Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ancho-Tabasco Harissa

So, I like spicy foods. And salty foods. And foods with cumin. Inexplicably, the delicious North African condiment called harissa had alluded me until I tried it at the Schlafly Taproom in St. Louis. Their harissa, likely laced with mayo, took the spotlight from the sandwich it came with. This stuff was so good, I actually abandoned the malt vinegar I usually douse my fries with for it.
I can't find a consensus about what kind of dried chilis to use. I used what was available to me, and what I felt would compliment each other well--tabascos and anchos. The recipe that mine is based from, by Saveur, used guajillo chilis and New Mexico chilis.

Harissa (makes about 1 C)
  • 0.5 oz dried tabasco chilis, stemmed (seeds removed if you want less heat)
  • 1 oz dried ancho chilis, stemmed (seeds removed if you want less heat)
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp whole caraway seed
  • 1/2 tsp whole coriander seed
  • 3 Tbs olive oil, plus extra if needed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • salt to taste
1. Place the chilis in a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over them, cover. Let stand 20 mins. or til soft.
2. Place the cumin, caraway, and coriander in a small skillet over medium heat. Shake the skillet often. Heat til fragrant. Grind the spices.
3. Drain the peppers and place in a food processor. Add the spices, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to taste.
4. Puree until smooth. Add additional olive oil and salt if needed. Use sparingly as a substitute for many hot sauces. 
                                                      Love the smell of toasted spices!

Kitchen Notes: You have a lot of flexibility in the peppers you choose, go go based on what you like, and how much heat you prefer. This version is very spicy as I didn't remove the seeds. The original version called for half as much cumin, but I enjoy the flavor tremendously.

Verdict? I was questioning my choice of the tabasco and ancho chilis, but they complement each other well. The ancho has a mildly smoky flavor, the tabasco a sort of woodsy flavor. The garlic is very assertive. For someone who is not a raw garlic fan, roasted garlic would probably be good, though the flavor entirely different. I plan to incorporate into some hummus, and I'll report in.

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