cold weather comfort food


aramb-lamb-stewThe sky is a startling shade of blue this morning, but yesterday that blue was no where to be seen. Rather, we hovered on the verge of what felt like imminent snow (though if I had checked a thermometer it probably would have read in the mid fifties). It was weather that called for bowls full of gut warming soup and fresh bread. In other words, it was a perfect opportunity to explore my “Gourmet Soups Cookbook” by Carole Clements. I acquired this book about 8 years ago when, one summer I decided to cook my way through 1 chocolate cookbook, 1 salad cookbook, and 1 soup cookbook. I didn’t succeed with my goal but came a lot closer with my chocolate cookbook than I did with the soups or salads because. . .chocolate! Since we are headed into a cold and blustery autumn I figured now was as good a time as ever to resume my way through the soup cookbook which is a treasure trove of cozy food. I filled our chilly evening with bowls of Arab Lamb Stew, chock full of the last remaining produce rescued from my garden and a simple spice mix that lent a wonderful aroma to my house and a modest amount of heat to our bowls. I accompanied the stew with parathas (a middle eastern unleavened bread that puffs spectacularly in the oven). The stew recipe suggested 4-6 servings but, perhaps because I was heavy handed with the produce, we will definitely get a solid 8 servings out of my soup pot full of deliciousness. I have every intention of using the extra time not spent cooking dinner tonight or tomorrow to try out an experimental canning project. Maybe. . .if it goes well, the final product will appear here. belgian-brownie-cakeletAs wonderful as a hearty bowl of stew is, there is nothing like a warm chocolate treat to end the day and SK’s belgian brownie cakelets hit the spot. I halved the recipe in an attempt to keep my sweet tooth in check but kind of wished I hadn’t. She suggests 72% dark chocolate but all I had was 65% or 85% so I did  a half and half mixture of the two and, if my math skills serve me correctly, ended up with 75% dark chocolate to go in the batter. Whatever it was certainly turned into a decadent chocolate success that the mama and daddy of the house enjoyed after the little person was sound asleep.

Love from CO,


Arab Lamb and Chick-Pea Soup (8 servings) 

3/4 cup chick-peas (garbanzos), soaked overnight and drained, or 1 3/4 cups canned chick-peas, rinsed and drained.
1 Tablespoon olive oil (original recipe suggest 1 1/2-2 tablespoons but leg of lamb has plenty of fat and I didn’t find the full amount necessary)
1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lam, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1-inch cubes (original recipe calls for lamb shoulder but I had leftovers from a leg roast that I had set aside, if using shoulder you might need to increas the oil for browning)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fruity red wine (or you could go with a drier white wine per Clements suggestion, or skip the wine altogether)
5 cups water
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron or turmeric
1 cup thinly sliced white and light green part of leeks (you will need to cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse them well to remove all traces of dirt and grit from the layers)
1 1/2 cups diced carrot
1 large potato, diced
2 cups diced zucchini (Celement suggests slicing the zucchini in half-moons but my zucchini was a giant so I opted for smaller chunks)
1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
To Serve: chopped cilantro or mint, a spoon full of plain yogurt, and harissa (we went with a simple sprinkle of cilantro this time around)

If using dried chick-peas, cook over medium heat in boiling unsalted water to cover generously until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain

Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole or large saucepan over high heat. Add enough of the lamb to cover the base of the pan sparsely and cook, stirring frequently, until evenly browned. Remove the browned meat and continue cooking in batches, adding a little more oil if needed. When the last batch is nearly browned, add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Return all the meat to the pan and add the wine, if using, water, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, cinnamon and cumin. Bring just to a boil, skimming off any foam as it rises to the surface, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until the meat is very tender. Discard the bay leaf.

Stir in the chick-peas, tomatoes, roasted peppers, saffron or turmeric, leek, carrot and potato, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the zucchini and peas, and continue simmering for 15-20 minutes more, or until all the vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little harissa, if you like a spicier soup.

Ladle the soup into warm bowls and garnish with a  dollop of plain yogurt and a sprinkle of mint or cilantro if you like.