Moving beyond Sriracha
The North African spicy and aromatic chili paste known as harissa is new to me. For those of you who have been using it for years, please forgive me for being late to the game. It is currently the condiment of the moment, and the question seems to be not how to use it, but how can you not use it! It is commonly a paste made from chilies, coriander, cumin, garlic and lemon and sometimes mint.
Harissa is a staple in Tunisia particularly with couscous. It is also used as an addition to hamburger meat, a sandwich spread, a great rub for grilled fish, chicken or meats, and a way to spice up salad dressings and sautéed or roasted vegetables. It is great with pasta or eggs. Cooks in North Africa rely on this garlicky chili paste to add depth to chicken, fish, meats, pasta and vegetables. Add a spoonful to a bowl of olive oil and you have the most delicious bread dipping sauce. It is versatile and dependable.
You can make Harissa at home or buy it ready made. Entube harissa chili paste is 100% all natural. A 100g tube is $10.99.
From Saveur magazine comes this recipe to make your own harissa at home:
8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 2 oz.)
8 dried new mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 1 1⁄2 oz.)
1⁄2 tsp. caraway seeds
1⁄4 tsp. coriander seeds
1⁄4 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. dried mint leaves
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
5 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Put chiles into a medium bowl, cover with boiling water, and let sit until softened, about 20 minutes. Heat caraway, coriander, and cumin in an 8″ skillet over medium heat. Toast spices, swirling skillet constantly, until very fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer spices to a grinder with the mint and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
Drain chiles and transfer to the bowl of a food processor with the ground spices, olive oil, salt, garlic, and lemon juice. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is very smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a sterilized 1-pint glass jar and fill with oil until ingredients are submerged by 1⁄2“. Refrigerate, topping off with more oil after each use. Harissa paste will keep for up to 3 weeks.
Makes one cup.