People who live here LOVE to tell you that the coldest season in San Francisco is summer. There’s that Mark Twain (questionably him) quote about the coldest winter spent being a summer in San Francisco, and we have “June Gloom” which is really May-June-July-August gloom, and we obsessively talk about layering. I myself got married outdoors in August in SF and I can vouch that it was not WARM (high for the day was 57 degrees). I remember my butt shivering as I said my vows. Actually I accidentally said my husband’s vows. Oops. Anyway, summer in San Francisco is NOT the coldest season. It is winter, just like everywhere else in the United States.
All that aside, it’s true that winter here is milder than most other places, and summer is cooler. We don’t swing as wildly on the pendulum. This winter in particular has been colder and rainier than it has been here in a while. That is good – the drought, etc. But it is not pleasant to live in (rain boots are disappointing). And so to combat it, this harira, a Moroccan stew. Like most of you out there the winter triggers in me an insatiable desire for soup/stew. I’ve been a bit directionless with my soup recipes of late — because you CAN technically throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and let it simmer and call it soup. But for this I wanted a specific flavor profile, and I tend to always enjoy the Morroccan spices. This also has the benefit of being a soup hearty enough for dinner because there is a shit ton of stuff in it (lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, pasta).
It’s different, and delicious, and spicy! I recommend it with yogurt on top, or with a warm pita, or a crunchy salad, or just by its beautiful (not in appearance) self. This will literally (figuratively) chase the cold rain/sleet/snow away. If not, I have some Patagonia fleece recommendations I’m happy to share because I own ALL OF THEM.
Heidi Swanson’s Harira
Adapted from Near & Far via The Wednesday Chef
1 bunch cilantro
1/4 cup | 120 ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 celery stalks, diced, leaves reserved
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
Pinch of saffron (about 30 threads)
2 1/2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups | 10 oz | 280 g cooked chickpeas
1 1/2 cups | 9 oz | 255 g dried lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups | 1.5 L water
4 to 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Scant 1/4 cup | 50 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 (28-oz | 795g) can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
3 oz | 55 g angel hair pasta, broken into 1-inch | 2.5cm pieces
Chopped fresh dates, to serve
1. Chop the cilantro stems finely and set aside in a pile. Chop the leaves and reserve separately. Heat 1/3 cup | 80 ml of the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, garlic, ginger, and cilantro stems, stir to coat, and cook until everything softens a bit, 5 minutes or so. Grind the saffron with the salt into a powder with a mortar and pestle and add to the pot along with the cinnamon, sweet paprika, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Stir well before adding the chickpeas and lentils. Stir in 4 cups | 1 L of the water and bring to a simmer.
2. In a separate large bowl, gradually whisk the remaining 2 cups | 500 ml of water into the flour, a splash at a time to avoid lumps. Add the lemon juice, tomatoes with their juice, and most of the remaining cilantro. Stir well, breaking up the tomatoes somewhat. Add this mixture to the soup and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Once at a simmer, cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked through. When you have about 5 minutes left, stir in the marjoram and pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, adjust the seasoning and serve topped with dates, the remaining cilantro, the remaining olive oil, and the reserved celery leaves.