MOROCCAN HARISSAA fixture on Moroccan tables, harissa is a spicy red pepper condiment. As we grow a variety of peppers each year, the garden and how the peppers taste tend to determine the proportion of different types of peppers. I use some sweet red bell peppers for a solid pepper background taste, and then build on that with hotter varieties.
• 2 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
• 10-12 hot red chiles - jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne, arboles, serranos... whatever's fresh, wonderful and available
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
• 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
• Salt - probably a teaspoon but if you're salt-phobic, use 1/2 tsp
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
Roast and peel the bell peppers.
Don't peel the hot peppers. Get rid of the hard stem bits and roughly chop the rest, including the seeds.
Put the caraway, coriander and cumin seeds in a small dry skillet, turn on the gas to medium-high, and when you start to smell the spices, shake the pan as though you're making popcorn the old-fashioned way. When they start to smell again, set the pan aside to cool.
Put everything except the olive oil in a food processor (or mortar and pestle or blender if you don't have a processor) and let 'er rip. Add enough olive oil - slowly - to make the harissa about the texture of a thick spaghetti sauce. Put it in a jar, smooth the top and pour a film of olive oil over it. Refrigerate until you use it up.
Hint: For your guests who reach for water to put out the heat - milk or cheese or a piece of bread work much better. Water just spreads it around.
Roasting and peeling peppers:
Place each pepper over an open gas flame on your stove if you have gas, or under the broiler, or on a grill.
Char the skin - get it blackened - then run the pepper under cold water, peeling off the skin as you go.
Pull or cut out the stem, seeds and membrane.
Some recipes will tell you to put the blackened peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, or in a plastic bag. This steams them so the skins loosen and come off, but it also changes the flavor and texture of the peppers. For this recipe, fresher and sweeter red peppers combine with the hot peppers to give a complex layered flavor.
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