I’m currently reading Yes Chef, a memoir from Chef Marcus Samuelson. You probably recognize him from the Food Network and Top Chef where he’s often a judge. Marcus was born in Ethiopia; when he was young his mom died of tuberculosis. Soon after her death, he was adopted by a Swedish couple and lived in Sweden through his childhood and teen years (maybe longer, this is where I am in the book).
I do know that he goes on to be a world-renowned chef with many restaurants including the acclaimed Red Rooster in Harlem. I’m only about a quarter of the way into the book and I’m already so inspired by Marcus’ story. I won’t give anything away here, but if you’re like me and love reading about passionate people and their craft (especially when their craft is cooking), I highly recommend adding this to your list.
One thing Marcus and I have in common is our love of harissa. Give me anything that adds a dash of heat (sriracha, cholula, and harissa are top picks), and I’m a very happy girl. He feels the same way and has a special connection to harissa because of its ties to Africa.
Have you tried harissa? If not, you should. It is one of my favorite condiments and I put it on everything from eggs to tacos and mix it into salad dressing and soups like this one. Harissa is a spicy chile paste originating in Northwest Africa. It’s a blend of chiles, garlic, olive oil, spices like cumin, coriander, and caraway, and a few other ingredients depending on the recipe. You can buy harissa pre-made at the market or you can make it from scratch. My go-to recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen and I use a mix of ancho, guajillo, and chipotle peppers. It can pack quite the punch depending on the chiles used, so a little goes a long way.
For me, there’s nothing more comforting then a warm, slightly spicy bowl of soup after a long day in the cold, skiing or running. The combination of sweet butternut squash and maple combined with the spicy harissa packs much needed flavor and warmth for these winter days.
harissa maple butternut soup
serves 4 + leftovers :)
1 tbs high heat oil
½ yellow onion
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
3 tbs harissa (this is my go to recipe, I use a mix of ancho, guajillo, and chipotle peppers)
¼ cup maple syrup
4 cups of vegetable stock
Heat oil over medium heat and add onion, salt, pepper, and 1 tbs of harissa
Add butternut squash, another 2 tbs harissa, and 1/4 cup maple syrup
Let cook for 7-8 minutes until very fragrant, then add the vegetable stock
Simmer covered for 30 minutes until squash is very tender, then blend in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking and a touch more maple syrup if you like it on the sweeter side.