Harissa is a spicy and aromatic chili sauce, commonly found in the cooking of the North African countries of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. The basic recipe calls for hot peppers, garlic, salt, olive oil and spices. This version from Vedge , a vegetarian restaurant in Philadelphia, uses green jalapenos, onions, garlic, a generous amount of fresh cilantro, along with dried coriander and cumin. Cilantro haters can substitute parsley or half parsley and half fresh spinach. Some mint might be interesting in the mix.
The original recipe called for 2 jalapenos, one was enough for my palate, remember you can always add more heat, it’s harder to take it away. It’s a good idea to wear gloves when handling chilies. Chili oil on sensitive parts of your body (hands, lips, eyes etc.) will burn for a long time. Chili oil is not water soluble, it’s fat soluble. So if you get some on your hands, rub some cooking oil into your hands before washing with soap and water.
Serve green harissa as a sauce for grilled vegetables and fish, lamb burgers, an unconventional taco topping, the possibilities are endless.
Makes 1 cup
2 c loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 c finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
2 jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed
2 T or more olive oil
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 t ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
1 t salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t sugar
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
I’ve been putting the harissa I made back in September to good use with this recipe that combines browned chicken thighs and chickpeas with a tomato broth infused with onion, garlic and harissa. Harissa is a spicy garlicky condiment native to the cuisines of the northwest African countries of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The recipe varies by country, ethnicity and even neighborhood. My recipe for harissa included fresh sweet and chile peppers, fragrant spices like coriander, cumin and caraway, dried mint, lemon, garlic and olive oil. You can add some to bring an unexpected kick to a tomato sauce, toss with roasted vegetables, stir into hummus or make this middle eastern inspired chicken dish.
I love cooking chicken thighs for a week night dinner. They are not temperamental like the boneless skinless chicken breast that has its brief moment of juiciness, then dries out and disappoints when held for any length of time. Chicken thighs, no matter what preparation you choose, will wait patiently in a warm oven if dinner is delayed. A combination of chicken thighs and legs works well in this recipe also.
Begin this preparation by finding the correct pan. You will need a heavy bottomed, oven proof skillet that fits comfortably in your oven. No plastic handles please, many skillets are marked oven proof on the bottom. Keep a pot holder over the oven door lest you forget and touch the very hot handle with your unprotected hands. I know because I have done it. Preheat the oven to 425°F or as I do, 400°F for convection cooking. Heat the oil over medium high heat and swirl the pan around to evenly distribute the oil. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces and add skin side down to the hot skillet. You may need to do this step in two batches. If you crowd the chicken it will steam, not brown. Brown the chicken on the first side for about five minutes, or until golden and crisp, resist peeking too soon or the skin may tear. Turn on the other side and cook an additional four to five minutes. Add all the browned chicken pieces to a plate and keep warm. Empty all the drippings from the pan except about a tablespoon full into a small metal bowl or glass measuring cup. Hot oil will eat right through that empty plastic yogurt container you considered using and then you will have the additional clean up of hot drippings on your countertop.
Add onion and garlic to your now empty skillet, cook, stirring often until softened, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring until it begins to darken, about 1 minute. Add the chick peas, harissa and chicken broth and bring the pan to a simmer. As much as I love fresh chickpeas, canned ones are fine for this recipe. They soak up the flavors in this dish and take on a nutty quality. Harissa, can be found in different forms. I’ve seen a powdered version that needs to be reconstituted, a jarred version, a paste in a tube and one that comes in the kind of container hummus comes in. Whatever version you buy or make, it is important to taste it before adding it to the dish. The recipe calls for a quarter cup of harissa and even though the other ingredients round out the flavor a bit, it is best to hold back if you think it will make the dish too spicy. It’s easier to add more at the end of the cooking time.
I have made this recipe several times on a weeknight which classifies it as a keeper for me. I like the fact that it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, and most are pantry staples. Since it is finished in the oven, you have time to make a salad or cook a vegetable while the chicken cooks. I have added vegetables when the dish goes in the oven, for me, end of season baby eggplants, I think quartered Brussels sprouts or small florets of cauliflower would work as well.
Pan Roasted Chicken with Harissa and Chickpeas
1 T olive oil
3 lb bone in chicken thighs (6-8 thighs)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 T tomato paste
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed
¼ c or more to taste harissa paste
½ c low sodium chicken broth
¼ c chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.
