Mel’s Harissa Hummus

My friend Melanie (the same Melanie who takes the blog photos) makes hummus, excellent hummus. It pairs well with crackers–homemade or store bought–or your favorite vegetables for dipping. She’s your guest blogger for this post. [Ed. Note]

Guest Blogger: Melanie Cohen

A few years ago, I became obsessed with learning how to make things that people usually just buy from the supermarket—Larabars, mayonnaise, pesto and even Cheez-Its. My introduction to this kind of food prep has also been my most prominent; I’ve practically become legen—wait for it—dary for my hummus making. I mean, who wants to pay $5 for chickpeas and hydrogenated oil when you can make a purer and tastier version yourself for cheaper?

Here’s the recipe I use to make my hummus; I’ve also included the recipe I adapted it from. (This is why I’m an editor; I’m much better at improving an existing product than creating it from scratch.)

Harissa Hummus |Photo Cred: Mel C.

Harissa Hummus | Photo Cred: Melanie Cohen

Mel’s Harissa Hummus

  • 1/4 cup of tahini
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (a bit less if you use the kind from a bottle, but fresh is preferred)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 4 small cloves of garlic (more if you love garlic like I do)
  • 1 can of chick peas (you could get the dried stuff, but that takes a lot of time and patience–canned chick peas also help the creaminess* factor)
  • Salt to taste (I usually add very little because canned chick peas have plenty of salt already)
  • Harissa to taste


  1. Add the tahini, lemon juice and water to a food processor. Blend until it forms a “thick, creamy emulsion” (copying from the recipe here–giggles). Then mix in the garlic, chick peas and harissa and blend, adding extra water by the tablespoon for desired consistency. I also like to add a dollop of harissa on top for aesthetic purposes.
  2. If you’re ambitious, you can use homemade harissa, but I usually buy it from the store. My favorite is from Cava Mezze, which isn’t available everywhere, but I’d definitely recommend using fresh harissa over jarred if possible.*Want a tip to get super creamy hummus? In addition to getting canned chick peas, make sure you take off the little skins–it’s a bit tedious, but it’s completely worth it!
Chickpeas with the skins removed. | Photo Cred: Melanie Cohen

Chickpeas with the skins removed. | Photo Cred: Melanie Cohen


Tomato Basil Soup

Note: I’m on vacation and lack my trusty Kitchen-Aid, which plays a key role in all my recipes. So bakers, my friend Alex is your guest blogger this week. She’s a fan of cooking, which means this post deviates from my usual baked goods. Grab a slice of freshly baked bread (or grilled cheese sandwich) and get ready to dunk it into this soup.

Tomatoes | Photo credit: Melanie Cohen

Photo credit: Melanie Cohen

Guest Blogger: Alex Palombo

Growing up, my wardrobe choices never really had a sense of what season it was. I froze through communion because I refused to wear stockings to church. I wore sheer button downs in December. I wore open-toed heels in the snow and still do).

My taste in food, like my taste in clothes, knows no season. So as I sat in my kitchen sweating in in my sundress, I had a craving for traditional “winter food,” tomato basil soup. I had my reasons:

  1. It makes a ton of leftovers for lunches and dinners.
  2. It pairs well with sandwiches, which are my comfort food.
  3. It gets vegetables in my diet – this recipe is actually pretty healthy.
  4. It is stupid easy to make.
Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup | Photo credit: Alex Palombo

Tomato Basil Soup

(Adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen)

Alex’s Note: I highly suggest serving this with a grilled cheese sandwich or with some crusty bread. Since this recipe makes an entire Crock Pot worth of soup, you will have the rest of the vat to refrigerate or freeze for some for another time. The leftovers alone will probably last you until the winter – when, if you are anything like me, you will probably want summer food.

For this recipe, you will need

  • Carrots – I suggest regular-sized carrots rather than baby carrots. Use at least three, but if you want some extra vegetable points, throw in a few extra for bulk.
  • Onion – Just one is needed. I used a Vidalia for a sweeter taste, but white or yellow are fine too.
  • Garlic – At least four cloves. If you’re eating alone and have no romantic plans for the night, go for an extra clove or two.
  • Red pepper flakes – Adjust to your spice tolerance.
  • Broth – I used chicken, but vegetable broth tastes great if you don’t eat meat.
  • Basil – A good handful for cooking, some extra for garnish and for your friends to munch on later.
  • Tomatoes – if you’re buying canned like I did, get three 28-ounce cans of the whole, peeled tomatoes. If you’re buying fresh, you will need a whole bunch because they are the whole point of the soup.
  • Parmesan cheese – You can buy a block of cheese or the powdered/shredded kind—both work.
  • Salt and pepper

You will also need this equipment:

  • Crock Pot or slow cooker – not required, but recommended.
  • Blender of some sort – I used an immersion blender, but a standing one is also fine.
  • Knives and vegetable peelers
  • Can opener

Before You Start

  • Give the onion a rough dice.
  • Destroy your carrots in whatever fashion you prefer.
  • Peel and mince your garlic. If you don’t have a mincer, chop it into small pieces. You can also use a cheese grater, but watch your fingers and use the finer side.
  • Grate your parmesan.
  • Rip up your basil leaves.
  • If you’re using fresh tomatoes, make sure to peel them, but keep them whole.
  • If you like your soup chunky, save some chopped tomato bits for the end of the recipe for texture. I had an extra can of already diced tomatoes lying around, so I used that.

To make the soup

    1. Put the chopped/shredded/mangled carrots, chopped onion, minced garlic, broth of choice, ripped up basil leaves and tomatoes into the Crock Pot or slow cooker on the LOW setting. If you are making this on the stove top, warm some olive oil over medium-high heat in a big soup pot first before adding the ingredients.
    2. Shake in some salt and pepper, then shake in a good jigger of red pepper flakes. Stir it up a little bit so all the vegetables can bask in the spices.
    3.  If you’re using a Crock Pot or slow cooker, leave your kitchen and do something else for five or six hours. No, really. Hang out with friends. Sit out and enjoy this tomato soup-inappropriate weather we’re having in Washington, D.C. The veggies need some time to get acquainted with each other. If you are making this on the stove top, you’ll need to stick around for two hours to make sure everything is going smoothly. Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer it for two hours. Sir occasionally to make sure nothing burned to the bottom of the pot.
    4. If you are using a Crock Pot, come back to your soup, turn the switch to “OFF” and apologize for ditching it for five to six hours. If you are making this on the stove top, you can skip this step and pat yourself on the back for not abandoning your dinner.
    5. Blend your soup. If you have an immersion blender, blend your soup right in the pot until smooth. Do this carefully, because the soup will be VERY HOT and burns are the worst. If you have a standing blender, work in batches.
    6. If you prefer chunky soup, this is where you would add the diced tomato bits that you saved. Stir them into the rest of the soup so they warm up.
    7. Stir in some of the parmesan to the whole pot. If you shredded it, put a hearty scatter over the top of the pot and mix it in to taste. If you used the powdered/grated cheese, dump some in to taste.
    8. Rip up a few more basil leaves and garnish the soup.