Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring Vegetable and Sausage Soup

A quaint little tapas bar in San Rafael helped me come up with this recipe. I have to say I was sadly not impressed with the chef's interpretation of most dishes. If there was flour involved, they were pasty at best and he seemed to not like salt.

However, I had one dish that was supposed to be a handmade pasta with veggies and housemade Harissa-flavored sausage. Once I pushed the handmade pasta aside, I was left with a new awakening in the area of soups.  I know, I know, I just said yesterday  I was tired of making soups, but the well-reduced broth and tiny pieces of fennel and carrots along with the spicy sausage that I found below the pasta were so full of flavor, I couldn't stop thinking about it and the only way to remedy that was creating it myself.  (Sort of how you can't get rid of an annoying song in your head until you find another better one to replace it.)

I had chickpeas bubbling away on the stove and a multitude of veggies hanging out in the fridge.  So I set out making my mise-en-place of all.  Chard, fennel, leeks, carrots, celery tops, garlic.  That along with a pound of chicken breast-based Italian sausage and the cooked chickpeas made a very tasty meal.  Of course to mimic the Harissa sausage, I pulled out the now apparently ubiquitous tube of paste from my fridge and squeezed in a little with the tube not far away at the table to add more to my own serving.  (I'm totally obsessed, I think.)

CWYG Stats
Veggie Box - fennel, carrots, chard (stems and leaves), leeks, green garlic

CWYG List Items - chicken broth (Better Than Bouillon), garlic, garbanzo beans, Italian Sausage, mint (garden) 

North African Spiced Spring Vegetable and Sausage Soup
A big appeal for this soup was the tiny bits of everything melding together, so keep everything small (no bigger than the beans.) Feel free to serve this over penne or rigatoni as a light sauce.  I think it would actually be tasty and would have enjoyed it at the restaurant as such if the chef had used a lighter hand with the flour when making it.

Olive oil
2 leeks, finely chopped and rinsed (or 1 yellow onion, finely chopped)
1 bulb fennel, fronds and core removed, thinly sliced then chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery (or the leafy tops from about 6 stalks)
6 cloves garlic, minced (I used both green garlic and regular because I had both)
1 tsp red pepper flakes or a big squeeze of Harissa paste (if you by some chance have this on hand, don't go buy it)
1 lb Italian Sausage
6 cups strong chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon Organic and doubled the normal amount)
1 bunch of chard, stems and leaves separated and thinly sliced and kept separate in two piles
1 1/2 cups (1 can) chickpeas, drained
salt to taste

 Optional Fresh Tomato Mint Salsa:
1 tomato, chopped (if you happen to have early season tomatoes that are good, otherwise skip this)
a couple of sprigs of mint, chopped
zest of a lemon
more olive oil

Saute the leeks, fennel, carrots, celery, chard stems and garlic in the olive oil until softened.  Add the red pepper flakes and the Italian Sausage.  Saute until the sausage is cooked through and total broken up into pieces about the size of the veggies. Add the chicken broth and let cook for 10 minutes on high to reduce the stock further and cook the veggies through.  Add the chard leaves and the chickpeas.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the chard is totally wilted into the soup.  Taste and salt as necessary.

For the fresh salsa, mix everything together and serve over the top.

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