Hlelem

Hlelem
(Tunisian Vegetable and Bean Soup)
Reprinted with permission from The Culinary Institute of America Cookbook (Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2008). Copyright 2008 by The Culinary Institute of America.

Makes 2 quarts

Harissa is a Tunisian hot sauce or paste usually made with hot chiles, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and olive oil. It's available in cans, jars, or tubes from Middle Eastern markets and specialty stores.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/4 cup celery stalk, large outer veins trimmed, diced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 quart chicken broth
6 tablespoons tomato paste
2/3 cup canned lima beans, drained, juices reserved
2/3 cup canned chickpeas, drained, juices reserved
7 cups Swiss chard leaves, stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces, leaves shredded, lightly packed
1/2 cup angel hair pasta, dry, broken into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tablespoon red curry paste or harissa
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine 1/2 cup of the reserved chickpea liquid with 1/2 cup of the reserved lima bean liquid. Add the broth, reserved bean liquid, and the tomato paste to the pot. Mix together until well blended and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Approximately 10 minutes before serving, add the lima beans and chickpeas, the Swiss chard, and the pasta. Simmer until the pasta and chard stems are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the red curry paste and stir until blended. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

LYNNE'S TIPS

Harissa comes in small cans and can be found in a lot of supermarkets and Mediterranean groceries. Once opened, transfer the paste to a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two months. Curry pastes are found, too, in Asian markets. Use both in marinades, salad dressings, for glazing foods and in stews and soups.

Other hearty greens such as ruby or golden chard, kale, mustard greens, beet greens, collard greens, or broccoli rabe can stand in for the Swiss chard. Choose organic bunches, if possible, with fresh, crisp leaves and firm stalks. Rinse well, separate the stalks from the leaves and wrap all in barely damp paper towels, tuck into a plastic bag and refrigerate until needed. Use within a few days of purchase. If stems on the collards or kale are thicker than 1/4 inch, it's best not to put them in the soup, as they take longer to cook.

Check the Yellow Pages for ethnic food shops in your area then take off on a Saturday for an adventure. Prep for the occasion by checking cookbooks for the cuisines you'll be visiting. Jot some quick notes of ingredients and dishes to try, and snacks to check out. Take the kids along and introduce them to new tastes. See what's on the shelves and in the produce bins. Try the snack foods, taste the take-out and ask where you can find a restaurant serving the cuisine for lunch. You could end up with a geography and history lesson, good eating and some good new ideas for work night dishes. Just switching a seasoning can give an old dish a new take.