eggs, on top of tender-crisp asparagus sounded like a winner to me. This pairing may have a slight spring-ish feel, but since I was able to use all locally grown veggies (except for the frozen peas) and eggs, it transcends the season. 

I made a couple of changes to the soup (noted in red below)--swapping out the butter of 1/3 the amount of olive oil, using veggie broth instead of chicken, and using local Manoa butter lettuce.

Pea, Lettuce & Fennel Soup
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis via Food Network
(Makes 4 Servings)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used 1 Tbsp olive oil)
2 small shallots, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium head Bibb lettuce, cut into 1/2-inch strips (I used Manoa butter lettuce)
One 10-oz package frozen petite peas (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth, plus extra, as needed (I used veggie broth)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and fennel. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 the teaspoon pepper. Cover the saucepan and cook until almost tender, stirring occasionally, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lettuce and toss until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in the peas, broth, 1 cup water and fennel seeds. Bring the soup to a boil. Cover; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are just tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

In a blender, blend the soup, 1 cup at a time, until smooth. Pour the soup back into the saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Thin out the soup by adding 1 tablespoon of extra broth at a time, if needed.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. 

Ottolenghi says, "This traditional way with asparagus is probably my favourite. It is simple and therefore relies on the quality of the asparagus itself more then anything else. See if you can get the spears from a farmers' market or the shop at a farm where they have been freshly picked. Roughly chopped tarragon sprinkled on top will make a good addition."
Asparagus Mimosa
From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Serves 4 as a Starter)

2 eggs
2 bunches of medium asparagus
2 tbsp best-quality olive oil
2 tsp small capers, drained
1 tsp sea salt
black pepper

Gently place your eggs in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer for 9 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan and immerse them in a large bowl of cold water. After a few minutes, take them out of the water and leave to cool down completely. Peel the eggs and grate them on a coarse cheese grater.

Bend the asparagus until the tough bottom ends snap off; discard the ends. Place the spears in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender. It may take slightly longer if they are thick.

Drain and, while still warm but not hot, divide among four serving plates. Drizzles the oil over the asparagus and sprinkle with the capers, salt and some pepper. Top with the grated egg, staying close to the centre of the stalks so that the tips and bases remain visible.

Notes/Results:  First the soup--thick, creamy and full of good flavor. It's a little sweet, crisp and green and then the fabulous fennel flavor from both the bulb and the seeds kicks in at the end. Easy to make and satisfying. This is a great soup to enjoy in a cup or small bowl along with a sandwich or salad like the Asparagus Mimosa. Such great flavor from just a few ingredients. The egg and caper mix is perfect both in flavor and texture as an asparagus topping--although it is a little messy to eat. ;-) Paired with the soup, it makes a great light lunch or dinner. I would make both of these recipes again.

Sneaking in at the last minute for this weeks Eggscellent! theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can check out all the egg-filled dishes that everyone made by going to the post and following the links.

We have some scrumptious salads waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week. Let's take a look.

Sandra from meadows cooks is here with pretty Orange Walnut Salad with Orange-Basil Dressing and says, "If you're like me summer time is full of salads. No cooking, watery fresh, perfect for hot, hot days. If you're also like me you usually do the same old salad, bland romaine lettuce and balsamic vinegar every time. Laziness? Yes, summer makes me lazy. It is a good stand by but a bit boring. Why not brighten up your salad with some sunny fruit? Add a little goat cheese (nothing isn't better with goat cheese on it) and some walnuts and you have a festive treat. On a weekday. You can't beat that."

Graziana of Erbe in Cucina shares this fruity and minty Watermelon Salad with Spearmint and says, "This year I'm growing spearmint, a pleasant variety of mint, with rounded and slightly fleshy leaves, and strong and yet delicate aroma. I added spearmint to this watermelon and balsamic vinegar salad, and even my son enjoyed it."

