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Harissa

Harissa

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Makes about 1 cup.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a World Kitchen recipe

Harissa is a fiery-hot chile-spice paste that is common in Moroccan cooking. It is Tunesian in origin. You’ll probably only find it in Middle Eastern markets here in the USA. I am not a fan of spicy hot food. So I make my own harissa with mild chili powder. You can make your own harissa too, if you don’t mind doing a little extra work. The difficulty is in finding, or grinding, the herbs and spices. You’ll need either a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee mill (coffee bean grinder). I have both and I much prefer using the mill. It’s easier on my hands and wrists.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons chili powder (I prefer sweet California mild chili powder)
1 tablespoon dried mint leaves (you can dry fresh mint by hanging it by a string for several days)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground caraway seeds (this might be difficult to find; so grind your own)
10 garlic cloves
½ cup (125ml) olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste

Directions:

Ideally, you would own a second coffee mill that you use only for herbs and spices. A small food processor will also work.

Grind the mint leaves into a powder. Grind the caraway seeds (if you cannot find them ground). Combine all the spices and garlic in a food processor and add part of the oil. Blend well. Add the remaining oil and the tomato paste and blend again. This mixture will keep for months in the refrigerator if stored in a properly cleaned and sanitized jar.

Wash a jar and lid in hot soapy water. Do not use your kitchen sponge or cloth, which is usually the most bacteria filled item in your kitchen. Use a clean paper towel as a wash cloth. Rinse the jar and lid in hot water, but keep your fingers out of it. Place the jar and lid, upside-down, in an oven set to low, about 150°F to 170°F (65°C to 75°C) and let dry 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Place the harissa in the jar, smoothing the top, and then pour a thin pool of olive oil over the top to act as a barrier. Keep refrigerated.