Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Flavor Secret

The layering of interesting flavors is what takes a dish from regular home cooking -- great though it may be -- to unexpected and exciting and well, chefly. That sort of precision requires skill and patience. But there are short cuts,
One of my favorites is the North African Chili pepper paste harissa. Commonly used as a flavoring for stew or couscous, the precise mixture varies by country and brand.  Harissa is the basis for flavorful dips and makes a wonderful rub for grilled meats. Migrating across continents with travelers and immigrants in Europe harissa can be a breakfast spread for rolls, in Israel these days it is often served on top of falafel.
In my kitchen I make a green version as topping for grilled fish and use pre-made (I've tried many brands) harissa as a flavor boost in eggs, stews, and on steaks. Tonight when James was hoping for chicken soup with the thick egg noodles he loves I saw an opportunity to add a bit of spice to a familiar dish.
As always I started with a mix of onions, carrots, celery, garlic and bay leaf sautéing in olive oil. Just as the vegetables started to soften I added in a heaping tablespoon of tasty harissa. The chili paste melted into the oil and tinted the dish a lovely red. I added in the stock and brought it to a boil and simmered cubed potatoes in the stock. James particularly wanted corn and peas in his soup and so slightly thawed frozen veggies went in next. With chopped chicken warmed through I poured James' soup over a bowl of eggy noodles.
He had two bowls.

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