There is nothing that makes me happier than discovery. Discovering a new hiking trail or park. Discovering a new boutique, a new restaurant, or great place for cocktails in walking distance of my house. But I LOVE discovering a new food or spice and having my brain overload with ways to incorporate it into dishes. My latest food obsession is Harissa.
Harissa is a North African condiment with a long history dating back to the 15th century. (NPR is super informative) Harissa is made from roasting red peppers/chilies, spices like coriander and caraway, and garlic with a little lemon and oil. It most commonly made into a paste and if you buy it in a store it is in a can the size of tomato paste. It is deep in flavor with notes of smokiness and layers of heat but not at all over powering. Harissa pairs well with lamb and goat (picture a big goat leg on a spit, in the middle of the desert, slathered with deep red harissa. I can almost smell the aromatics mixing with smoke from the fire and the headiness of the sizzling goat meat!) But it also is amazing with chickpeas and root vegetables.
Last night I hosted the lovely ladies from my book club. This group has really evolved into a heck of a potluck dinner with a small side of book talk. For my part, I made Jimtown's Butternut Squash Soup with a few minor alterations. This soup is a beautiful, silky, and luscious ode to Fall soup that uses no dairy - nor does it need to. The recipe calls for apple but I tried parsnips instead to give it a little tang. I decided we needed a little protein though so I pan roasted some chickpeas and tossed the hot chickpeas into a bowl with harissa and gave them a healthy red bath. OMG! The harissa coated chickpeas changed the whole soup game! (and my life) We ended up putting straight harissa into the soup and then mixing harissa into the soften butter for the rolls - smoky heat with a touch of herbal sophistication. A few of us wanted to put it on the apple crisp as well but refrained.
Now I am officially obsessed with harissa.