Harissa

  • 1 ounce smoked Serrano chilies
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin
  • 1 tablespoon preserved lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (if necessary)

Remove stems and soak dried chilies in hot tap water until soft. Add chilies and soaking water to blender or food processor. Put the dried spices into a small skillet and heat slowly until they become toasty and fragrant. Add to blender and blend on high until a reasonably smooth paste is produced. Add the preserved lemon (no need to rinse the salt) and blend while slowly adding about a 1/4 cup of olive oil to achieve a smooth, emulsified paste. Taste and salt if necessary. Kept submerged in olive oil in a sealed jar, the mixture will store well, refrigerated, for at least a month.

What to do with it?

Mix Harissa with drained yogurt, Greek yogurt or labne (Middle Eastern strained yogurt) and fresh mint as a marinade for meats or as a dip for pita chips.

Score the skin of an eggplant stem to stern about 1/2 inch apart, slice into 3/4 inch rounds and rub with the Harissa. Grill or bake until tender.

Toss potato wedges in it and roast in a hot oven until cooked and crispy or par-cook the same wedges, toss with Harissa, and grill until crispy.

Mix with more olive oil and vinegar as a vinaigrette for salads or marinade for olives.