Last week, I attempted to make a dent in the invasive pile of unread magazines that has grown to unreasonable heights on my coffee table. Part of the problem is that, a little over a year ago while I was planning and editing the music section of a city mag, I wisely decided to up my industry knowledge by ordering a three-year subscription to Rolling Stone. In my defense, at a mere 78 cents an issue, it seemed like a steal compared to the outlandish $5 newsstand price.
However, as the semi-weekly issues splayed across my former college coffee table began to gather dust and beer-bottle rings, I realized I’m not actually that big a fan of RS (probably because they don’t have recipes in the back. Also because of the absurd number of consecutive times U2 has appeared somewhere on the cover.) But of course, at the fear of sending trees to die without purpose, I diligently skim through each one and will continue to do so until my subscription runs out in March 2012. So it goes.
Anyway, food, I’m talking about food. As I reached the end of an issue of Women’s Health and my stomach began to rumble, I thought, Why the heck don’t I make more soup? I’m quite fond of the stuff. And most soups embody so much of what I love in a good recipe: versatility (time to clean out the fridge), simplicity (chop, simmer, slurp) and easy clean-up (the original one pot meal).
On this particular day, as the pantry was rather bare, the versatility aspect was very attractive, so I utilized a WH recipe for a soup of the Savory Moroccan variety for inspiration and proceeded to mangle it until it was something completely unrelated to the original recipe, with the exception of four or five surviving ingredients. Anywho, this is how it went.
The recipe called for 3 cups chicken or veggie stock and 1 cup water. I used chicken. After bringing the broth to a rolling boil in a medium-large pot, I added my other ingredients and reduced to a simmer. You can check out the original recipe if you’re interested, but I used what I had on hand:
Spicy Sausage Soup
- 4 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
- 2 spicy Italian sausages, cooked and thinly sliced
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- 1 14.5 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (diced would be fine)
- 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
- 1/3 head of cabbage sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced, including the green part
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, stems torn off
- 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon thyme (optional – regular would be fine, too)
- Cayenne pepper to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
Instead of your typical couscous, I had what’s called Israeli- or Jerusalem couscous (ptitim in Hebrew), which somewhat resembles giant couscous but is actually a pea-sized grain product more reminiscent of Italian orzo. Whatever it is, it’s pretty awesome and cooks up quick. However, after adding about a cup or so of the carb to the pot, I decided I’d need more broth to avoid it all being sucked up by the couscous, so I added another cup each of chicken broth and water.
A word of caution: We love us some spicy, and I’m bold (and lazy) when estimating spices, so I gave the simmering brew a nice layer of cayenne and was sweating pretty good as I slurped up fiery spoonfuls. It was still delicious (Josh thought it was just fine) and seemed to mellow after being refrigerated for a day, but you might thank yourself if you start small and work your way up to a tolerable heat. Don’t forget to add as much salt and pepper as you please.
And now we wait. But not too long, just until the veggies are soft and the Israeli couscous plumps up to the size of a pea and takes on a chewy texture. When ready, ladle into bowls and slurp away!
This batch made five hearty portions of spicy goodness and while I’d definitely enjoy it again verbatim, I’ll likely play around with different ingredients. After all, that’s the fun part, right? Next time, I might try shrimp instead of sausage. For a vegetarian version, switch to veggie broth and cut the meat. Boiled and halved baby red or fingerling potatoes would make a nice starchy substitute for the couscous, as well.
Feel free to experiment with herbs and veggies, too. The original called for zucchini and artichokes, as well as some more regional Moroccan add-ins, including raisins and cinnamon. It also called for fresh parsley and dried oregano and basil, but the fresh herbs added great flavor and visual appeal, not to mention they were lovingly homegrown (aka free).
Put your own spin on this dish to excellent results? Tell me about it!
Now that I’m revved about soup, I’m on a roll. The most recent concoction? A fantastically simple and guilt-free Chilled Cucumber Mint Soup – perfect for the scorching summer days that Texas does so well. Soon to come.
Stay tuned till next time…