North African Wedding Soup

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This is another one of the recipes that we decided to make this blog for… It’s one of my favorite Pinterest finds, from what’s become a favorite blog – Little Spice Jar. We always tweak our recipes a little bit and this was no different. But, per usual, we’ve forgotten the changes we made from the last few times we made it. So this time, we’ll cross our fingers that it turns out to be the best version we’ve ever made and actually write it down.

These little meatballs are so full of flavorful spices, and the meatballs actually flavor the soup broth itself. This broth has such depth, and the aromas floating through your kitchen are so enticing. The flavors build and build the more you eat. And actually, this is one of those soups that is so much better as a leftover. Do what we did and eat it for dinner, but then enjoy the leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. Feel free to tweak the spices based on your personal preferences, but keep it spice-heavy! It is not super spicy, so if you want it that way, go ahead and increase the spice level. You may have noticed if you’ve read our blog a lot that we love the flavors of the Middle East and Northern African. No exception here. If you’re not familiar with or unsure of the cuisine from this part of the world, please let this soup be your gateway drug. You won’t be disappointed!

Why is this called North African wedding soup? Well, every time we make it, it makes me think of Italian wedding soup – the small meatballs, couscous in place of the orzo, and of course, North African spices in place of Italian flavors. Even more confirmation for this name? Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary! North African wedding soup it is! (I have no idea if there is actually a traditional North African wedding soup – if there is, this is not it!)

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One of my favorites from our wedding ❤  Photograph by Lauren D. Rogers Photography

Mini Meatball Spiced Soup

(Adapted from Little Spice Jar)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chopped carrots
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the beef, tomato paste, and spices through nutmeg. Combine well.
  3. Then form into small meatballs and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  5. Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the pot and top with several turns of black pepper, the Aleppo pepper, and the fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are fragrant/browning and carrots have begun to soften, ~10-12minutes.
  6. Pour beef broth into the pot and adjust heat to a light simmer.
  7. Add the meatballs and the couscous, partially cover if needed, and continue to lightly simmer for ~15 minutes, until the couscous is soft and tender.
  8. Taste and adjust for salt as needed, then serve.
Serves 6-8
Quick response to a question I’m anticipating. Why bake the meatballs, won’t they cook in the broth? Yes, they would. Baking them briefly allows for two important things in my mind – 1) it helps the meatballs hold their shape and 2) allows the meat to leech some of its fat somewhere other than your broth. Yes the fat tastes delicious and yes, you’re losing some of the spiced flavors, but it can definitely make your soup cloudy and oily. 
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Zoodles in Mediterranean Tomato Sauce

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Gosh, it’s been awhile since we’ve made zoodles. For awhile there we were making, eating, and sharing zoodle recipes every week it seems like. We took a little bit of a hiatus it seems, but don’t worry – the zoodles are back! This time, they’re topped with a deliciously spicy sauce that makes you think you’re on the Mediterranean coast.

Even better news? This meal is simple to make – it only takes a few minutes of active preparation. Even more better news? This vegetarian dish is healthy and pretty darn low calorie. A great meal to sneak in to your weekly meal rotation.

Zoodles in Mediterranean Tomato Sauce

Ingredients: 
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp brine from kalamata olives
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ~10 kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 oz feta cheese
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the zoodles – see our instructions if needed!
  2. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat.
  3. Once heated, add the garlic and cook for just a ~2 minutes until beginning to be fragrant.
  4. Now lower heat to low-medium and stir in the tomato paste, vinegar, olive brine, red pepper flakes, and several turns of fresh ground black pepper. Stir to combine into a thick, saucy paste.
  5. After a couple minutes of letting the sauce ingredient meld, toss in the zoodles and olives. Stir to coat the zoodle in the sauce, then cover for 5 minutes.
  6. Once the zoodles are heated through, you’re ready to serve, topped with the feta cheese!
Light meal for 2

 

Charred Corn Flatbread

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If you’ve been watching the news recently, you know all about Hurricane Irma. I swear, that’s all we’ve been talking about for the past week or so. We live in South Carolina, which flipped in and out of the hurricane strike zone, through a week of changing predictions. Luckily for us, the worst of missed us here. Sadly, the pictures from the Caribbean, Florida, and the southeastern coast of Georgia and the Carolinas show that those areas weren’t so lucky. Hopefully, the worst was mitigated by the week plus of warning and preparation.

In our house, we were mostly worried about losing power and/or water. I filled water bottles and sinks with water, set out candles and flashlights, and most relevantly to this post – begin working on eating perishable things out of our fridge. Glancing around the kitchen while waiting for Irma’s arrival, I saw 2 aging ears of corn, a drawer full of cheese, and 2 pieces of naan. And voila, the charred corn flatbread was born. It’s a great dish, probably even more suited for a sunny summer evening than the clouds and wind of a hurricane! 🌪️ It’s very corn-centric, but think of it as a new alternative to your average side of corn.

