One of my most vivid memories from high-school, was Simon's sandwich corner, where he served fresh baked baguettes, filled with homemade hummus, turkey pastrami and harissa with roasted bell peppers. The harissa was sweet, charred and spicy all at the same time. The flavors of the roasted cumin and caraway seeds took over your mouth and all your senses, as you were chewing on this incredibly rich sandwich. Once you had Simon's Harissa sandwich, you would never be able to stop thinking about it, eagerly anticipating your next visit.
This is my attempt to recreate Simon's harissa and charred bell peppers.
So... Let's do it!
6-8 'Puya' dry chilies
2-4 (depending on spiciness level) Japanese dry chillies
2 small-medium size Red bell peppers
1 Tbsp Cumin seeds
1 Tsp Caraway seeds
1 Tbsp Coriander seeds
1-2 Tbsp Tomato paste
1 head of garlic or 8-10 cloves
1 Tsp Lemon salt (optional) *
1/4 cup Neutral oil (grape seed), you may use olive oil if you choose
This is my own personal twist. Instead of adding lemon juice, I prefer lemon salt which is easy and quick to do. This step also helps to prevent the harissa from slightly discoloring from its vibrant red color into an orange hue, due to the acidity introduced by adding lemon juice.
1/4 cup Kosher salt
Zest of one lemon
Combine and mix well in a bowl. Spread it in a tray and dry it in the oven at 125‘F for 5 to 7 hours (time may vary depending on oven and other factors) what you’re looking for is a dried mixture at the end. Place in a sealed jar and use as needed.
Remove seeds from chillies using kitchen shears.
Rehydrate the chillies by cooking them in boiling water for 5-7 minutes, or until soften.
Remove and pat dry.
Drizzle red peppers with oil, and roast in a preheated oven set for 400 F (205 C) for 20 minutes, until the peppers are charred but not burned. (You may also use a grill for a more smokier flavor).
Once peppers are charred, set aside to cool, covering the peppers with plastic film helps with peeling-off the peppers skin later when cooled down.
Peel off peppers skin, cut off peppers stem and clean it from all its seeds and veins. (save the liquid which you can add later to the Harissa or use it for a vinaigrette).
In the video and here in the recipe we use a food processor, but if you have a meat grinder it is highly recommended to use that versus the food processor for best result.
I recommend grinding the chillies twice (If using the meat grinder).
In a food processor, combine chillies and red pepper, then Pulse to a coarse paste (2 min).
Stop and remove the lid, and scrap the sides trying to concentrate the paste in the center of the food processor. and Pulse for another minute making sure you get an even coarse texture.
Into a hot pan, add neutral oil (I use Grapeseed)
Add garlic and sauté for 2 min until become translucent
Add the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds and sauté for 2 minutes, releasing the captured aromas these spices hold. (very important step)
Add the chili and red bell pepper puree and mix to combine for a minute or two
Then add the ground cumin and coriander to boost the flavors
Now add the tomato paste to add creaminess, sweetness and extenuate the red color
Continue to cook over medium low heat for 2 minutes until all ingredients are fully combined and Harissa is starting to thicken.
Remove from the heat and set aside to chill.
Transfer to a sanitized jar. The harissa is ready to use immediately or it may be lept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Enjoy as a sandwich spread, in sauces, dressings, infused oils, marinades or as a dip. Options are endless.