Janet from The Taste Space brings Easy Cheezy Chickpea Salad from her pantry and says, "This salad is almost too simple. Only four ingredients, or five if you include salt or pepper. Chickpeas, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and leafy greens. Definitely more than the sum of its parts. The lemon juice is tart and the nutritional yeast tames it into a creamy dressing. Marinade the chickpeas and use the extra sauce to toss with your favourite leafy greens."

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "This is Paradise" by Kristiana Kahakauwila with Opah (Fish) Tacos & a Tangy Yogurt Dressing

A good friend and co-worker took me to a hula performance at the gorgeous Hawaii Theatre shortly after I moved to Honolulu in 2001. Performed by a contemporary hālau (a hula group/school) out of San Francisco, the dances interpreted the story of Hawaii's history; primarily the impact of the missionaries coming to Hawaii in the 1800's and the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 1800's by American and European citizens. As I sat in the historic theater, moved by both the dance and the history itself, and feeling slightly set apart from the what felt like mostly local crowds, I was somewhat uncomfortable. Part of me wanted to spend the intermission apologizing to every native Hawaiian I could find for the past acts of those who came to the islands, even for moving my own haole (Caucasian) self to Honolulu for work and adding yet another mainland-transplanted body to the mix. 

Living in Honolulu for just over 12 years now and spending five years making frequent business trips here before moving, I don't often feel isolated or excluded like I did that night. I have friends from all walks of life--locals who grew up "on the rock" and never left, those born here that went to school or lived on the mainland but eventually moved back, those not born here that have been here for much longer than I have, and those that more recently came to the islands on vacation and just never went back. For myself, I have found the islands and the people who call it home to be warm and welcoming overall and that when a genuine interest and respect is given to others, it comes back to me. I am lucky to live here but it isn't always pretty---racial tension, crime, death, violence, sadness, and poverty all do exist in paradise. Being a haole transplant who wasn't born here and didn't grow up on the islands, there are some locals who will look at me as an outsider and there are places I will never see, people I am unlikely to interact with and experiences that I will probably never have. "This is Paradise" by Kristiana Kahakauwila digs deep into the culture and gives the reader those rare glimpses of life in "real" Hawaii and not the rainbow-studded tropical paradise surface that people most often see in movies or on vacation.

Paperback: 240 pages / Publisher: Hogarth (July 9, 2013)

"This is Paradise" is comprised of of six short stories spread throughout the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. In the title story, three groups of local women from different walks of life take turns observing and judging the behaviors of a young female tourist in Waikiki who learns that "paradise" has a darker side. "Wanle" looks at betrayal, revenge and the underground world of cock-fighting on Maui. "The Road to Hana" finds a young couple traveling in Maui and struggling with which of the two is more Hawaiian--the Caucasian male, Honolulu born and raised or the native Hawaiian female who was born and raised in Nevada. "Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral Into a Drinking Game" is the humorous but poignant observations of local family behaviors from a hapa haole ("Half white. Half foreign") female, born and raised in California but in Kauai for her grandmother's funeral. "Portrait of a Good Father" explores the effects of grief on the members of a Honolulu family (father, mother, father's mistress, daughter/sister) when their son/brother is killed in a hit and run. "The Old Paniolo Way' has an in-the-closet gay son returning to the Big Island to support his sister and be with his dying cowboy/rancher father while struggling with both his impending loss and the secrets he is keeping from his family.  

These stories aren't "pretty" with happily ever-afters, they are raw and real, moving and full of angst, and strong emotions. Author Kahakauwila truly captures the essence of Hawaii--its beauty as well as its warts and brings it to life in colorful descriptions and language choice--lapsing into Hawaiian Pidgin, (the form of language or communication used in varying degrees by many Hawaii residents) when appropriate in the dialogue. I found myself laughing in parts, moved to tears in others and finding familiarity--I do know some of these people and have been to many of these places and events. This short story collection is a fabulous debut and I can't wait to see more from this author. The 240 pages are a quick and engaging read and would appeal to those who currently live or have lived or spent time in Hawaii, as well as those who want a peek at what life can really be like in paradise or those are interested in different cultures. 

