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After receiving the wonderful gift of free food (gift certificate to Whole Foods), we went on a little spree and bought some things that we’ve had on our mind but didn’t really fit into the normal weekly plan. Harissa, a Moroccan blend of roasted chili peppers and seasoning, had been on my mind for a while. We also saw some grass-fed lamb (shoulder roast) for a good price, and decided that the combination might be just a little bit awesome. Here’s what we came up with. I thought the dish was a little on the sweet side, so if you think you’d be sensitive to that, cut back on the honey and dates.

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Harissa is flavorful and spicy, and the lamb is so tender.

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp. ground tumeric
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2.5 lbs. grass-fed lamb roast (the shoulder roast we used was incredibly tender) cut into stew-sized chunks
  • 8 oz. pitted Medjool dates, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 Tbs. raw honey
  • 1/4 cup harissa (see the link at the bottom of the page for more info, including a recipe)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and cook until golden. Add the tumeric, cinnamon, and ginger; mix until combined. Add the lamb, mix again until the seasoning is well-distributed among the lamb. Add enough water to just cover the meat. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the dates, honey, harissa, salt and pepper (don’t be shy on the salt and pepper). Simmer for another 20 minutes.

Adapted from Jun-Blog.

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We generally don’t eat white potatoes — if we’re going to eat a starchy meal, we prefer to get the added nutrition found in sweet potatoes. But we inherited some leftovers, including ham, so rather than let it go bad I turned it all into a thick, satisfying, winter soup.

The starchy potatoes thicken this warm, flavorful soup.

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 10-15 small potatoes, boiled and roughly cubed
  • 2-3 C chicken stock
  • 1 can coconut milk (not light)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • A few shakes each of dried parsley and basil (I would have preferred about 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, but the garden is frozen!)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1-2 C chopped ham

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions until they start to turn clear. Add the potato cubes, stock, coconut milk, a few generous grinds of salt and pepper, the crushed red pepper, and herbs.  Simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes. Blend together with an immersion blender. You can leave some chunks of potato if you want, or blend until it’s smooth. Add the ham cubes and garlic, simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve warm.

This is hot and spicy and goes well over rice, quinoa, mashed cauliflower, or by itself. Feel free to use any stew meat, we have lots of venison so that’s what we used.

An intense blend of spices warms this dish. Add more tomato sauce, or yogurt or coconut milk, to calm the heat.

  • 4 Tbs. combined coconut oil and/or butter
  • 1 large red onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 1 C roasted red peppers
  • 5 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1 Tbs. freshly-grated ginger
  • 5 Tbs. berbere spice blend*
  • 1/2 C dry red wine
  • 1 can tomato sauce (we like Trader Joe’s organic, no sugar added)
  • 3 cups stock (beef, venison, even chicken will do)
  • 2-3 lbs. venison stew meat (or beef, lamb, goat, etc.)

In a slow cooker, place the stew meat, stock and tomato sauce. Warm on high.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, melt the butter and/or coconut oil. Add the onions and cook 2-4 minutes, or until they soften and begin to turn translucent. Add the eggplant, garlic and ginger, and stir for another minute or two. Add the berbere spice blend and red wine; scrape the pan to incorporate everything and remove from heat.

Add the onion-eggplant mixture and roasted red peppers to the slow cooker and stir well. Allow to cook until the stew meat is done, at least a couple hours. If you are leaving home and want it to cook longer, turn the heat to low.

Adapted from: Eating Well
*Note from Eating Well on berbere spice blend: “This staple in Ethiopian cooking is a heady mix that usually includes garlic, fenugreek, allspice, red pepper, ginger, chilies, coriander, cinnamon, and black pepper. If you can’t find it, use a mixture of 4 Tbs. garam masala, 1 Tbs. hot paprika, 1 tsp. ground fenugreek and 1 tsp. salt.” Upon further research, berbere is the Ethiopian version of curry — everyone has their own blend and no two are exactly the same. I used a recipe from epicurious.com.

My parents bought us a new set of All Clad cookware (THANK YOU!!!) and we used this pot first. This seafood curry smells as good as it tastes, with just a little spicy heat.

  • Spicy seafood soup with the flavors of curry.

    2 bags Trader Joe’s frozen seafood mix (calamari, scallops and shrimp)

  • 4 quarts spicy stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 8 oz. chopped baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 serrano peppers, chopped
  • 1 habanero pepper, chopped
  • 4 hot red cherry peppers, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. mashed garlic
  • 1 oz. Maharajah curry (a blend of cumin, coriander, fenugreek, tumeric, yellow and brown mustard, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel, white pepper, cloves, cardamom, chili powder, and saffron. We got ours from the Spice Merchants.)
  • 2 Tbs. Garam masala seasoning
Put everything except the curry and garam masala in a pot on low heat. Do not let it boil or the seafood will get overcooked. Simmer for an hour or until the cauliflower is slightly tender. Remove from heat and add the seasonings.

Here’s a simple recipe for a zingy soup with lots of flavor.

Tomatoes and fish are the main players in this stew but the supporting characters bring a lot to the table, too.

