Harissa is North Africa’s favorite hot sauce. The word for this fiery Tunisian chile paste is derived from the Arabic verb harasa, “to pound” because it is traditionally made with mortar and pestle. I like to make it in a blender. Add it directly to a dish as it’s cooking, or offer it on the side with the Moroccan Slow Cooker Tofu recipe below. Harissa can also be used as a rub for grilled vegetables such as eggplant.
Here’s how to make my harissa:
10 to 12 dried red Arbol chile peppers (chopped)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped )
¼ cup fresh mint (chopped)
½ cup fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the chiles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
While chiles are rehydrating, toast all three seeds in a dry pan (no oil) for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and grind to a powder using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Place the drained chiles in a food processor along with toasted seeds. Add the garlic, mint, cilantro, and salt to the food processor and pulse-blend for a couple of minutes.
Change the blender speed to medium and with the blender running, drizzle enough of the olive oil into the blender to make a stiff paste. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Moroccan Tofu Ingredients:
1 Moroccan preserved lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
16 ounces firm organic tofu (patted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 large onion (chopped fine)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger (grated)
¼ teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (crumbled)
3 sprigs each of parsley and cilantro (tied into a bouquet garni)
2½ cups vegetable broth
½ cup green olives (chopped)
Moroccan Tofu Directions:
Turn a slow cooker onto high heat and cover.
Add the olive oil to the slow cooker. Then add the tofu, onions, garlic, ginger, cardamon, salt and pepper, turmeric, saffron, bouquet garni, and vegetable broth to the slow cooker. Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon and remove the peel. Finely chop the peel and set peel aside. Add flesh of the preserved lemon to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.
Add the preserved lemon peel and the green olives. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for another 2 hours.
Serve with Moroccan bread, if you can find it, and harissa as a condiment. If you can’t find Moroccan bread, a fresh loaf of Ciabatta bread works just as well.