Author Notes: Kristiana Kahakauwila, a native Hawaiian, was raised in Southern California. She earned a master’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Princeton University. She has worked as a writer and editor for Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, and Highlights for Children magazines and taught English at Chaminade University in Honolulu. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Western Washington University.


If you read this blog regularly, you know that I usually cook a dish inspired by the books I read and review. 'This is Paradise"--much like Hawaii itself, has snippets of all different kinds of food woven into it. Foods like Kona coffee, mac nuts, burgers, fried eggs with shoyu, freshwater shrimp grilled over a campfire, peanut butter and guava jelly sandwiches, sweet potato manju, chocolate mochi, kahlua pig and laulau, sashimi, chicken long rice, mango wedding cake, mai tais, spam musabi, loco moco, shave ice, pickled radishes and beef curry with rice--plenty of inspiration. In the end, with a busy week and a house full of visiting family (My sister Linda, nephew Sean, niece Kayla and her boyfriend David), I chose none of that and instead made fish tacos with Hawaiian opah (moonfish). Not a local dish but an easy dish of blended ingredients--local fish and veggies with a little Baja influence. ;-) 

A family dinner, enjoyed outside on the lanai--just a quick picture  of my plate before digging in. Simple and good. Since I am pretty sure most everyone can make a fish taco, I am just posting the recipe for the Tangy Yogurt Sauce that I tossed together. Mostly because it turned out well and my sister wanted me to write down the recipe.

Tangy Yogurt Dressing for Fish Tacos
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 2 cups)

12 oz non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder (or cayenne), or to taste
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
fresh lime juice to taste
salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk together yogurt and mayo until well combined. Whisk in minced garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, dill, chili powder and cilantro. Add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours before serving. 

Notes/Results: Just an easy sauce with lots of cumin and lime. I keep mine on the cool and refreshing side and serve salsa for the heat. Thin it out a bit with a little milk and it makes a good creamy dressing for a salad. 

Note: Review copies of "This is Paradise" were provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gazpacho: for Cook the Books: "How to Cook a Wolf" by M.F.K. Fisher and for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Recently I made  a vow to stop making soups for my Cook the Books entries. Basically because for the last five book selections for this bi-monthly virtual foodie book club I co-host, I made soup for four of them. What can I say? I make a soup every week. Soup is love, soup is comfort. Soup often best represents what a book makes me feel or is the food I gravitate to in a book. Our June/July Cook the Books pick is "How to Cook a Wolf" by famous food writer M.F.K. Fisher and hosted by Simona of Briciole and I find myself again making soup. 

"How to Cook a Wolf" is a series of essays first published in 1942, during wartime, when money was tight and ingredients often rationed or scarce. Fisher's book offer up witty and insightful tips for making the most out of what was available, while still enjoying the pleasures of a good meal. There are all manner of recipes woven in Fisher's advice and storytelling in chapters like How Not to Boil an Egg, How to Keep Alive, How to Make a Great Show, and How to Comfort Sorrow. At times funny, at times poignant, always insightful, Fisher has a great ability to bring her writing to life, not matter what decade you are reading it in.

The book offers up plenty of inspiration for the kitchen. I was tempted to try Fisher's version of Tomato Soup Cake--something I actually tried a few years ago back in my early days of blogging for a retro recipe challenge. I was tempted by the Hawaiian Shrimps recipe because I love old-school local-style recipes like it. But, it was the chapter titled How to Boil Water--that I kept going back to. The chapter discusses "the natural progression from boiling water to boiling water with something in it" and making soup. To me, soup is the quintessential food to make in times of need or ration. It is comforting, filling, can be added to to feed more bellies and can be easily made from leftovers. 

Fisher offers several soup recipes in the chapter but I kept going back to the Gazpacho, which was slightly different from most of the other gazpacho recipes I have tried. More of a thick, herby "marinade" of ingredients according to Fisher. It sounded perfect for a humid weekend and thus I am making soup for Cook the Books yet again! 

