Saturday, September 13, 2008


A few years ago I was reading a novel that took place in Morocco, and the descriptions of the food in the book entranced me. (I’m easily amused.) I woke up one morning and, after conducting several hours’ worth of Internet research, cooked up a North African feast. I loved that the food was warm and spicy without having a lot of heat. I eventually picked up a copy of Cooking Moroccan by Tess Mallos, which has become one of my favorites, and my harira is a slightly modified version of hers.

This dish is kind of a chili-like soup with a beef and tomato base, and plenty of chickpeas (garbanzo beans, if you will). I served it with grilled zahtar flatbread, using my flatbread pizza dough recipe and my indoor grill pan. Zahtar is a seasoning mix that includes sumac, thyme, sesame seed, and sea salt, and it’s genius. Whoever made the call on that sesame seed thing receives my undying devotion.

I got a late start on supper – nothing interrupts my nap – so my hubby whipped up some roasted red pepper and eggplant bruschetta for us to munch on in the meantime. (Alas, his secrets are not mine to share.)

He’s a good man, my hubby. Think I’ll keep him around. Even if he thinks my food looks weird.

Serves 6-8

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. steak, trimmed and cubed
Salt and pepper
1½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. hot pimentón (Spanish paprika; can substitute regular paprika)
1 tsp. smoked pimentón (can substitute regular paprika)
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 c. beef broth (about 2 14½-oz. cans)
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
¼ c. fresh cilantro, finely chopped
¼ c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
Additional salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add beef, seasoning with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until beef begins to brown.

2. Add cumin, pimentóns or paprika, and bay leaf. Stir and cook until fragrant, occasionally wiping the drool from your chin.

3. Add tomato paste and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add beef broth. Stir well and bring to a boil.

4. Add the chickpeas, tomatoes, cilantro, and parsley. Stir, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1½ to 2 hours, or until beef is tender. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

5. Serve with flatbread.

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