So I like spicy foods--not burn your mouth off spicy, but I don't mind my food biting back. So when I was planning my foray into North African cuisine, I wanted to try some of the spicy variations of their dishes. I found that they have a peppery condiment called harissa. Apparently you can buy it pre-made in some stores, but I didn't see any, and it seemed pretty easy to make. One thing that is very easy to find around here is dried peppers, which is the main ingredient.
3-4 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground corriander
juice of one lemon
1 tsp olive oil
I bought an assortment of dried chilis from the bulk bins at Winco. They were just labeled New Mexican Dried Chilis, though there were clearly three different kinds represented. I purchased and used about equal amounts of each. I suspect that some were hotter than others, but I figure this would give a good balance of flavor. I looked them up on line and it looks like I used some anchos, arbols, and a New Mexico red chilis.
The first step is to take all the seeds and stems out, which was a little harder with the tiny spicy arbol chilis and the big gummy ancho peppers.This keeps the sauce smooth and keeps the heat level at a reasonable level.
Next the cleaned peppers are covered with very hot water and soaked for at least a half an hour--I soaked them while I ran to the grocery store to get some things I've forgotten, so I'm not sure how long I left them in there. Anyways, when I got back I drained and dried them. They went into the blender cup along with the spices, garlic, lemon zest, and some of the lemon juice.
This gets blended until it forms a fine paste, adding more liquid once it was all broken down and smooth. I added a teaspoon of olive oil and the rest of the lemon juice and continued to puree it. I poured it in a glass jar and will use it in my tagines, roasting veggies, and even with my eggs!
The Verdict: There is a fine balance between hot and so hot that all you feel is burning and no flavor but heat. This still has a great garlic and lemon flavor with different layers of heat and smokiness. I look forward to having this on many more things. It should keep well, with maybe some olive oil to smooth out.