Monday, April 19, 2010

Tunisian Soup with Chard and Egg Noodles

So our best friend Mark came to visit, which is great because we love Mark.  And also because when he is in town we eat great food and give Mark a tour of our favorite NYC restaurants, bars, etc.  It has become a tradition that every time he comes to visit, he gets off the bus in NYC on Friday, takes a cab to our apartment, and we head straight to Fatty Crab UWS where we get the steamed buns, the sliders, the wonton mee, the watermelon pickle with pork belly, and whatever else strikes our fancy.  This time we tried the Malay fish fry and the fried chicken (which was so ridiculously good).  Then Saturday for lunch we hit Ippudo for ramen, and then Yakitori Totto for dinner.  Both were sickeningly good.  I will be dreaming about the special spicy ramen at Ippudo, as well as the tsukune (chicken meatballs), the chicken wings, and the negi tori don (charcoal broiled chicken thighs and scallion with raw egg over white rice) from Yakitori Totto for weeks to come.  If you live in NYC and haven't been to either place yet, you really need to get over there.  They are delicious.  In between all of these delicious Asian meals we were snacking on cookies from Levain Bakery, and more cookies and soft serve from Momofuku Milk Bar.  Then we finished off our dining extravaganza on Sunday with brunch at B. Cafe for burgers, croque monsieurs (or madames) and french fries.  Aside from breakfast, it was our only non-Asian meal of the weekend, which is how things typically go when Mark comes up to visit.

So while all of that food we consumed this weekend was crazy delicious, now I feel like a python who swallowed a whole cow - all lethargic and sleepy.  That burger Sunday afternoon might have put me over the edge.  After that meal Alex and I both had to hit the gym.  Later Sunday night we didn't have the energy to cook so we got delivery.  So for tonight's dinner I wanted something light and vegetarian.  After a particularly gluttonous weekend, vegetarian just seems like the way to go.  And since it is still cool outside, soup sounded like a great option.  This soup manages to be both light and hearty at the same time.  The spiciness of the harissa and the smokiness of the toasted cumin seeds give the soup some serious flavor.  I modified the recipe to add more Swiss chard, more noodles, and a bit more chicken stock.  I love chickpeas, but I think that the Swiss chard is more where it's at with this soup.  I like the chickpeas and all, but they don't absorb the flavors of the soup the way that the chard and the noodles do.  I love soup.

Recipe after the jump!

Tunisian Soup with Chard and Egg Noodles
Adapted from Gourmet
February 2009

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 lbs. Swiss chard, stems and center ribs chopped and leaves coarsely chopped (reserve separately)
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
10 cups chicken stock (homemade or store-bought)
2 tbsp harissa
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 (19-ounces) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups fine egg noodles

Toast cumin in a dry small heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat, stirring, until deeply fragrant and dark brown.  Be careful not to burn the cumin seeds.  Cool, then grind to a powder in a spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add oil.  Once oil is warm, add chard stems, onion, garlic, and 1/2 tsp each of ground cumin and salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Cook chard stems mixture, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 12 minutes.  Add tomato paste.  Cook, stirring, 2 minutes.  Add stock, harissa, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Add chard leaves, chickpeas, and noodles with 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer, covered, until tender, about 7 minutes.  Season to taste with additional s&p, if necessary.

Serve soup sprinkled with remaining cumin.

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