Charred Corn Flatbread

Ingredients: 
  • 2 ears of corn
  • 3 tbsp smoked olive oil, divided (or regular olive oil if you don’t have smoked)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 pieces of pre-made naan or other flatbread (we prefer Trader Joe’s naan)
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 oz brie
  • Several leaves fresh basil
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
Instructions:
  1. Peel the ears of corn and rub with 1 tbsp the smoked olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on all sides.
  2. Set oven to broil. Place ears of corn under the broiler, rotating every 2-3 minutes, until all sides are charred. [Alternatively, grill in a grill pan or on an actual grill.]
  3. Once charred, set corn aside until cool enough to handle and lower oven heat to 350 degrees.
  4. Stir the minced garlic into the remaining 2 tbsp smoked olive oil. Brush over the two pieces of naan.
  5. Top, evenly divided between two flatbreads, with chunks of brie, followed by corn, sliced off the ears. Sprinkle a pinch of crushed red pepper over each flatbread.
  6. Place in the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. After removing from the oven, top with torn fresh basil.
Makes 2 flatbreads

Southwest Summer Corn Chowder

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I love so much of the produce in the summer… Berries, stone fruit, fresh veggies… But the summer corn might just be my favorite! The corn I saw this week was huge and beautiful! I tried to take it home by the armful, but restrained myself and only took home 8 ears. Mind you, there’s only two of us, so that’s a fair amount of corn for the week. But it allows us to create delicious corn chowder! Now, I know our last recipe also had “southwest” in the title, but y’all are just going to have to deal with that theme for the week.

This chowder recipe really highlights the delicious summer corn. If you’re wary of spice, and are looking skeptically at the jalapeno and poblanos in this recipe, don’t worry! They just serve to add a nice smoky depth of flavor to the dish. This isn’t a spicy dish. When you eat it, all you’ll be noticing is the sweet corn!

(Also. Please don’t judge the recipe on its unappealing photo. I know it’s not very pretty. If we’re being honest, when it was almost done simmering, I got all pout-y and grouchy, because I thought it was ugly. Selim had to remind me that taste > image – and he’s right. The chowder tastes good, and still tastes good even though it’s not pretty. Hopefully you agree!)

Southwest Summer Corn Chowder

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 large poblano pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeno, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (16oz) white beans
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional toppings: lime, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, jalapenos, crushed tortilla chips, etc
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Slice poblano peppers in half and scrape out the seeds. Rub the outside with 1 tsp of oil.
  3. Roast peppers for 20 minutes and then remove to the side to cool.
  4. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat.
  5. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Top with a few shakes of salt and pepper.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened – about 5 minutes.
  7. Once cooled enough to handle, coarsely chop poblano peppers. (A lot of people prefer to remove & discard the skins at this stage too – we don’t, but feel free to do so!)
  8. Add peppers, white beans, corn, spices, and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a light simmer.
  9. Simmer over this low heat for at least an hour.
  10. Remove 2 cups of soup to a food processor. Combine with the cup of milk. Blend until smooth.
  11. Return this mixture to the pot. Stir to combine. [You can do more or less depending upon how thick you’d prefer your chowder.]
  12. Simmer another few minutes, and then serve. I’ve been eating it without any toppings, but surely a little cheese or something can only improve things.
Makes 8 servings

Southwest Steak Chopped Salad

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We eat massive salads for dinner many nights. We never share them, because usually they’re not all that organized – it’s usually a look in the fridge, pull out some vegetables, and top them with a protein kind of adventure. Since it’s Monday and the beginning of the week, we were a little more coordinated. Also, we accidentally created a gorgeous plate of colors! Nutritionists have been telling us to “eat our colors,” and we have you covered here! This salad, while not exactly low calorie, is healthy and filling. The way this is written makes two large salads, meant to be eaten as a stand-alone meal. Don’t worry – you’ll be so full, you even notice that you only ate salad for dinner.

