The photo of the harissa spaghettini on 101cookbooks is enticing. Moreover, the recipe includes both greens and plenty of spice, so I immediately added it to my “to try” list. I can’t find that lovely tender dinosaur kale shown in the photo here in Germany, so I used chard instead. I made a few other adjustments as well, transforming this recipe from a Moroccan recipe to a trans-Mediterranean one. The pasta and chard and parmigiano represent Italy, the kalamata olives come from Greece, and the harissa paste represents North Africa.
- 8 ounces (1/2 pound) whole wheat spaghetti
- 1.25 – 1.5 pounds washed, destemmed chard (about 2 pounds in the store I think)
- 4 large cloves garlic
- a big pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- zest of 1 to 2 lemons
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- parmigiana-reggiano to taste (optional)
- First make the sauce. Peel the garlic, and place it in a mortar with a pinch of salt. Crush the garlic to a paste, then move it to a small bowl. Add the harissa and olive oil and mix to combine. Taste and add more cumin or a pinch of sugar if desired.
- Fill a large (8 quart) stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Measure out your spaghetti or other whole wheat pasta. While the water is heating, wash the chard and remove the thick stems. Chop the chard into ribbons.
- When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and a generous amount of salt. Cook the pasta until just before al dente, then add the chard ribbons and cook for about a minute longer, until the chard is bright green and soft, then drain immediately.
- While the pasta is cooking, pit the olives and chop them. Zest 1 to 2 lemons.
- After the pasta and beans are drained, put your empty stockpot back over medium-high heat. Add the pine nuts. Watch carefully, stirring constantly, until the pine nuts are toasted and speckled with light brown. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the harissa sauce, the olives, and the lemon zest. Stir once then add the pasta and greens.
- Serve immediately. Add parmesan to each bowl if desired.
This recipe serves four as a main dish. If everyone is hungry and it’s all you’re serving, it might only make enough for three. With lots of sides you could stretch it to five or six.
The original recipe called for a small bunch of kale. I wasn’t sure how much that was, and ended up using 1 pound of chard (measured after washing and destemming). It definitely wasn’t enough greens, so the next time I used 1 pound 5 ounces of prepped greens, and that was a much better amount. Slightly more chard wouldn’t have been bad, but I wouldn’t have wanted much less.
Derek likes garlic so we added more garlic than the original recipe called for, but the sauce didn’t seem particularly garlicky. The first time I made this recipe I used the zest of two lemons, and couldn’t really taste it. The second time we only had one lemon, but I could occasionally taste the zest, and when I did it was delicious. It’s not essential to the recipe, but adds a nice flavor when you can actually taste it. The original recipe called for oil-cured black olives, but Derek asked me to get kalamata instead since those are his favorite. The kalamata olives went well we thought.
The original recipe called for 4 Tbs. of olive oil, but given all the other fat in the dish that seemed a bit extravagant, and I reduced it to 3 Tbs. The dish was still plenty rich, and I might try reducing it even a bit further, maybe adding in a bit of pasta water to thin it down. When I added the 1/2 cup of pine nuts that the recipe originally called for, both Derek and I thought that there were way too many pine nuts. They added too much sweetness to the dish. Using only 1/3 cup of pine nuts seemed much more balanced, considering the other amounts. Adding a bit of grated parmesan tones down the spice a tad, and adds some depth to the bright flavors of the sauce, but is by no means essential.
I’d like to try adding a cup or two of chickpeas to this recipe, to really turn it into a one pot meal.
Update July 2012:
I made this recipe today but decided to use my mini-processor instead of a mortar and pestle. Bad idea. I had to add about 2 Tbs. of water to get it to actually puree the garlic, and I lost tons of the sauce to the sides and top of the processor. Definitely stick with the mortar and pestle.
I only had 10 ounces of chard this time so I also added in 1 red bell pepper (about 200g or 7oz). I like the extra color and crunch the pepper adds. I added it with the olives and let it cook a minute or two before adding the pasta. I also threw in about 8oz of seitan to make the dish a bit more substantial. The seitan wasn’t all that noticeable in the final dish.
Depending on the brand of harissa, I often add more cumin to this recipe, and sometimes I use more harissa (3 or even 4 Tbs.).
I came across a recipe for roasted okra online at fatfree vegan kitchen, and decided to give it a try. The recipe sounded novel yet simple to make, and I’m always looking for new ways to cook okra. Derek liked the roasted okra quite a bit: he had seconds and then thirds. I found the roasted okra a little odd, but tasty. The pods became very soft–so soft you could even eat the tops, which are normally too hard and prickly. Some okra pods were stringy, and difficult to bite through or even cut through with a butter knife, but they all had that great okra flavor.