Monday, September 5, 2011

Harissa Beet Soup with Quick Pickled Cucumbers

Harissa Beet Soup with Quick Pickled Cucumbers
Our river...
Looking down on a favorite swimming hole
First Day of Waldorf First Grade...lost her two front teeth this summer!

I have taken a wee summer break this past month. Sorry I have been a bit absent. There were rivers to swim in, friends to cook with and a new found freedom in my heart to celebrate. I have come a long way these last 10 months, and forgiveness has been the biggest gift of freedom I have given myself so far these 39 years of mine. Quite a bit of hard work to get there though. I had to give my life a through examination. I feel endless amounts of gratitude to my support system. They lovingly supported my process while never trying to rescue me from the grief or pain. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it made every step I have taken my own.
So, today is a recipe that I think makes up for my absence. It is so phenomenal and simple that it could turn anyone who even questioned beets as a palatable food into a believer.  Beets have started coming in my farm share these last weeks. I only do a few things with beets. Grate them raw for salads, roast them or make beet chips. I really like beets, but there are many other vegetables I choose over beets. I mostly cook beets because they are so highly nutritious and are in the vegetable share box.  They tend to be a bit earthy, strong and unmoldable. Beets easily over power a dish. And while most people tolerate them, I have found most don't crave them.
This soup could change all of that.
There was not a hint of earthiness in this soup. It was smooth,  luscious and not too heavy. The pickled cucumbers cut the creaminess and added wonderful acid. The Harissa spice perked up the whole thing and added nice note of  smokiness to it. The Harissa I used had caraway in it, and wow did that bode well. I used a Harissa blend my sister brought this weekend for me to try. It is from a company called See Smell Taste. They gave her a sample to try. She of course is so busy, she has very little time to cook. But, she thought to bring it to me and it is hands down the best Harissa I have ever tried. Danielle is working very hard to launch a soon to be internet superstar called Most likely you have not heard this company, but you will, because I think it has potential to change gift giving as we have known it. You can order this Harissa from The Gourmet Online store if you would like it right away.
Harissa is a standard in North African cuisine, and it is generally a mixture of chili peppers and spices like coriander, caraway and sometimes mint. It is very popular in tangines, couscous dishes and chickpea dishes. Heidi from 101 Cookbooks has a recipes section dedicated to her Harissa recipes. It has gotten a lot of attention these last couple of years in western food dishes. If you are wanting to make your own, Heidi has a recipe and so does AllRecipes. 

If you have little people in your house, this might push spice boundaries. You can half the harissa and see if it is palatable for them. I found the spice to be a wonderful match to the bold beet taste. A note about serving this soup. It is late, hot summer here. 90 degree days. I have no taste for hot soup. So, after I roasted the beets and carrots, I let them cool for 15 minutes before adding to blender, The result was an almost room temperature soup with cold pickled cucumbers on top. Perfect for a hot evening. This is my new gazpacho. That is how much I love this soup!

Harissa Beet Soup with Quick Pickled Cucumbers
makes 4 small bowls (I will be doubling this tonight when I make it again!)

2 cups roasted beets
1 cup roasted carrots
glug of olive oil
salt for taste
1 cup lemon cucumber seeded and diced (a skinned green cucumber is fine too)
2 tsp. champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried Harissa powder
zest of lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

Wash carrots and beets. No need to remove skins. Roughly trim off tops and bottoms. Cut beets into fourths. Add carrots and beets to an oven proof baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil (about a tablespoon) to coat and a sprinkle of salt. Mix with your hands. Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degree for about an hour, or until the beets are knife tender. Remove from stove, keep tinfoil on pan and let sit out for 15 minutes.
In a blender, add 2 cups stock, lemon zest, pinch salt, lemon juice and harissa. Add the beets and carrots to blender. Make sure you get the olive oil in the pan too. Don't bother with removing the beet skins. Blend for a good 5-8 minutes in your blender. Stop and taste for salt.
In a separate bowl, add chopped cucumber, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar and pinch salt. Let sit for 5 minutes, or up to overnight to pickle.
Dish about a cup of soup into a bowl right from the blender. Add a heaping tablespoon of cucumbers making sure to get a good amount of the olive oil and vinegar along with the cucumbers. Soup should be about room temperature or a little over room temperature. Keeps in fridge for a couple of days too.


Rebecca said...

Wow, this looks amazing! I am someone who does sometimes crave beets. I love them, absolutely love them!! Interestingly, I am currently living in New Zealand, and they put beets on sandwiches and with hamburgers. I cannot wait to try to make this soup. Thank you!

Jessica said...

Rebecca! I am mildly obsessed now about your comment about new zealanders putting beets on burgers and sandwiches! I have never heard of that. Are they raw? picked? roasted? A whole new beet world! Honored I could provide you with new beet recipe to try out!

oakforestsf said...

I am making a double batch right now so I can bring to work this week. It's is so good. (BTW - Imagine brand of Chicken Stock doesn't have sugar)

Karen said...

Jessica, I just made this last night! I doubled the recipe and it was absolutely delicious! What an amazing, refreshing summer soup. Thank you for sharing!

Jessica said...

Thanks Karen! :)

Anonymous said...

Love this soup! Had the honor of being served by the artist herself. Could've been the main course. We had the leftovers lastnight. It was just as good. Cool, rich, sparkly. I love beets, but this could surprise even the biggest sceptic. Thanks jess...


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