Harissa (Recipe: Moroccan carrot salad)
An updated post from 2006, with a new recipe, photos and links.
The chile peppers on the can gave it away.
Before I even knew what harissa was, I knew it was hot.
Head-sweating, hair-tingling, tongue-numbing, nose-dripping hot.
And I love hot.
Harissa, one of the fundamental condiments of Tunisian and Algerian cuisine, is a blazing hot pepper paste that usually includes chile peppers, coriander, cumin, caraway and garlic. It somewhat resembles Indonesian sambal oelek, which makes a good substitute and is easy to find in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets. Especially popular in North Africa, where it's used as both spice and condiment, harissa kicks up couscous, fish, lamb stews, chicken, and bean dishes.
If you can't find harissa in your market, buy it online, or make your own. Be sure to stick to small quantities; a little goes a long way, and you'll want to use it before it loses potency. Store harissa in the refrigerator; it will keep for months.
With your own stash, try harissa spaghettini, marinated tri-tip, cinnamon harissa turkey (this would be so good for Thanksgiving), or seven-vegetable couscous with chunky onion harissa. Or mix a teaspoon of harissa in two cups of Greek yogurt to make a lively dipping sauce for raw vegetables.
Moroccan carrot salad
A variation of a salad taught to me many years ago by the Moroccan woman who owned the dry cleaner around the corner from our house, this salad tastes better if made a day ahead. Serves 4-6.
1 lb carrots, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater, or in a food processor
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp harissa, or more to taste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
12 pitted black olives, cut in half
Place the grated carrots in a microwave-proof bowl, with 1/2 tsp water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and cook on high for 30 seconds. Uncover and drain the water.
In a small nonstick frying pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic, and stir for 15 seconds. Add cumin, salt, agave, turmeric, and harissa, and stir for 1 minute until a paste forms. Add to the carrots along with lemon zest and juice. Stir, cover the bowl, and chill for several hours or overnight.
When you're ready to serve, remove carrots from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Then, toss the carrots with parsley, feta and olives.