Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Campari Tomatoes
Campari tomatoes with lemon zest, capers, and fleur de sel.

The Missus and I had ourselves a pleasant little Sunday evening repast... just the two of us.

Nothing too complicated. I dug a couple of rib-eye steaks out of the bowels of our freezer (now, there’s a metaphorical image for you!) and defrosted them prior to giving them a preliminary roast in the oven.  (Par-cooking the steaks made it an easy matter to finish them off on the grill to our exact specifications.)

By way of sides, I hacked some Campari tomatoes into quarters and dressed them with a little lemony olive oil, lemon zest, capers, and fleur de sel. We also had a bunch of asparagus lurking in the vegetable drawer, so I roasted that off and doctored it up with lemon zest and nutmeg... one of my go-to ways to fix those tasty little spears.

And then there was the soup. Every so often, it’s nice to have soup with supper - sometimes it will serve as the entire meal - and when I saw this recipe for spicy carrot and ginger soup with harissa, I had to give it a try. The photo alone was enough to sell me... plus, I had a couple of cans of harissa lying around in the pantry, begging to be used for something more than shelf decorations.

Harissa is a North African condiment - especially popular in Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and Israel - consisting of ground up chile peppers and spices. It’s a Middle Eastern version of sambal or sriracha, and it can range in intensity from piquant to nuclear furnacelike. It’s the kind of stuff that attracts my attention when wandering the aisles of the Weird Food Emporium.

I have an unfortunate tendency to buy exotic ingredients in the expectation of cooking something that momentarily catches my interest... or to have around “just in case.” As a result, I’m prepared for almost anything. Also as a result, I have to go through the pantry every so often and chuck stuff that has sat around for multiple shelf lives.

I had two (count ’em!) cans of harissa paste hiding in the pantry. One of them was bulging suspiciously, and when I looked at the “Best By” date, it was something in early 2006. Out it went. Fortunately, I had another tin, this one of much more recent vintage... and better yet, it wasn’t bulging. That’s the one I used.

Spicy Carrot-Ginger Soup
Spicy carrot and ginger soup with harissa... soupsual harissment at its finest.

How was it? Damn good. The flavor of the carrots was front and center, with warm spices and just the right amount of tongue-tingling burn from the harissa. It was a fine first course, setting the stage nicely for that tasty, meaty rib-eye. 

With a bottle of 2000 Terre Blanche du Château Tourans Saint-Émilion Grand Cru to accompany our beefy feast, we had a perfectly lovely Sunday. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow comes the ice storm!

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