Pour off all but 1 T drippings from the pan. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until beginning to darken, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas, harissa and broth; bring to a simmer.
Nestle chicken, skin side up, in chickpeas; transfer skillet to oven. Roast until the chicken is cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Top with parsley and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
The challenge facing us in late summer/early fall is preserving the harvest. A prime example is hot peppers. In tropical climates they thrive as perennials and can grow for many years. It would be great if I could just walk down to the garden in January to pick a few fresh jalapenos. But given the fact that January temperatures where we live are below freezing and pepper plants prefer a daytime temperature of 65-80°F, it won’t be happening anytime soon . So it is necessary to find methods of preservation now to enjoy them later while the peppers are at their peak. Every year I freeze whole peppers, dry them, make chili flakes, pickle jalapenos, I’m even making sriracha now, but a new method is always welcome.
A very simple recipe I found for eggplant, another garden stalwart, suggested topping grilled slices with prepared harissa and yogurt. In the past I purchased harissa in a jar or a tube at the middle eastern stand at the local farmers market. This time I decided to see if this was something I could make myself. Harissa, is a garlicky spicy condiment found in the Northwest African countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. It can be used as a condiment for meat or fish, roasted vegetables, stirred into soups and stews and served alongside couscous. Think sriracha with more complexity. It’s ingredients can include roasted peppers, garlic, chile peppers of all varieties, fragrant spices such as coriander, cumin and caraway, dried mint, lemon and olive oil. There is no one master recipe for harissa. The ingredients in harissa vary by country, ethnicity, even neighborhood. You can adjust the heat by the number and type of chilies you use, just remember, harissa is supposed to be hot.
My recipe is a little different from most since I used fresh hot peppers, not dried ones that need to be reconstituted. This meant using double the amount of peppers. I used one red bell pepper, four mild poblano peppers and a mix of jalapeno, cayenne and ancho. I added a little tomato paste for sweetness, preserved lemon peel with just a little juice, chopped garlic, smoked paprika and an aromatic spice blend. I think the spice blend is what really gives this dish its unique flavor. Whole spices, coriander, cumin and caraway are toasted in a small skillet until the fragrance fills your kitchen. I find it easiest to grind them in a mortar and pestle, a mini food processor doesn’t quite give the consistency you are looking for.
All the peppers need to be charred to remove the skin. I did this in a hot oven, turning occasionally to blacken all the sides. I put the charred peppers in a bowl and covered it tightly with plastic wrap to steam the peppers. It is important for to wear rubber gloves when removing the skin, seeds and stem from the hot peppers. Conventional wisdom for years has said that the hottest part of the pepper is the seeds. A recent study however has shown that even though the seeds pack some heat, it’s actually the placenta, the white tissue that holds the seeds that is the source of the most heat. As you peel the peppers put them into piles, no heat, some heat and hottest. That way you can hold back on some of the hottest peppers until you are certain the sauce will be palatable for you.
Combine the chilies, toasted spices, garlic, salt and other optional ingredients in a food processor. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you have a smooth, thick paste. Scrape down the sides occasionally. Taste, now is the time to add that extra pepper if desired. As I said before, harissa is supposed to be hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer harissa to clean jars, top with a thin layer of olive oil and store in the refrigerator for several weeks. Since I freeze pesto I may try to see if harissa can be frozen too.
As a postscript, the harissa received immediate approval from Joe who topped cucumber slices with harissa as an after work snack.
Makes 2 cups
1 medium bell pepper
8 to 10 ounces fresh chili peppers of varying heat, poblano, ancho, jalapeno, cayenne
2 t cumin seed
2 t coriander seed
2 t caraway seed
3 to 4 cloves of peeled garlic
1 T tomato paste
1 t preserved lemon peel
1 t juice from preserved lemon
1 t smoked paprika
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
3-4 T extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 425°F.Line a baking sheet with foil. Place all the peppers on the baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
Turn the smaller peppers over and roast for another 10 minutes, until the skins are blackened. Remove them to a bowl. Turn the bell and poblano peppers over and roast for another 10-15 minutes, until the skins are blackened.
Remove all the peppers to the bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap to steam the skin.
Place the cumin, coriander and caraway seed into a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast until seeds have darkened a bit and have become fragrant.
