There are probably as many recipes for this fiery North African condiment as there are cooks who make it. This is my version. Traditionally it has a coarser consistency but I prefer it smooth so put it through a blender rather than a food processor (no doubt it was originally made with a mortar and pestle). The applications for harissa are also many. While I ate it with roast and fresh vegetables this evening it is equally at home with meat, poultry, and fish. The process is simple...roast the peppers over an open flame (click here to see how), toast the seeds in a skillet, then place everything in a blender and puree it. The simple recipe is below.


Makes about 1 ½ cups

2 red bell peppers
2 serrano peppers
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
½ teaspoons whole coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon whole caraway seeds
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt

Place the bell peppers and serrano peppers directly on the flame of a gas stove or grill or wood fired grill. Cook the peppers over a medium flame, turning frequently, until their skins are charred black. Transfer them to a small bowl and cover with a lid or plate to allow them to steam and release their skins. After 5 or 10 minutes, remove their skins, seeds, and stems under cold running water and over a colander. Discard the skins, seeds, and stems. Transfer the peppers to a blender. Place the cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds in a dry skillet over medium high heat and toast them for a few minutes while shaking the pan. When they begin to smoke and change color add them to the blender with the peppers. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender—the garlic, tomato paste, olive oil, lemon juice, smoked paprika, and salt—then run the blender on high for a couple minutes. Scrape the sides then run the blender for another minute. Transfer the harissa to a suitable container and refrigerate until needed.