Friday, March 21, 2014

Some like it Hot--with Harissa

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.

Untitled Ingredients:

1.5 oz dried red peppers
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

UntitledUntitledI 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.

UntitledUntitledThe 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.

UntitledNext 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.


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