There are recipes for certain things that I will always try—coffee cakes, for instance. If you write a recipe that has coffee and cake in the title it is likely I will make your recipe. Scones and shortbread cookies are also on this list. My list is mostly sweets. But hot sauces claim a spot. Hot sauces are great because they are easy to share, so if you make too much you can give it to a friend. They also keep well so they can improve your everyday eating for weeks or months.
Even within the category of spicy sauces, harissa holds a particular allure. I have 3 or 4 recipes that I really love and all approach the task from fairly disparate directions. I am particularly fond of this recipe from one of the most charming cookbooks of 2014, A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus. Renee Erickson’s recipe requires some ingredients that you will likely have to seek out, and some time. But you are rewarded with jars of a stellar harissa to share or hoard. Now if the perfect time to make this recipe because it will last much of the summer and spices up any vegetable you might be grilling or egg you might be scrambling. It isn’t much work, mostly measuring and blending, but manages to satisfy.
Erickson suggests this be made in a food processor, but mine is not large enough. I make mine in batches using a blender and puree it smoother than the recipe calls for (harissa generally has more texture than what you see if the photos). This makes a big batch, maybe 4 or 5 cups?
Rose Petal Harissa (from A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus by Renee Erickson and Jess Thomson)
- 6 ounces dried guajillo chilis
- 3 ounces dried aji amarillo chilis (aji mirasol)
- 1/3 cup whole caraway seeds
- 1/4 cup whole cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds
- 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tablespoon dried rose petals
- 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice (about 10-12 medium limes)
- 1/2-1 1/2 teaspoons rose water (rose water varies in strength, so taste and adjust)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for storing
- 2 – 3 tablespoons kosher salt
Place all of the chilis in a large pot and add boiling water to cover. Over high heat, return the water to a boil, then remove the pot from the heat, weigh the chilis with a smaller pan to ensure they are all submerged, and allow them to sit, covered, for about 24 hours, or until they are soft. (This only took me about 12 hours, this will vary depending on how soft chilies are.)
Next, put the caraway, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook the seeds for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they are toasted and fragrant, and some of them begin popping. Transfer the spices to a plate to cool.
When the spices are cool, transfer them to the work bowl of a food processor (or blender-see note above), and whirl until the spices are ground almost to a powder. Add the garlic and rose petals, and pulse 10 times to form a dry paste.
Working with gloves on if you are sensitive to spice, pull the stems out of the chilis and add the chilis to the food processor, along with any water that comes along for the ride. (Discard stems, but reserve chili soaking water.) Add 1 1/4 cups of the lime juice and the rose water, and whirl until the chilis are very finely chopped., stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. This might take as long as 5 minutes, depending on the machine you are using, you are looking for the texture of small curd cottage cheese. If the mixture is too thick to whirl around the processor, add a little of the reserved chili soaking water until the mixture moves.
When the chilis are finely chopped, add 1/2 cup of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the salt, and mix again to blend. Taste for seasoning, adding more of the lime juice and salt, if desire. Store in pint-sized jars, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to seal, and store in fridge for up to 2 months.