Harissa is a Moroccan spice paste found at Middle-Eastern markets or specialty food shops. You can make the soup a couple of days ahead, refrigerate, and reheat over medium heat; or freeze it up to four weeks, thaw in the refrigerator, and reheat. The olive spread can be prepared up to three days in advance. The tomatoes release flavorful juices when roasted; just add the juices to the soup.
2 1/4 pounds plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 medium Walla Walla or other sweet onions, cut into (1/2-inch-thick) slices (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon commercial harissa
1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika or chipotle chile powder
To prepare soup, arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, 2 garlic cloves, onion slices, and bell pepper half on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden. Cool. Chop tomatoes, onion, and bell pepper. Set 1/3 cup chopped onion aside for the toasts. Squeeze garlic cloves to extract pulp; discard skins.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add remaining chopped onion, bell pepper, cumin, and coriander; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add harissa and paprika; cook 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, garlic pulp, broth, water, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Place one-half of tomato mixture in a blender, and process until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining tomato mixture.
To prepare toasts, rub cut sides of the halved garlic clove over one side of each bread slice. Combine reserved 1/3 cup chopped onion, olives, parsley, vinegar, and 1/8 teaspoon thyme. Top each bread slice with about 1 tablespoon olive mixture. Ladle about 1/2 cup soup into each of 8 bowls. Top each serving with 1 teaspoon yogurt; serve with 1 olive toast.
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Rich, smoky, spicy (but not too spicy), I love making this soup in the winter. I'm making it tomorrow for a starter in a Moroccan-themed meal that I'm cooking. My alterations to the recipe are: use a whole red pepper, use an extra half cup of chicken broth, and with respect to the yield, I find that it only makes 7 servings (with my servings equal just about one cup - or two ladles full using a 4 oz. ladle).
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