Fisher says, "Within the past few years I have found myself involved in a discussion, esoteric as well as practical, about the correct way to make a gazpacho. I still stay loyal to this recipe, while accentuating the fact that it, like rules for all good native soups, can vary with each man who makes it."

It was Fisher's prose about Gazpacho that sold me on it:

"This gazpacho can be altered to fit what comes from the garden, but it should always have oil and garlic and lemon juice and herbs rubbed heavily together (this is the important trick: a kind thick marinade, really, of the macerated herbs, oil, acid...) and onion and some other vegetable floating around in it; and it should be very cold indeed. Then it is a perfect summer soup, tantalizing, fresh, and faintly perverse as are all primitive dishes eaten by too-worldly people."

"It is especially good if you have a barbecue, and want some legitimate and not too alcoholic way to keep your guests busy while you turn the steak: put a big tureen of it on the table, and let them serve themselves into cups, and eat toasted crusts with it if you want to." [I always see to it that I have made too much gazpacho. It ripens well, when kept chilled, and is a soul-satisfying thing to drink, chilled, midway in a torrid morning. It is also one of the world's best breakfasts for unfortunates who are badly hung over.]"    

Adapted from How to Cook a Wolf, MFK Fisher

1 generous mixed handful of chives, chervil, parsley, basil, marjoram... any or all but fresh. (I used parsley, marjoram, basil, chives and tarragon)
1 garlic clove
1 sweet pepper, pimiento or bell
2 peeled and seeded tomatoes
1 small glass olive oil (or really flavorful nut oil or substitute)
juice of 1 lemon
1 mild onion, sliced paper thin
1 cup diced cucumber
salt and pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Chop the herbs and mash thoroughly with the garlic, pepper and tomatoes, adding the oil very slowly and the lemon juice.  Add about 3 glasses of cold water [I still say this is the correct liquid. But often I use good meat or fish stock.] or as much as you wish. Put in the onion and cucumber, season, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and ice for at least 4 hours before serving. 

Notes/Results: Cold, crisp and refreshing. I love the "herby" taste of this version of gazpacho--the tomatoes and juice are a player in the soup but unlike many gazpachos, the herbs really are the star here. This is a great soup to make after a trip to the farmers market. The freshness of the local ingredients adds a lot to the flavor. I think it tastes best after at least a day--allowing all the flavors to meld. Although I wasn't hung over as the "unfortunates" that Fishers mentions, it still made a tasty breakfast on a warm morning, especially when accompanied by pieces of grilled garlic bread. I would make this again.

This round of Cook the Books ends on Monday, July 29th and Simona will be doing a round up at the CTB site, shortly after. If you missed out this round, consider joining us for August/September when our book will be the novel, "The Baker's Daughter" by Sarah McCoy, hosted by Heather at girlichef.

Now let's visit the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here.

Joyce from Kitchen Flavours is here with Giada's Chicken Stew and says, "Made this Chicken Stew and have seen the many good reviews about it. It was delicious. I have however added in one Russet potato since it is sitting in my pantry basket begging to be used! And since I have a can of black-eyed beans, I used that instead of kidney beans.
The kids love this Chicken Stew. I, myself rather enjoyed it! Just a bowl by itself and it makes a filling lunch. There's no leftovers!"

Janet of The Taste Space shares a Zesty Lemon Cilantro Chickpea Salad and says,"Super simple: mix and marinate. It looks uninspiring but it was a nice balance between the tart lemon, fresh cilantro and sharp garlic. Lemon zest? Well, without my zester, I shaved off the lemon peel and chopped it with a knife instead. However, the zest in this salad is from the garlic, not the lemon zest. The garlic was stronger when I originally made it, but it tamed itself for leftovers, which made it perfect for lunch. It was also delicious overtop mixed greens for a more green salad."

Tigerfish of Teczcape - An Escape to Food made this Arugula Apricot Salad and says, "Salad is a great way to balance out the heat from grilled (outdoor grilling, BBQ) food. As with more grilled foods, salads are also perfect cut-the-grease (or cut-the-guilt?) accompaniments or should I say, a complementary balance of clean and fresh flavors to the charred smoky grilled items."

