Harissa is a paste from North Africa with all the flavors of the Mediterranean; cumin, coriander, caraway, mint and chilies. It is great as a marinade for grilled lamb, beef, chicken or fish. You can make this with fresh Serrano, cayenne or Habanera chilies. If you’re growing chilies in your garden, put up a batch of harissa while they’re fresh. If you prefer a milder harissa, use red Ancho chilies (ripe poblano chilies). There certainly is no reason why you couldn’t make this Moroccan paste with chipotle peppers (smoked red jalapeno peppers) also. The smoky tones would add another flavor dimension.
The yogurt in the sauce recipe given below will tame the heat of the chilies and the honey and cinnamon will add a touch of sweetness which will also help to caramelize the surface of the salmon when cooking. There’s just enough orange juice to give it a sour note and balance the rest of the flavors.
Harissa and yogurt makes a tasty dip for sesame coated lamb meatballs. Check out Cat Cora’s recipe video at McCormick Gourmet. Chicken tenderloins can be marinated with the harissa and grilled on skewers. Harissa marinated flank steak grilled with fresh eggplant and bell peppers is especially tasty served with your favorite couscous, Mediterranean black bean salad and fresh figs with yogurt and honey.
Harissa paste is super easy to make, there’s no cooking, and is best made a couple days before using. It will keep in the refrigerator up to 6 weeks. This recipe makes about 1-1/2 cups. It may be doubled or tripled and spooned into hot sterilized jars up to 1/2 inch from rims. Cover with 1 Tbsp olive oil before sealing and refrigerate. This makes an unusual hostess gift or gift for your favorite foodie.
Ingredients for Harissa Paste:
o 1 cup fresh red chilies, seeded, veins removed
o 3 garlic cloves, crushed
o 1/2 tsp sea salt
o 3 tsp coriander seeds
o 3 tsp cumin seeds
o 1-1/2 tsp caraway seeds (or fennel seeds)
o 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (or 2 tsp dried mint flakes)
o 1/2 cup olive oil
1. Process chilies, garlic, salt, seeds and mint leaves in food processor until smooth.
2. Reserve 1 Tbsp olive oil and add remaining oil to chili mixture in a steady stream while processor is running.
3. Spoon harissa into a glass jar and drizzle with reserved oil to cover. Seal and refrigerate.
Grilled Salmon with Harissa Yogurt Sauce
o 1 lb of salmon steaks or fillets, 1 inch thick, cut into 4 portions
o 1 Tbsp Harissa paste (recipe above)
o 1 cup yogurt (Greek style)
o 2 Tbsp honey
o 1 Tbsp orange juice
o 2 tsp orange zest
o 2 tsp grated fresh ginger (use micro-plane grater)
o 1/2 tsp cinnamon (Saigon cinnamon from McCormick’s Gourmet Collection)
1. Salt and Pepper salmon fillets. Fold thinnest end of each fillet to the top of the fillet so that each fillet is relatively the same thickness from end to end.
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to incorporate. Remove 4 Tbsp of sauce for marinade. Chill remaining sauce until serving time.
3. Spoon marinade over top and skin side of each salmon fillet. Let sit for 20 minutes.
4. Place fillets, skin side down, on grill 6 inches from heat source and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until both sides are golden brown, turning once. Do not over cook. The center of each fillet should be pink to red depending upon your preference. Cooking it well will dry it out.
5. Serve with a dollop of chilled sauce and garnish with chopped mint if desired.
1. You may grill on a flat iron or a non-stick skillet. Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil on a hot grill or non-stick skillet. When oil is hot but not smoking place fillets on grill, skin side down. Cook as instructed above.
2. Dried chilies may also be used to make the Harissa paste; just soak dried chilies in hot water to cover for 20 minutes and drain. Process as directed.