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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Harissa Couscous

I have read several recipes in the past 6 months or so that call for harissa, a red hot chile paste from North Africa.  After searching high and low, I have not once come across this condiment at any grocery or speciality store in or around my area.  Naturally, I was happy to stumble across this article by Amy Scattergood of the LA Times, describing all the wonderful details of this ingredient, with a basic recipe included.  I tried my hand at making my own using guajillo and arbol chile peppers.  I must say, the result did not disappoint.

With the above article as a guide, I used a food processor to blend the rehydrated chiles with 1 large clove garlic, 1 teaspoon each of ground coriander and caraway seeds, 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, one roasted red pepper, 2 sun dried tomatoes and a big pinch of salt.

The options are endless when it comes to utilizing harissa.  The first thing I did was mix a spoonful of it into a cup of greek yogurt and chopped mint leaves, and used this as a dip for a few oven baked potato wedges.  Then I let it "mellow" overnight, in an air tight jar with a thin layer of olive oil across the top, followed by more experimentation the following evening...

Harissa Couscous
I used yellow split peas in this recipe, but they could certainly be substituted with chick peas, or any white bean you have on hand.  Also, because of the vast range of chile peppers and other ingredients that may be used in harissa pastes, be aware of the hotness you're adding before going overboard.  My blend of guajillo and arbol chiles turned out pretty mild, resulting in a mellow (but complex) flavor, with just a slight, but delightful, spicy undertone.  Lastly, if you are unable to locate harissa paste and don't want to make it yourself, try this recipe anyway.  You can substitute crushed red peppers flakes or ground cayenne pepper to taste.

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 cups cooked yellow split peas
  • 2 cups cooked whole wheat couscous
  • 1 large clove ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • zest of 1 lemon, juice of half the lemon
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed, coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup sliced and toasted almonds
  • a few chopped olives (optional)
1) Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until melted and fragrant.  Whisk in the harissa paste and blend very well.
2) Add the onion and saute just until it begins to soften (about three minutes).  Add the split peas (mix well), and the couscous (mix well), and dial heat down to low.
3) Mix in the garlic, ginger and salt.  Let this cook for a minute or two.
4) Remove heat and add the lemon zest and juice.  Taste to see if you need anymore salt or lemon.  Slice the remaining lemon half in to wedges and set aside.
5) Add half the cilantro and half of the almonds.  Stir gently.
5) Serve each bowl garnished with remaining cilantro, almonds, lemon wedges, and a few chopped olives if you wish.

Easily serves 6 as a side.

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