I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by well-educated and talented friends, a group of scholars and teachers, professionals and artists. Sometimes I’m humbled in their presence, wondering what I bring to the table now that I’m no longer practicing clinical social work and often plodding through daily housework. But then, someone needs a recipe or theme for a meal, or an idea for an accompanying dish, and I remember that we all add our own flavor to friendships.
My friends and I have been talking a lot about soups lately, their convenience and benefit to those looking for a healthier life style. It’s been a steady theme since the end of the holidays, now that we’ve all had time to get our houses in order, and are thinking about taking care of ourselves and eating right.
So while our friendships might be better symbolized by some serious dark, decadent chocolate and good red wine, I recently shared this recipe with my friends and they were all thrilled with its ease of preparation and delicious results.
This one is particularly versatile, using staple vegetables that are almost always found in the fridge, while leaving enough room to change it up according to what’s on hand. I like to start making a soup daily once the weather turns toward fall and this soup has accompaniments that spice up the dish and add more heft, allowing it to stand alone as a substantial yet light evening meal.
Harvest vegetable soup with quinoa, harissa oil and tzfatit cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cups chopped mixed vegetables; potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini and butternut squash all work well)
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill weed, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 6 cups water or vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons non-MSG, chicken-flavored soup mix (optional if using water)
- ¼ cup quinoa
- Pour the oil into the pot and and add all the vegetables and herbs. Set over medium low heat, cover and sweat the vegetables until softened and the spinach begins to wilt, which should take about ten minutes. Be sure to shake the pot regularly.
- Add the seasoning, broth or water, turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for one hour, adding quinoa for the last 15 minutes.
- To make harissa oil: In a small bowl, mix two teaspoons of harissa or zhug with two tablespoons olive oil. Stir thoroughly to combine.
- Serve soup by first placing chunks of tzaftit cheese at the bottom of each bowl then pouring hot soup directly on top. Drizzle with harissa oil.
*Tzaftit cheese is a semi-soft, lowfat cheese that upon heating softens and becomes chewy rather than melting. It is an ideal addition to soups as it holds its shape, adding delicious flavor and texture. For those outside Israel, baby buffalo mozzarella is a good substitute.