  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped into half-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 cup white wine, such as pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc
  • 28-ounce can crushed or pureed organic tomatoes
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 pounds whitefish — halibut, cod, pollock, monkfish or whatever — cut into one-inch chunks
  • Fresh parsley or shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot and add carrot, onion, garlic, fennel. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until veggies soften, about 5-8 minutes. Turn the heat to high. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook about 5 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add tomatoes, water, and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat and bring to simmer. Cover and cook  18-20 minutes until veggies are tender. Season the fish with salt and add to the stew. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and top with chopped parsley and/or shredded Parmesan cheese.

Recipe from friend Dawn Needham.

This is a creamy soup with a little zip, and it's a good way to get rid of a carrot surplus.

  • 3 lbs. carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 8 Tbs. butter, divided
  • 2 Tbs. grated ginger
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 8 cups stock
  • 12 oz. can coconut milk

In a stockpot, heat 4 Tbs. butter and saute the garlic, minced ginger, onions and red pepper flakes for 1 to 2 minutes or just until glossy. Do not allow to develop color. Add the carrots, salt, pepper and turmeric. Saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and add the coconut milk. Cook for 40 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Transfer to a blender, working in small batches. Add the remaining butter and process to a puree. Strain soup into a new stockpot or large bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

Most soups made with red peppers contain black beans, but this soup isn’t a southwestern soup — the paprika, cardamom and pistachios are a surprisingly good combination.

Red pepper, paprika and pistachio soup is a little nutty and also gets some spice from the chiles.

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 2-3 fresh serrano chiles, chopped
  • 2 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
  • 2 cups stock
  • 12 oz. coconut milk (not light)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or cilantro, finely diced (optional)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers and chiles. Cook and stir until the vegetables release some of their juices and the onion is lightly brown around the edges, abotu 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables with paprika, salt and cardamom and cook, stirring, until the spices are very fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Add the pistachios and stock. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a large food processor or blender (work in batches if necessary). Puree until smooth, using caution as hot liquids tend to spray out of a blender. Return to the saucepan.

Add the coconut milk and gently warm over low heat. Garnish with chopped cilantro or basil, if desired.

Adapted from Eating Well

Stock is the base for a lot of primal recipes. What you choose to put in it is up to you, but here are some suggestions for a flavorful stock.

  • Bones (from chicken, turkey, pork, beef, venison, etc.)
  • 1 gallon filtered water
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1-2 Tbs. dried parsley
  • 1-2 Tbs. dried sage
  • 1 Tbs. whole peppercorns
  • 1-2 Tbs. dried thyme
  • 1-2 Tbs. oregano

Bring everything to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for at least two hours. Cool slightly, then strain into storage containers. Refrigerate.

Since we’ve been experiencing kind of a summer-fall hybrid outside, I decided to experiment and use some summer flavors in this classic fall soup. The orange zest and serrano peppers do the trick. Oh, and I love the phrase “garnish with bacon.”

This full-flavored soup has a kick of heat from the jalapenos and a nice smoky flavor from the bacon.

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2-3 medium onions
  • 2-3 jalapeno, serrano or other mildly hot peppers
  • 4 small tomatoes*
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-4 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1 can coconut milk (not light)
  • 1 Tbs. curry powder
  • 1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • Zest of one orange
  • 3 strips good-quality bacon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut open the squash and scoop out the seeds. Cut off the rind and dice the flesh into one-inch pieces. Peel the onions and cut them into large chunks. Cut the peppers into one-inch segments. Toss all three vegetables in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, then put them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking pan. Cut the tomatoes in half and wipe the inside of the oily bowl with the cut part. Place the tomatoes cut-side-up on the baking pan, too. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 50 minutes, or until the onions are starting to brown, the squash is soft and the tomato skins come loose.

When the vegetables are close to done, heat the chicken stock, coconut milk, curry powder, nutmeg, orange zest, ginger and garlic over medium heat in a large pot.

Once the vegetables are done, remove and discard the tomato skins. Puree the squash, onions, peppers and tomato flesh in a food processor. Add the puree to the warm liquid mixture on the stove and cook for 20 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, dice the three strips of bacon into small pieces. Cook on medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon pieces and let them cool on a plate. Pour the grease from the bacon into the soup.

Serve warm and garnish with bacon.

*Note: The tomatoes don’t add much, I just needed to use some up before they went bad. You can probably omit them without any problem. But if you have some on the brink of going bad, toss them in and enjoy the extra vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Tyler’s mom sent him home with a big jar of this soup, and I can’t get enough. It’s got a lot of flavor and is filling. I think adding ground Italian sausage would be a great way to get some extra protein.

This fall's "cold rainy day" soup.

  • 3 quarts stewed tomatoes
  • 3 cups of your favorite Bloody Mary mix*
  • 10-15 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 10 oz. spinach
  • 8 oz. good Swiss cheese (I like Leerdammer because it’s so creamy), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Heat the stewed tomatoes, Bloody Mary mix and basil in a large pot over medium heat until hot. Add the spinach and cook until it all has wilted. Turn off the heat, drop in the cheese chunks and stir to partially melt them. Serve warm.

*Note: If you don’t have a Bloody Mary mix available, use 3 cups tomato juice, 3 Tbs. each of lemon and lime juice, 1 Tbs. horseradish, 1 tsp. hot sauce, 1 tsp. minced garlic, salt and pepper.