Pour toasted seeds into the bowl of a mortar and pestle. Crush seeds to a powder.
Using rubber gloves to protect your hands, stem, skin and seed the peppers.
Place the peppers (hold back a few hot ones if you are concerned), toasted seeds, garlic, tomato paste, preserved lemon peel and juice, smoked paprika into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine the ingredients, scraping down the sides.
With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until you have a smooth, thick paste. Taste, add salt and pepper to your liking and pulse in the extra peppers if desired.
Transfer harissa to clean jars and top with a thin layer of olive oil. Store in the refrigerator for several months.
The slow cooker I received as a Christmas gift from my hubby has inspired me to look for new and great tasting recipes that utilize this handy appliance. Many of the recipes that interest me start with chicken thighs. They are an inexpensive cut of meat, full of flavor and hold up well to slow cooking. This easy to assemble chicken stew gets great flavor from smoked paprika, oregano and just a dash of saffron. The original recipe from The Great American Slow Cooker Book called for bone in skinless chicken thighs that went directly in the slow cooker. I like to brown the meat first, it only takes a few minutes and I think adds a real depth of flavor. Also, I leave the skin on, I think it protects the meat, whether you choose to eat it or not.
The recipe is so simple. Drained diced tomatoes, chickpeas, onion, parsley and spices are stirred together in the slow cooker. A paste of garlic, oregano, salt and olive oil is rubbed on the thighs, whether you have browned them first or decide to go the skinless route. Place the thighs in the cooker. Set your timer for 4 hours on high or low for 7 hours. I put the thighs under the broiler for a crispy skin. Serve with toasted Israeli couscous with pine nuts and apricots for a delicious satisfying supper. Definitely a recipe I will make again.
Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and Tomatoes
1¼ c drained canned diced tomatoes
1¼ c drained and rinsed chickpeas
3/4c chopped onion
¼c minced parsley leaves
1 t smoked paprika
½ t ground cloves
½ t ground cumin
¼ t ground cinnamon
¼ t saffron threads
¼ t freshly ground black pepper
2 t dried oregano
2 T olive oil, one for the pan and one for the paste
2 t minced garlic
1 t salt
3 lb bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
Stir the tomatoes, chickpeas, onion, parsley, paprika, cloves, cinnamon, saffron and pepper in a 4 to 5½ quart slow cooker.
Warm a large skillet set over medium high heat and swirl in the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs skin side down, as many as will fit in the pan without crowding. Brown on one side, about 4-6 minutes, turn over and brown another 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and continue browning in batches. Alternately, remove the skin and place thighs directly in the slow cooker.
Mix the oregano, olive oil, garlic and salt into a paste and rub a little on each chicken thigh. Set them into the cooker until they are submerged about halfway.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 7 hours.
If desired, remove the thighs from the cooker and broil for about 2 minutes to crisp up the skin.
As a lover of all things related to food and cooking, I am especially pleased when I discover something new, at least new to me. In the tradition of herb and olive oil based sauces like pesto and chimichurri, chermoula is a sauce that originates from Morocco and other North African countries. It is a tangy blend of fresh herbs and spices, lemon and olive oil.
It is traditionally used to season fish but pairs equally as well with chicken or grilled vegetables. It can be both a dry spice mixture or more commonly, an herb sauce. I used it both ways in this recipe. First, as the rub for the chicken and then as the sauce to serve with the chicken. If you like, preserved lemon peel or a pinch of saffron would be a welcome addition to the mix. If you don’t like cilantro, either change the proportions of cilantro and parsley or eliminate it altogther. Traditionally, like pesto, this was made in a mortar and pestle but a mini food processor makes quick work of the recipe. I cooked these indoors on a grill pan, if I were cooking on an outdoor grill I would prefer whole chicken pieces. Friendly to many diets, chermoula is a sauce worth discovering.
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Chermoula Sauce
Ingredients for marinated chicken
4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
4 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4T olive oil
1t ground cumin
1t ground coriander
1t garlic powder
1t sweet paprika
Ingredients for the Chermoula Sauce
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 c coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 c coarsely chopped parsley (flat is my preference, but curly works too)
1 T + 2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t sweet paprika
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4t cayenne pepper (optional)
1/8t saffron threads (optional)
4 -5 T olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Trim all fat and sinew from chicken breasts. Place chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and with the flat edge of a mallet, pound to an even thickness, season generously with kosher salt. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil and spices to make the marinade. Put chicken pieces inside a Ziploc bag or plastic container with a snap-tight lid, pour marinade over and let chicken marinate in the refrigerator 4-6 hours, turning bag occasionally.
