I've had a hankering for harissa lately. The spicy and aromatic chile paste that is widely used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking adds a kick of spice to any meal, from soups and stews to roasted vegetables to salads and even in marinades for proteins. Add it to hummus or your favorite dip or simply add to olive oil for bread dipping bliss.
Harissa recipes vary depending on the country of origin but a typical version includes hot chile peppers which are often smoked (similar to my love of the New Mexican Hatch chile pepper), garlic, olive oil and spices like cumin, coriander, caraway and mint. You can also find tomatoes and rose petals among the ingredients in some versions.
Harissa can be found in jars, tubes and cans. I prefer the tubes of harissa paste because a small quantity goes a long way, however I recently finished my last tube and could only find jars in my local grocery store. Some harissa pastes/sauces can be quite hot, but you can also make it yourself and adjust the heat to your liking. More on that later!
In addition to flavor, heat and smokiness, harissa adds a vibrant red color to your food. One of my favorite ways to use it is with roasted vegetables, particularly Brussels sprouts.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash, trim and halve the Brussels sprouts and place on a sheet tray.
Toss with a little extra virgin olive oil and some harissa sauce. The more you like heat, the more harissa you should add.
Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until the Brussels sprouts are caramelized.
Plate and enjoy! These would go great with this Moroccan braised chicken.
When you don't have time to let a soup simmer for hours, let harissa come to the rescue! It packs a punch right out of the jar and with chickpeas from a can, this Chickpea Harissa Soup recipe came together in just minutes.
Another of my favorite ways to use harissa is in vinaigrettes. This Roasted Carrot and Fennel Salad with Feta and Harissa Vinaigrette was recently featured in The Chopping Block's Vegetarian Mediterranean class. It was a big hit with our students so give it a try, and I'll bet you will be a fan too!
Roasted Carrot and Fennel Salad with Feta and Harissa Vinaigrette
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 4-6 servings as a side
Active time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: 50 minutes
1 pound carrots, peeled
2 bulbs fennel, quartered
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon or whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon honey
3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste
Fine sea salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
2. Place the carrots and fennel on a sheet tray, and toss them with the olive oil and coriander. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roast the carrots and fennel, stirring once, until they are caramelized on the outside, and tender on the inside, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. While the vegetables are roasting prepare the vinaigrette. In a medium-size bowl whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, cumin, shallot, Dijon mustard and honey.
5. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking rapidly to create an emulsion. Whisk in the harissa, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Cut the carrots on a deep bias, and cut the fennel into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a bowl. Dress with just enough of the harissa vinaigrette to coat, and top with a sprinkling of feta cheese.
7. Serve warm or room temperature.
If you don't like a lot of heat traditional harissa contains, you can make your own with this guide to homemade harissa and tone down the spice.
But if you can take the heat, don't miss out on these upcoming classes that feature fiery dishes:
- Virtual Kung Pao Shrimp Friday, May 12 6pm CST
- Hands-On Family Night: Nashville Hot Chicken Saturday, May 13 6pm
- Hands-On Date Night: Jamaica Me Crazy Friday, June 23 6pm