Saturday, May 9, 2015

Trying Out Harissa

Ever had harissa? I haven't really had the North African spice mix much before, if at all, myself. Maybe I did and just didn't know what it was, but I've started hearing about it a little more recently, and ordered some powdered harissa, rather than make my own blend. Turns out you can buy it in paste form already, but it's not hard to just heat the powder with oil and garlic.

So what do I think? Well, the pan-roasted chicken with harissa chickpeas pictured above and below was really delicious. Here's the recipe I followed, except I just added a heaping tablespoon of harissa powder instead of a 1/4 cup of prepared paste. Seemed to work well. And as you'll notice below, I had lime on hand rather than lemon, but the citrusy acid worked just fine.

This was actually the second thing I'd tried using my harissa powder in, with the first being some other random weeknight concoction of mine. In that dish, though, I found the harissa to be a little jarring. But the tomato paste in this Bon Appetit recipe linked above I found to be just the thing to balance out the sharp aspects of the harissa and make for a great, rounded savory flavor. Good thing I have a tube of the stuff, and that it keeps well. I think I'll try using harissa in some lentil and other applications.

Basically, though, I think harissa works best with something to balance out its sharpness. That could be tomato (which has a sweetness to it), or yogurt in a marinade, or mayo for a condiment, or using it as a strong flavor spice rub on a savory meat where the richness (as with yogurt and mayo) helps to cut the sharpness, or other vegetables with a sweet flavor profile.

I don't think bread is a typical accompaniment in Tunisian/North African cuisine...? But I made a loaf of my gluten-free bread (occasionally working through iterations still, but it's tasty) since I was going to be using the oven for pan-roasting anyway, and used the bread to soak up some of that delicious broth. Rice would've been great, too. I don't eat couscous, of course, because it is a type of wheat.


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