Mireille of Chef Mireille's Global Creations brings Cilantro Pesto Cole Slaw and says, "From my experience cooking at a nursery school, I can tell you children will eat salads and vegetables if it's introduced as soon as they start eating solid foods. ... In this version of cole slaw, I added the sweetness by using sweet gherkins, which is a perfect example of sweet and acidic that my nursery school kids seemed to love!"

Elizabeth of The Law Student's Cookbook is back with these Mediterranean Burgers and says, "The 30th book on my shelf was The Mixer Bible, a book I got when I first got my KitchenAid stand mixer. I haven’t used this book nearly as much as I should. I like that it teaches techniques with the mixer. Page 30 had two recipes: Hummus and Roasted Garlic Hummus. I decided to go with the Roasted Garlic variety. It was good, but I think it actually needed more garlic. I spread it on the bun of this burger and YUM!"  

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week. if you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week! 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Garlic Soup with Chickpeas and Harissa: Immunity-Boosting Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

My immune system sucks. My mom is convinced that it is because I don't eat meat and poultry, even when I remind her that my immune system sucked equally, if not more two years ago and at least now everything I catch doesn't end up trapped in my lungs with me on steroids and the nebulizer for weeks on end. Is any of it due to food choices? Who knows for sure--but I like to think so. What does it have to do with today's soup? Well, mom is convinced that my week-long cold culminating in four days of laryngitis, was due to a lack of chicken soup, and if I would only eat chicken soup, I would get better and get my voice back. My perspective is that any hot soup, full of alliums like shallots and garlic, with some ginger tossed in works just as well. Add some spicy pepper paste, to clear out those sinus passages and I think we have a winner... This Garlic Soup with Harissa by Yotam Ottolenghi.

The recipe takes a soup chock full of garlic--25 cloves in fact, and adds flavor and spice with homemade harissa, which I have been wanting to make and is surprisingly easy to do. Mom still had concerns about the lack of chicken but I added protein by adding a few cups of canned chickpeas. That and the dollop of Greek yogurt on top that Ottolenghi suggests, make this soup satisfying and a good shot for the immune system and almost mom approved. ;-) 

In addition to finding these recipes in Plenty, you can find them at TheGuardian. My few changes to the recipe are in red below.

Garlic Soup with Chickpeas and Harissa
From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
(Serves 4)

For the harissa
1 red bell pepper 
1/4 tsp each coriander seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium-hot fresh red chiles, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 Tbsp tomato purée
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2/3 tsp coarse sea salt (or to taste)

For the soup
4 medium shallots, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely diced

3 Tbsp butter (I used 1 1/2 Tbsp non-dairy butter)
2 Tbsp olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp)
25 medium garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped  

1 cup white wine 
generous pinch saffron strands
4 bay leaves
1 quart good-quality vegetable stock (I used homemade)

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt, or to taste
4 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped 

(I added about 3 cups cooked chickpeas)
fresh coriander, roughly chopped (I omitted)
Greek yogurt (optional)

To make the harissa: Preheat grill to high, then grill pepper 15-20 minutes, or until blackened all over. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool, then peel and discard the skin and seeds. 

Place a dry frying pan on low heat and lightly dry-roast the coriander, cumin and caraway seeds for 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and grind to a powder. Add oil to the frying pan, heat and fry the onion, garlic and chillies over medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until dark and smoky. Cool slightly, then tip into a blender or food processor. Add remaining harissa ingredients, including the roasted red pepper and spices and blitz together to make a paste. Set aside.

For the soup: Gently fry the shallots and celery with the butter and oil for about 10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for five minutes more. Stir in the ginger and thyme. Pour in the wine and leave to simmer for a few minutes, then add the saffron, bay leaves, stock and salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Remove the bay leaves, add the parsley. Blitz with an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor. Do not blend to a complete purée--keep some bits of vegetable for texture.

