WHAT IS HARISSA?
A north African chili paste, harissa is a recipe made from roasted or dried red peppers. Along with garlic, caraway, coriander, cumin, olive oil and other hot peppers are often used. Local variations use other ingredients such as rose petals, lemon juice or mint. Industrial versions will often substitute tomato paste as a cheaper ingredient substitute. However these sadly lack flavor. Many recipes will toast the spices before mixing with a mortar and pestle to help bring out their flavor.
WHY IS HARISSA GOOD FOR YOU?
Like most spicy foods, this paste offers a number of health benefits. Capsaicin (the component that makes it spicy) speeds up the human metabolism. So you’ll burn more calories while eating the same amount of food! It’s rich in vitamins (B,C, E) and minerals (copper, iron, manganese). Low in calories and rich in antioxidants, this condiment is a healthier alternative then ketchup.
WHEN IS HARISSA IN SEASON?
Being made from dried peppers, this paste is easily available year-round. In general chili peppers prefer a dry, hot summer season.
HOW SHOULD HARISSA BE STORED?
If store bought and unopened, store in a cool, dry place in your kitchen. Once opened refrigerate for about a month. However if freshly made, refrigerate immediately and consume within 3 weeks. Or freeze this paste for up to 2 months.
DID THE SPANISH INVENT HARISSA?
Many scholars think that when the Spanish occupied Tunisia in the 1500s during the creation of the spice route. They introduced chili peppers into local cuisine. Today Libya and Tunisia use harissa more frequently and with more different ingredients then Americans use ketchup. Nothing is off limits, yogurt, salad, meat or vegetables. For a sweet and sour effect, combine your harissa with a sweet ingredient like maple syrup or for a Caribbean touch try coconut!