A Tunisian Flavor: Hearty meat and green soup

I was in the kitchen the other day wondering what is it that I can make that a) will not involve lotsa prep b) will not involve lotsa cooking c) will not involve lotsa cleaning d) will not involve additional dishes as accompaniments e) WILL taste super yummy and be filling. You see, lotsa negatives and just one positive meant I had to think real hard. And that’s when I remembered this Tunisian soup that I had long back tried at a friend’s place and the preparation of which I vaguely remembered. It was a very yummy soup, loaded with greens and chickpea, in a spicy clear broth. Purrrfect for winter evenings or when you have 4 negatives and one postitive as your dinner conditions!!! So I set about working on the soup. Since I was not planning to have a side of rice or noodles with it, and had some awesome Trader Joe’s chicken sausage in hand, I incorporated it into the soup. The result was thrilling. The Harissa paste, one of my favorite chilli pastes, lends a terrific hue and flavor to the soup as well as a level of spicy kick that depends on your capacity. The tomato paste and cumin seeds give it a tang  as well as spicy smoky flavor that tastes lipsmacking good. I am a clear soup fan and don’t appreciate the cream based fancy stuff which tastes good but is really not that heart healthy. So this soup is now a keeper for me. I hope the flavors of Tunisia notch up the spiciness in your life too.

Yummy meat & green soup

2 teaspoon cumin seeds (or 1 tsp ground cumin)
1 bunch of Kale, stems and center ribs chopped and leaves coarsely chopped (reserve separately)
1 medium red onion, chopped
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste 
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth diluted with 2 cups water
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa paste (to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
1 (19-ounces) can chickpeas, rinsed
Salt to taste
4 links of pre cooked sausage, halved and sliced into 1/3 ” slices (see recipe note for using raw sausage)

1. Toast cumin in a dry small heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat, stirring, until deeply fragrant and dark brown (be careful not to burn). Cool, then grind to a powder in grinder. Else use ground cumin powder.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Cook chopped Kale stems, onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 12-15 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add stock, harissa, and lemon juice and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. (If you are using raw sausage, now is the time to add it instead of in the next step).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. Add sausage pieces, salt, kale leaves, chickpeas and simmer, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes.                                                                                                                                                    4. Serve soup sprinkled with remaining cumin.

Insights:

Feel free to substitute hardy green like Collard, Swiss Chard in place of Kale. I just happened to have it in hand. Other substitutions can include lamb or dark chicken meat instead of sausage. Knowing my penchant for shrimp, I would not hesitate to experiment with shrimp too if I have nothing else in hand. While you can serve this dish with a side of rice or a chunk of bread, I found it filling enough as it is. With all that protein and greens in it, I don’t mind skipping some carb for the day 🙂

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