To serve: Divide soup in shallow bowls. Swirl in some harissa and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Finish with a dollop of Greek yogurt, if you like.

Notes/Results: This is a good one! The soup itself is full of flavor--sweet, herby and garlicky and tasty on its own. Stir in the tangy yogurt and add the heat of the harissa paste and it becomes even better. The yogurt is optional--but adds extra flavor and texture. Omit it and change out the butter to make this a vegan option. I would say the chickpeas or another bean, are a must, along with leaving it partially chunky (I puréed about a third of it and added it back into the rest before adding the beans). The texture of the beans along with having the pieces of shallot, garlic and celery make it satisfying. I am going to confess that I wasn't in the mood to peel all that garlic so I used the lazy girl's friend, already peeled cloves from the produce refrigerated section that I just had to slice. My only issue with the soup--I really wished it made more than four servings-worth. It's really delicious. Can't say that it has completely cured me--but four bowls of a good "soup-and-spice-sweat" certainly made me feel better. ;-) I will make both the soup and the harissa again.

A note about the harissa. I have had this condiment before and like the fiery red pepper paste. The Ottolenghi version has great flavor and is easy, much less expensive, and easier to find than store-bought. I made the recipe as directed, except for grinding the spices before tossing them into a food processor. Again, I am lazy and I figured they would be pulverized enough in the processor and they were. I can think of lots of great uses for my harissa leftovers--on veggies, other soups, with fish, etc.

This soup is my entry for our Potluck theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs (a day early) as well as my harissa entry for the Optional Monthly Community Recipe. You can check out all the great Ottolenghi dishes everyone makes by following the links on the post starting tomorrow. 

Now lets visit the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here.  

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog brings both a soup and a salad this week. About her vegan Mushroom Artichoke Soup she says, "This is one of the best homemade mushroom soups that I have ever made. It's simple, it's vegan, and of course it's gluten free. The combination of mushrooms and artichokes is amazing. I know the temperatures outside have been brutally hot, but I love good soup anytime of the year. I find it soothing  and filling. AND  a bowl of this magical soup is zero Points Plus on Weight Watchers!!"

Judee also shares this Quinoa Lover's Salad and says, "Doesn't this salad look amazing?  It contains quinoa,  fresh spinach, oranges, chick peas and roasted beets making it a nutritional powerhouse of antioxidants and vitamins. In addition, quinoa is high in protein making this salad a meal in a bowl. I also love the light orange citrus dressing, which I found very refreshing."

Janet of The Taste Space offers up a healthy bean-filled salad and says, "While still in Toronto, I was had a cook-date with a friend after work. I suggested making Heidi’s Moroccan Chickpea and Carrot Salad. No cooking required, it was filled with my typical pantry staples. However, not everyone always has a lemon on hand, grows mint in their backyard (I don’t have that anymore), stocks prunes (um, yeah, not me either) or has a spice grinder. So we made do with what she had. Lime instead of lemon, cilantro instead of mint, dates instead of prunes and we kept the cumin seeds intact."

Brittany of Brittany Cooks made this fruity Grilled Peach, Chicken, and Goat Cheese Salad and says, "I love the idea of including fruit in my salad, and thought I would take advantage of the fact that I have so many peaches in my fridge. I remember seeing the original recipe on Eat Live Run about a year ago, and was stoked that I had nearly all the ingredients on hand. I substituted toasted hazelnuts for toasted pine nuts (yes, I slightly over toasted them...oops), and regular balsamic vinegar for white balsamic. I think I may have a thing now for balsamic vinegar and peaches. The pairing just works!

One sandwich this week, a satisfying Baked Eggplant Sandwich from Elizabeth at The Law Student's Cookbook. She says, "This sandwich is based heavily on this recipe. Mine is a little different, in that my tomato sauce is actually tomato paste and cherry tomatoes. And I used Asian eggplant instead of globe eggplant. It was super easy, but packed with flavors."

Thanks to everyone who joined in this week with their recipes. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details. 

Have a happy, healthy week!