Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the exotic condiments section of an upscale grocery store pondering whether to shell out $8 for a tiny jar of glistening something-or-other? The jars have names such as Sriracha, Chimichurri, and Harissa. You covet them ALL.
That’s exactly what happened to me recently at City Market in Northwest Portland. I walked out of the store with a tiny, expensive jar of Mustapha’s Moroccan Harissa and although it turned out to be quite delicious, barely an hour had gone by before I began to make my own. I had visions of Red Kuri Squash & Orange Soup with Cinnamon Harissa, and in order to follow that vision, I needed Harissa with more body and warmer spicing than the store-bought version.
If you do a a bit of research to see how Harissa is traditionally made, you will find little agreement on the composition of the sauce beyond the basic elements of chiles (usually red and either fresh or rehydrated) and olive oil. Beyond those two ingredients, however, you can choose from a wide variety of embellishments, such as allspice, caraway, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, mint, nutmeg, paprika, fresh lemon, preserved lemon, fresh tomato, sun dried tomato, red bell pepper, or just about anything else you like. Your completed sauce should be crayon to brick red and fiery, with well balanced flavors. It can be chunky or smooth, a sauce or a paste, as you wish.
Check back soon for the next post which is, you guessed it, Warm Spiced Red Kuri Squash & Orange Soup with Cinnamon Harissa.
This fiery red chile sauce is North Africa’s answer to catsup, especially in Tunisia where it is used pervasively. Use it as is, swirled into soups and stews, slathered onto burgers or sandwiches, or rubbed onto meats before grilling. You can buy Harissa in jars in Middle Eastern markets, but homemade gives you more flavor and texture latitude.
6 large dried ancho or guajillo chiles (or 3 of each)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground, smoked Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, and roughly chopped
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
¼ cup cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Prepare the chiles: Put the chiles in a large mixing bowl, and pour boiling water over them to cover. Press chiles down into the water with a heavy plate or other object, soak for at least 30 minutes, and then drain. Remove and discard the stem, ribs, and seeds from each chile. You may find it easiest to rinse the flesh to remove the seeds.
- In a small nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat, toast the coriander and cumin, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the spices. Remove from the heat and put into a spice grinder. Grind to a powder. Add the ginger, cinnamon, smoked paprika, and salt.
- Using a small processor or blender, puree the soaked chiles, garlic, and lemon zest. Add olive oil, lemon juice, combined spices, and blend well. If necessary, adjust the salt.
- Store covered in the frig for up to a few weeks, or freeze on a cookie sheet in tablespoon-size globs and then put into a freezer bag.
Makes about 1 cup.
- Wikopedia: Harissa
- Kitchen Confidence: Harissa
- Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon by Claudia Roden
- Artichoke to Za’atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food by Greg Malouf
- Saha: A Chef’s Journey Through Lebanon and Syria by Greg Malouf and Lucy Malouf
- Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun
- Turquoise: a Chef’s Travels in Turkey by Greg Malouf and Lucy Malouf