Wake up your taste buds with our fiery home made harissa hot pepper paste.
Harissa [hah-REE-suh] has become my favorite hot sauce. I use it on everything from fajitas to stews, soups, couscous, fish, and meats. It’s great mixed in mayo, ketchup, and BBQ sauce. Use it full strength or thin it with olive oil. So versatile. So good. So easy to make your own flavorful homemade version.
If made properly, it is a very deep, rich, complex paste, much more interesting than any bottled hot sauce. You can buy it in cans, jars, and even tubes, but it is easy to make.
The ancient recipe may be from North African, or the Middle East, or maybe even Albania, and there is no single definitive recipe. A few years ago, harissa was unknown in the US except in Middle Eastern and North African communities. Nowadays it is hard to pick up a cooking mag without reading a recipe that calls for it. You can use it straight on meats and veggies or any place you would use a hot sauce (it is especially good on lamb or shrimp), mixed with mayo, in marinades, sauces, dressings, in stews, on corn, let your imagination roll.
In the picture below is a batch I made with a mix of both red and green chiles, but you can make it bright red by using only red peppers.
About the peppers. Smoked red jalapeños are called chipotles, and can be bought dried or in a can with a sauce called adobo. You can use either. Anchos are usually only available in dried form. Chipotles and anchos are easy to find in any store that serves a Latino community, or online. You can even use any other hot chili that you want. They are made by simply cutting fresh home-grown green jalapeños in half, discarding the stems and seeds (why does this expression sound familiar?), and smoking at about 200°F until dry, but still pliable. Keep the temp under 212°F, boiling temp, in order to dehydrate rather than roast.About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Fire up. Prepare a grill for high heat cooking.
Cook. Cut the bell peppers in half and grill them over high heat until the skin blackens.
Prep. Put them in a bowl and cover for about 10 minutes. The steam will make peeling the skin easier. When they cool, peel or scrape off the skin with a serrated knife. Don't worry if you don't get it all off.
Wear gloves and break off the stems of the dried anchos and chipotles and trash them. Cut them open, scrape out the seeds, and trash them too. Put the rest in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 30 minutes, then drain.
Blend everything in a food processor. Taste and adjust as you see fit. Don't be afraid to add more oil if it is too thick, but be careful with the lemon juice. Add enough to brighten the flavor, but too much can happen fast.
Serve. Serve immediately with any dish you want to spice up or put it in a jar and refrigerate.
Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.
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