Harissa

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Check it out!  I made harissa, and I can’t stop myself.  A dollop atop my eggs.  Slathered on sandwiches.  I may even have a pizza situation happening.  I would say it’s my new Sriracha/Valentina/Cholula, but we know that isn’t true.  There are people who can’t have enough spicy condiments around, and I am one of them.  Hi there.

Harissa hails from North Africa, and although I’m clearly just using it as a condiment at the moment, it’s also used as a flavor base for soups, stews and meat dishes.  I’ll utilize it properly at some point.

Now! Let’s make the thing.  This is a multi-dimensional situation.  Put on your 3-D glasses, nerds (I say this in a loving Liz Lemon way).

We have garlic for some bite.  Lemon for brightness.  A subtle touch of mint for an herbalicious touch.

However, the bulk of this beauty is dried chile peppers: guajillo and New Mexico peppers, to be exact.  It seems like a lot, but the end result–I promise–isn’t all that hot. It’s a pleasant, warming kind of heat, further enhanced by cumin, caraway and coriander.

For more heat, you can certainly kick it up a bit by using hotter peppers, like chile de arbol, for perhaps half of the pepper requirements.  Guajillo and New Mexico are both relatively mild-medium, depending on your taste buds.   Do whatcha do, but don’t come crying to me if it’s too hot.  (Just kidding, you can totally come crying to me, I have Netflix and a  bag of marshmallows to share.)

And so, we start by beheading and gutting the peppers, then pouring really hot water on them.  We’re mean like that, but it’s what we have to do to make them soft and supple and red.  Oh yes.

Toast some spices while the peppers soften up.  Make them jump around a little bit.

Crush them however you can…  Mean words won’t work.  Try a rolling pin.

Then whirl it all in a food processor.

BOOM.  Hotspicyfreshfunky, just like you and me, amiright?  I mean, why else would we have monogrammed silverware that our momma gave us?

Harissa
(recipe from Saveur)

8 dried guajillo chiles (about 2 ounces)
8-10 dried New Mexico chiles (about 2 ounces)
1⁄2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1⁄4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1⁄4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried mint
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon

De-stem the dried chiles and shake out seeds.  Place in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water, then let stand for 20 minutes or so, until supple and softened.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium heat toast the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds, swirling constantly to avoid burning, until fragrant, about 4 minutes.  Grind in a spice grinder, or crush with a mortar and pestle (or a plastic bag and rolling pin, like I did).

Drain peppers and place them in a food processor with the ground spices, mint, olive oil, salt, garlic and lemon juice.  Process, scraping down the sides occasionally, until you have a smooth paste.  Transfer to a jar and top with a thin layer of additional olive oil–top it off this way each time you use it.  Store in the fridge.

This will make 1 cup, so if you’re looking for a full pint jar’s worth (as you would if you wanted to gift this or something), double the recipe.

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3 Responses to Harissa

  1. I love harissa…and basically any spicy-pepper condiment. it never occurred to me to make it myself. I’ll probably have to, now.

    P.S. Have you had gochujang? It’s a korean, fermented soy/pepper paste. It’s the pepper paste of my people, and tastes like spicy-sweet miso, but better.

  2. I’m on a Sriracha kick right now and if you say this is possibly your Sriracha replacement then I definitely have to try!