How many times have I been won over by a picture and new recipe only to discover it calls for harissa? Even in tiny amounts this Mediterranean pepper paste packs a bright and spicy punch. To leave out the harissa totally changes a dish, and usually not for the better. If you are like me, harissa never makes it to your shopping list. Even if it does, you are not likely to find harissa a common offering at your local grocery, depending on where you live, of course. The closest place for us to purchase harissa is two hours away. We needed another solution.
After some research I began to realize that there are as many harissa recipes as there are cooks to prepare it. How wonderful! You can come up with your own, which is what I did. The recipe below has been influenced by such stunning chefs as Anna Sortun and Yotam Ottolenghi. Reading through their recipes as well as a number of others, I began developing a sense of flavors and textures common to harissa mixtures.
The great breakthrough for me came when I made peace with the fact that we were in the dead of winter and sweet red peppers were not available…except in bottles. I am not one to indulge bottled peppers but I found these at a great discount and just went for it.
This harissa with a base of bottled red peppers got rave reviews. Finger-licking good! The debut was mid-February and the harissa tasted like mid-July. Glorious!
A time saver for me has been to double or triple the amount of harissa needed for a dish. The extra harissa gets frozen in ice cube trays, then transferred to freezer bags. It is so handy!
Harissa is good for about 12-14 days if kept in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. To freeze it, follow the suggestion offered in the post above.