To make the chermoula sauce, put chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, chopped parsley, lemon juice, sweet paprika, and ground cumin, cayenne and saffron (if using) in food processor and pulse to combine. Add the 4 T olive oil and pulse just enough to get it mixed in, then taste to see if you want the other tablespoon of oil and add it if you want a milder sauce. (Don’t over-process; the mixture is not supposed to be smooth.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
To cook the chicken in a grill pan, spray grill pan with nonstick grill spray or brush with oil and preheat grill pan to high (you can only hold your hand there for a few seconds at that heat.) Let chicken come to room temperature while the pan heats.
To get criss-cross grill marks, lay the chicken top-side down at a diagonal across the grill pan and let it cook until well-defined grill marks are showing, about 3-4 minutes. It’s okay to lift a corner to check. Turn the chicken so it’s going the opposite way at an angle to the grill grates and cook about 3-4 more minutes. Then turn chicken over and cook 4-5 minutes on the second side, or until chicken is firm but not hard to the touch.Serve chicken hot, with Charmoula Sauce spooned over.
Sweet tart apricots combine with plump juicy olives in this Moroccan inspired dish. It’s quick enough for a weeknight but is special enough to serve to guests. The blend of Moroccan inspired spices, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and ginger give the dish a wonderful aroma. Toasting your own spices brings out the flavor even more.
Smoked paprika or pimenton de la Vera is not the paprika that many of us have been cooking with for years. Pimenton originates from the La Vera region of southwest Spain. Chilis are smoke dried over fires that are kindled with the local oak logs. The dried pepper can range from sweet (dulce) to hot (picante). This recipe uses the sweet version that has the mildest amount of heat.
Cerignolas are my olives of choice in this dish. I can usually find them at the supermarket olive bar at Wegmans. Cerignolas are a large, meaty olive that originate from the town of Cerignola in the province of Puglia, Italy. They are milder in flavor because they are cured in lye, yes, like drain cleaner lye, there is a recipe here. I prefer the green Cerignola but they also come in black and red. The red color is the result of food coloring and never seemed quite natural to me. Cerignolas always come with the pit. To remove the pit, place olives on a cutting board and whack lightly with the side of a chef’s knife. The pit pulls out easily.
Don’t over plump your apricots. Five minutes is long enough for just purchased dried apricots, any longer may turn the apricots to mush. The apricot balsamic vinegar is a worthwhile addition to the dish. It adds a richness and nicely compliments the flavors in the dish. Serve with couscous and a green vegetable.
Moroccan Chicken with Apricot-Olive Relish
adapted from a recipe in Food and Wine Magazine
Serves three or two with leftovers
2t cumin seeds
1t coriander seeds
2T apricot balsamic vinegar (if not using, increase honey to 3T)
1/4c canola oil plus 1T canola oil
1T grated fresh ginger
3T fresh lemon juice
1 clove minced garlic
1t smoked Spanish paprika or sweet pimenton de la Vera
1t kosher salt
1/2t freshly ground black pepper
6 chicken thighs on the bone, with skin (about 2 to 2 1/4 lb)
1c dried apricots
2 medium thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as Cerignola or Picholine
2T chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 375F
Toast cumin and coriander in a small saute pan over medium heat until slightly browned and fragrant. Remove from heat, cool and grind in spice grinder or small food processor.
In a bowl, whisk the honey, apricot vinegar, 1/4c canola oil, lemon juice, grated ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, smoked paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken in one layer in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade and pour the rest over the chicken. Turn to coat pieces. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, turning once.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, pour boiling water over the apricots to cover and let stand until plump, about 6 minutes.
Remove chicken from marinade. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium high in a large saute pan. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, brown the chicken well all over, about 3 minutes per side, transferring each batch to a plate.
Return chicken to the baking dish, cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the apricots, olives and reserved marinade and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately high heat until the marinade is thickened and glazes the apricots and olives, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.
Transfer chicken to plates, top with apricot olive relish and serve.