Here in America, we have ketchup. In Tunisia, they have harissa.
Harissa contains—at a bare minimum—dried chilies, tomato or roasted pepper, cumin, caraway, coriander and olive oil. It’s warm and spicy without being incendiary, providing a complex jolt of flavor to boost countless dishes.
While you can make your own, we love the harissa produced by Villa Jerada, which is rounded out with mint, preserved lemons and a touch of vinegar.
One of our favorite ways to use harissa is in Tunisian lablabi, otherwise known as chickpea and bread soup. It is easy to make and our notion of the best soup in the world.
And what about the rest of the jar? Add a spoonful to any basic marinara sauce. Squirt a bit into your hamburger or meatball mix for instant complexity. Add it to vinaigrettes for a punch of flavor and touch of sweetness.
Try tossing roasted vegetables with harissa. Wait until the vegetables are almost cooked through before coating them in a couple tablespoons of harissa, otherwise it can burn. Then toss them with chopped cilantro or scallions and a squirt of lemon juice.
Slather harissa on the inside of a grilled cheese and pair with a mild cheese like Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack. (Add a little crumbled feta cheese if you have it.)
Mix harissa with softened, salted butter (equal parts) and slather on blanched broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cauliflower. Stir into a pot of bulgur, couscous or pasta and blend with feta and chopped arugula for an easy meal. Or dollop harissa butter onto resting steaks, chops or roast chicken where it can mix with the meat’s juices for an instant sauce.
Stir a spoonful or two into Greek yogurt with a pinch of salt and use as a vegetable dip. Mix with mayonnaise for sandwiches (perfect with turkey) or egg or tuna salads. Add a squirt to deviled egg filling—or a dollop on top for a contrast to the creamy filling. Top with chopped cilantro or a dice of pickled jalapeños. That jar in your fridge will be gone in no time.