Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cooking on a Budget: Tunisian Soup with Chard and Egg Noodles

Even though I am now working full time, I am still on a budget and trying to be as frugal as possible in the kitchen. And while I have been managing to stay within my budget reasonably well, I haven't been breaking down many recipes in terms of cost. I thought it might be time to rectify the situation.

I happened to have some Swiss chard in the refrigerator when I came across this recipe I had pulled out of Gourmet early last year. I also had pretty much all of the rest of the ingredients as well, so I decided to make it.

I did make a few changes. I had already prepped the Swiss chard, for a reason I can now no longer remember, and discarded the stems and ribs, so I simply left them out. I did not have any harissa, and from all of the reviews I read when I looked up the recipe online, it's best home made, so I decided to use the Tabasco sauce I have on hand to make Ten Minute Black Beans.

And finally, I forgot to get the thin noodles when I was at the grocery store, but I did have half a package of Bechtel's broad noodles in the pantry. I put some in a plastic bag and gave it some whacks with the rolling pin to break them up. I didn't exactly get thin noodles, but they did the trick.

This soup may not look like much, but it has a surprising clarity of flavor. The chard gives the soup a sweetness that is countered by the lemon juice. The online reviews all agreed that without the harissa, the soup was tasteless. I don't know that I would agree, but the Tabasco sauce did elevate it to a whole new level. I think I would like to make some harissa and see how that would be.

One thing I would strongly recommend is that you do toast the whole cumin seeds and then grind them yourself, and do not use store-bought ground cumin. The soup definitely benefits from the toasted flavor. The smokiness of the store-bought ground would overpower the other flavors rather than enhance them.

This soup is light and fresh, and full of flavor. It is delicate enough to serve as a meal starter, but sturdy enough to hold up as the main course all on its own. And at $1.65 a serving, it's a delicious bargain.

TOTAL COST: $ 9.89
Cost per Serving: $ 1.65
Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews

TUNISIAN SOUP WITH CHARD AND EGG NOODLES
6 servings

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pound Swiss chard, stems and center ribs chopped and leaves coarsely chopped (stems and leaves divided)
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
2 tsp harissa or other hot sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 ounces fine egg noodles (about 1-1/2 cups)
Salt and pepper to taste

Toast the cumin in a small cast iron skillet over medium heat until it is dark brown and aromatic. Stir it frequently and watch carefully so you don't burn it. Remove from the heat, let the seeds cool, and then using a spice grinder or the back of a spoon, grind the seeds.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chard stems, onion, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 more minutes.

Add the broth, hot sauce, and lemon juice. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the chard leaves, chickpeas, and noodles. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cover and let simmer until tender, about 7 minutes.

adapted from Gourmet Magazine, February 2009

Exported from Home Cookin 6.45 (www.mountain-software.com)


2 comments:

misreall said...

That looks really, really good. I am actually not sure if I have ever had swiss chard, but I know I have never cooked with it. Maybe the time has come.

BTW, I need to go back to get more of that mustard I bought the day we went to the Red Apple. I made pork chops with the last of it, and some dry sherry, and they turned out so good Terry keeps hinting about my making them again.

dejamo said...

Now that I have started using Swiss chard I absolutely love it, misreall. You really should try it. It is so versatile. The soup is really good. It's so good I stopped by the grocery store today to buy some thin noodles so I can make it again soon.

I am always up for a trip to the Red Apple and environs. I'll send you an email and we can make a plan.

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