ISSUE 10: HARISSA
It is definitely *not* a cheese
I first learned about harissa after I confidently lied to a customer while working the register at Meat Hook Sandwich. The customer read the specials board, asked “What’s harissa?” and I said “It’s a cheese.” They proceeded to order the sandwich and did not acknowledge that I lied to them after they ate it.
Since then I have learned what harissa actually is (a chili pepper paste popular in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco cuisine and throughout the middle east) and have marinated chicken thighs in harissa, added dollops to the insides of pita sandwiches, and enjoyed harissa ketchup with my fries at Cafe Mogador. The paste has gotten more attention from publications like Bon Appetit and writers like Alison Roman but is still most likely located in the “ethnic” aisle in larger grocery chains.
According to Leetal Arazi, co-founder of New York Shuk, harissa varies significantly from brand to brand so deciding which is best for you, or the dish you want to make, should be based on personal preference. Arazi added, “ingredients like tomatoes and red bell peppers are a taboo. The first thing I look for is that peppers is the first ingredient in the list.”
Texture plays a big role in what makes each brand of harissa different. Harissa that comes in a tube, like the commonly-seen DEA harissa paste tube is not to be treated like a condiment but as a paste only.
New York Shuk’s line of harissa pastes have a different texture that lends itself to be dolloped on eggs and added to mezze platters. Leetal Arazi told me that New York Shuk does not use pepper seeds or skins in their harissa production, unlike most brands, which is what makes their harissa much more topping-friendly. New York Shuk also has a harissa seasoning, aka red pepper flakes, that is also made for sprinkling on pretty much everything.
In this article from NPR in 2012, “Libyan Post culture columnist Huda Biuk says Libyans consider harissa more like mustard than ketchup. They eat it with fast food, pizza and in tuna and egg sandwiches.”
If you are looking for second-wave lockdown activities, making your own harissa is something you could add to the list but it may be too tedious to feel gratifying. (It takes a lot of peppers for a small yield of harissa) You can also add harissa to other sauces or dips, like the aforementioned harissa ketchup.
I am going to try this braised chicken with harissa and olives recipe with the hunch that it will make its way into my weeknight rotation. The menu at Greenpoint favorite Edy’s Grocer currently includes harissa lime brussels sprouts that sound good to order and recreate at home. I also want to build a sandwich around Harissa tahini soon.
Edouard Massih of Edy’s uses harissa in sauces, dressings, a little dot in labneh or sour cream to make it spicy. “It’s not a condiment it’s a paste,” says Massih. “You wouldnt use a curry paste on a sandwich, to dip something in to.” Massih also likes to mix harissa in soft cheeses. (Massih sells both DEA and New York Shuk at his store and says he uses both regularly, personally and professionally.)
Whether your harissa is in a jar, tin, or tube it should last several months to a couple years. Check for mold before consumption, especially if it is home made. Harissa freezes well in ice cube trays.
REMEMBER: “ENJOY BY”, “BEST BY”, “BEST BEFORE”, “BEST WHEN/IF USED BY”, ARE NOT SAFETY DATES! These dates are issued by the manufacturer, estimating how long the harissa will remain at “peak quality”. THE BEST WAY TO DISCERN QUALITY IS THE SMELL AND/OR TASTE TEST!
Harissa is a red pepper paste originally from Tunisia but now globally popular. Textures and heat levels differ widely between brands. Can be used to add spice and flavor depth to dishes in marinades, sauces, dressings, cheeses, dips, stews, and eggs.
The freshest picked news from the world wide web
Amazon wants your garage code so it can drop off your groceries. Key In-Garage groceries will start in Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco which, to me, feels freaky!
Select grocery chains are limiting toilet paper purchases per customer to try and curb people from being the worst and hoarding TP.
Turkey farmers raised some smaller birds anticipating smaller gatherings this year, per this interview from Vox. Curious how much a turkey costs these days? Here are some turkey prices from regional and national grocery chains.
Wal-Mart has a new home cooking video series featuring their private label Great Value products and also feature celebrity guests such as Patti LaBelle, who makes a buttermilk pie which is very Issue 05 vibes.
Like Silicon Valley in California, there is a “Food Valley” in the Netherlands, making itself a “Plant Protein Powerhouse”, according to Fast Company.
I love Ligaya Mishan’s writing and this piece in New York Times Magazine about the global rise of gout is no exception. From the Food section this week, Ina telling NYT of course she has multicolored carrots brought me joy. Also, consider how to make your Thanksgiving less wasteful this year, as Black and Indigenous Americans have always practiced.
Have any of you cooked dinner *in* a pumpkin and lived to talk about it?
In the theme of Thanksgiving, this resource from Hunter College is useful: Celebrating Native American Heritage Month: 9 Ways to Learn About Indigenous Food Systems
lol @ this advertisement from a grocery chain to “super spread” this Thanksgiving.
Tesla-branded tequila (Tesquila?) unfortunately exists. It’s sold out but you can buy some empty bottles on eBay if you must.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION ALERT!
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