Bon Appétit (July 2012)
We're big fans of harissa.
The smoky North African chili condiment is the ultimate shortcut for adding a jolt of flavor to just about anything. We recently threw together a meal where the entree had exactly three ingredients: chicken thighs, olive oil and harissa. (Okay, and salt and pepper.) You would have thought we'd braised the chicken in smoked peppers and tomatoes for hours, thanks to the deep, complex flavor of the harissa.
And harissa took a run-of-the-mill carrot-and-raisin salad and gave it a terrific spicy spin in the Moroccan Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Dressing we made from Food & Wine earlier this month.
But a comment on that carrot salad post stopped us in our tracks. Reader Val said:
Love the photo--there is just nothing like picking dinner! Have you tried making harissa? It is really super easy and freezes well. I use Deborah Madison's recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but I love harissa so much I even grew Tunisian peppers I ordered from Baker Creek seeds (but New Mexico peppers work fine).
Make harissa at home?! The thought had honestly never crossed our minds -- which is why we were eager to try our hands at homemade harissa in these Charred Green Beans.
Let's start with the harissa. Fifteen minutes to char the pepper and chiles, another 15 minutes to steam them, and then you pulse several ingredients in the food processor. It's not like digging a ditch, but it does seem like a lot of work when you've got a tub of store-bought harissa right there in the fridge.
We did the charred green beans in a grill basket, which worked really well and kept the heat out of our kitchen. We're sure the stovetop version would be delicious as well.
The combined result is fantastic: The smoky-spicy harissa, the charred fresh beans, and the crunchy roasted almonds are a wonderful combination.
But honestly? Next time we'll likely go back to the tub of harissa from the store. We're glad we tried making it ourselves, but what we love about harissa is that it's an inexpensive and instantaneous way to infuse tons of flavor into a dish.
Of course there's a certain satisfaction that comes from making things from scratch (and we plan to try Deborah Madison's recipe at some point). But our advice? When it comes to harissa, give yourself the store-bought shortcut.
Active time: 30 minuts | Total time: 40 minutes
1 small red bell pepper (about 7 ounces) or 1 roasted red pepper from jar
3 red jalapeños or Fresno chiles
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 cup roasted unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
Char bell pepper (if using fresh) and jalapeños directly over a gas flame or under a broiler until soft and charred all over, 12–15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let steam for 15 minutes.
Peel, seed, and mince bell pepper and jalapeños. Combine peppers, chiles, garlic, and 1 tsp. salt in a food processor. Pulse, scraping down sides of bowl, to make a coarse paste. Pulse in 1 Tbsp. oil, lemon juice, coriander, and cumin. Season harissa with salt and black pepper.
Place beans in a medium bowl; drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Season with salt and black pepper and toss to coat. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or other large heavy skillet over high heat. Working in batches, cook beans, turning occasionally, until blistered and charred in places but still crisp-tender, 6–8 minutes. (Or cook them in a grill basket on the grill.) Transfer to a large bowl; toss with harissa and almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.