Harissa, the exciting dark red concoction made from hot peppers, olive oil and various spices, is found in most all Middle Eastern restaurants and homes. You might call it “Tunisia’s Tabasco.” Not a hot sauce, harissa reminds one of a hot relish, and it is spooned, rather than squirted or drizzled. You can dip anything into it, slather it onto most anything or make recipes almost totally different with just a dab of it.
You can make your own harissa, which seems like a time-waster, unless you are a control freak. Rather, purchase it, then start your creative cooking from there. Harissa comes in jars, which we recommend, or you can purchase it in tubes and other types of containers.
According to Paula Wolfert, author of the cookbook, The Food of Morocco, “Guajillo and New Mexican chiles are the closest to the Nabeul and Gabes chiles used in Tunesia.”
Chilis originated in Mexico, a prize of the Mayans and Aztecs, while the Incas in Peru also tinkered with growing different chilis. However, it took Columbus and his other voyaging explorer friends to carry chili seeds back to Europe, after which it was adapted in the Mediterranean area then the Middle East where they put their identity onto it to compliment the foods of their culture.
Store harrissa for a month, or two, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator. Covering the top with a layer of olive oil only serves to enhance its taste.
SERVING AND COOKING SUGGESTIONS
- Ahi tuna on panini
- Egg salad
- Meat, fish accompaniment
- Rice cooker
- Rub ingredient
- Shrimp sauce
- Spaghetti sauce
- Stir fry
- Yogurt flavoring
Below are foodsites with more suggestions for using harrissa.