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Southwest Steak Chopped Salad

Ingredients: 
  • Salad
    • Mixed greens, ~1 1/2 cups per plate
    • 1/2 cup carrots per plate
    • 1 ear of corn, divided between plates
    • 1 can of black beans, divided between plates
  • Steak
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp onion powder
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder (substitute smoked paprika for less heat)
    • 1/2 tsp oregano
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp cumin
    • 3/4 lb steak
  • Dressing
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp honey
    • 3 tbsp lime juice
    • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp oregano
    • 1/4 tsp paprika
    • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
    • Pinch of salt & a few turns of fresh black pepper
  • Optional additional toppings
    • Cheese
    • Tortilla strips
    • Jalapeno slices
Instructions:
  1. Cook corn in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove to cool when complete.
  2. (Heat black beans if you prefer. We just rinsed and ate them cold.)
  3. Stir all steak seasoning together. Liberally coat both sides of the steak.
  4. Prepare steak as you normally would – we like to broil it briefly on both sides, for a medium-rare finish – but we know many people prefer their steak on the grill.
  5. Whisk together all of the salad dressing ingredients.
  6. Assemble salad with a base of chopped greens and topped with chopped carrots, chopped bell peppers, black beans, and corn, sliced off the ear.
  7. Add your dressing over the vegetables and top with your steak, sliced. Finish with any additional toppings you desire!
Makes two large, dinner portion salads

Roasted Grape & Prosciutto Flatbread

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Ok. Obviously when we share recipes on here, we think they’re pretty good and that you should make them. But this one… I’m multiplying that sentiment by a million! These flatbreads are amazing!! Plus they are just a little bit fancy… Makes you feel like a fancy person, having fancy dinner. But the secret is, they’re easy and fairly quick to make.  We devoured them whole for dinner tonight, but they would also be perfect sliced into smaller slivers as an appetizer.

Let’s talk about our ingredients. Each one adds something to the flatbread, building to a huge depth and variety of flavor in each bite. We love Trader Joe’s naan for the base of our flatbreads, but you certainly could make your own or use something similar. We like these because they have great texture, the edges crisp up a bit in the oven, and are reasonably priced! (Trader Joe’s doesn’t pay us to say this – we really just love that place.) The next layer of Boursin herbed cheese makes for a creamy, sauce-like coating to the bread. The caramelized onions add a fragrant smokiness and the fresh rosemary, a pungent, almost piney, herbaceous taste and aroma. The roasted grapes are amazingly sweet, but in an entirely different way than you’re used to. (Even if you don’t make this flatbread, go out and roast some grapes.) And then prosciutto… I mean really… Prosciutto makes everything that much more delicious. The last drizzle of honey balances out all of the sweet and savory elements.

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Roasted Grape & Prosciutto Flatbread

(Adapted from Spices in My DNA blog)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup red or black grapes
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 package Boursin cheese (you won’t use it all)
  • 2 slices of prosciutto
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Honey
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 pieces of pre-made naan or other flatbread (we like Trader Joe’s)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Warm 2 tsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and stir to coat in the oil. Top with several turns of fresh ground black pepper and 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary.
  3. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes until caramelized. Lower heat slightly after first ten minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, toss grapes with 1 tbsp olive oil and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.
  5. Spread grapes out on foil-lined cookie sheet and roast for ~15 minutes.
  6. Lower oven heat to 350.
  7. Assemble flatbread: spread Boursin liberally on the naan, top with caramelized onions, and grapes.
  8. Place flatbreads directly on the oven rack. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove flatbreads from the oven. Top with prosciutto, additional chopped rosemary, and a drizzle of honey.
Serves 2.

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Turkish Red Lentil Soup

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We haven’t shared that many soup recipes on here, but soup probably makes up a good third of my diet. I love soup! This is just another reason why I was born to marry into a Turkish family. If you ever make it to Turkey (which I can’t suggest more highly), you’ll see that delicious soups are frequently served as a starter to evening meals and eaten for breakfast and lunch as well. Soup with every meal?! Basically my idea of heaven.

We’ve made and shared High Plateau Soup, another Turkish soup recipe before – it’s rich, creamy, and incredibly unique – at least for my American palate! This soup has entirely different flavors, very reminiscent of soups Selim’s aunts and grandmother made for us in Turkey. Red lentil soup (kirmizi mercimek çorbasi) is hearty and filling, easy to make, and delicious. Make for a week of lunches like I did, or maybe next Monday, if you subscribe to #MeatlessMondays!

Red Lentil Soup

(Adapted from Ozlem’s Turkish Table)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 red potatoes, cubed
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper
  • Lemon wedges, extra red pepper flakes, and/or  for serving if desired
Instructions: 
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot.
  2. Once the oil is heated, add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the lentils, potatoes, carrots, and stock to the pot. Simmer for ~30 minutes, until the lentils and vegetables are cooked.
  4. Stir in the cumin, paprika, and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Lower heat and cook for a 10+ additional minutes.
  5. Taste and add salt & pepper as desired.
  6. Stir in lemon juice just prior to serving.
  7. Serve with lemon wedges, mint, and/or extra crushed red pepper flakes.
Makes 4-6 servings.