Burnin’ love

fiery

I know that in these last weeks before our move I really have no business adding more items to our pantry, but I couldn’t help myself. I kept hearing and reading about harissa, and when I spotted this little jar at Formaggio Essex recently I had to pick it up. This North African chile paste is most commonly described as “fiery” and I’m telling you, that’s no joke. But the burn is the best kind of burn, sharp and complex, a welcome bit of kick when added to a dish or served alongside.

Dinner:  March 20, 2008

I had a beautiful piece of halibut that I wanted to cook for dinner last night, but none of my usual preparations were really sending me. I remembered that little jar of harissa and decided this would be a great time to put it to use. I put together a quick marinade for the fish, a combination of harissa, ground coriander, cumin and fenugreek, a bit of salt, fresh lemon juice and olive oil, which I poured over the halibut about half an hour before cooking it (I removed most of it before adding the fish to the pan so it wouldn’t burn). We had one Meyer lemon lingering in the citrus basket, so I chopped it up and combined it with some chopped sundried tomatoes and oil-cured olives, picked flat-leaf parsley (mint would have been great, too), salt and olive oil to make a quick relish to serve on top of the fish. I served it all on a bed of couscous and pine nuts, a nice neutral counterpoint to the zippy flavors of the fish and lemon-olive relish. Mike passed but I couldn’t resist adding a little more harissa to my plate, dabbing a bit of it on random forkfuls of my fish and couscous. It was lovely, and a welcome bit of heat on a blustery night.

My first date with harissa was such a roaring success that I couldn’t wait for our next encounter. My office is closed today and though I have plans to meet Mike in the city for lunch, a girl’s gotta have breakfast, right? Rye toast, a couple of fried eggs, and harissa, oh yes – my lips are still tingling. I think I’m in love.

(Happy Purim, Happy Easter, Happy weekend, everyone!)

15 thoughts on “Burnin’ love

  1. Jennifer Hess says:

    Mary – It certainly does! I’m wondering if it would be weird to start carrying a jar around in my bag… ;)

    amy – Oh no! I would totally cry if that happened to me.

    Claudia – HA! You’re too funny. Um, I think we are going to a place called Heartland Brewery in Union Square. I think it’s a chain, but you know, they have beer. And wings. And burgers. And beer. (What? It’s my day off!)

    We are hoping to get to Diner tonight, though, hopefully enough to score a porterhouse for two.

  2. B says:

    If you love harissa with your eggs, then you need to try shakshuka. It’s originally North African (and you can use harissa with it), but has been popularized in Israel. It’s absolutely fabulous and a quick dish!

  3. Wow, I’ve never even heard of harissa. But, like any good dog, I have keywords, “hot” is one of them so is “fiery.” I like hot stuff so much, my mom bought me this gift box that is shaped like a house. The items in it are labeled, “hot chit” and they all reside in the hot chit house! I haven’t gotten the courage to actually eat any of it yet. I really like the house.

    Something new for me to try.

  4. Joshua says:

    Hey i am so glad you gave it a try, now try make your own, its not hard i promise and better than store bought one i am sure!

  5. Jennifer Hess says:

    Chuck – Thanks! If you like the spicy stuff definitely track down some Harissa.

    B – I keep hearing about shakshuka! I definitely need to make some soon.

    Donald – Like I said to Chuck, definitely try some.

    Joshua – I’m already collecting recipes for the DIY version!

    Marie – Thank you!

    Anticiplate – Thanks!

    Nina – Aw, shucks. :) Thank you!

  6. Jennifer Hess says:

    Mary – I haven’t tried to make my own yet, but I’ve got my eye on Suzanne Goin’s recipe in Sunday Suppers, among others. We’ve always got dried chiles on hand for Mike’s chile powder and for my salsas, so it should be pretty straightforward to make our own. I’ll certainly report back once we have!

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