Let me introduce you to my spicy pantry love, harissa. If you like a little spice in your life (and I truly hope you do!), you’ve GOT to try harissa. It’s an African hot pepper paste made from roasted red peppers, serrano peppers (hot!) and baklouti peppers from Tunisia, and tons of other spices like garlic, cumin, coriander and saffron—seriously out of this world.
We were first introduced to this deliciously sweat-inducing sauce at a local Moroccan restaurant in Schenectady called Tara Kitchen. It’s this amazing little spot with a totally open kitchen. When you walk in the front door, you basically step right into the kitchen where the chef is working behind the “bar” over a hot stove covered with many tangines—the heavy bottom clay pots with a conical lid, typical of African cooking (this allows the food to cook evenly over the direct heat source while also steaming itself inside the pot). Walking up the half flight of stairs at the back, you are whisked to Morocco in a room packed with tables (which are always full), decorated with Moroccan tapestries, photographs and sculpted pots, and hot even to make you feel like you’re really sitting at a restaurant in Casablanca.
For appetizers, out come these little dishes of dipping sauces and plates piled high with pita bread. So dreamy. That little bowl of red sauce looked so innocent, but MAN did it bring the heat. And it was addicting. No matter how many little beads of sweat started to appear on our foreheads, we kept diving right back in for more. Divine.
Thankfully, Tara Kitchen bottles these sauce and you can buy it at Whole Foods and a whole bunch of other grocery stores in our area. While it’s a little expensive, it lasts in the fridge forever and can go on just about anything. Find it in the ethnic or specialty food aisle!
Sometimes we’ll treat ourselves to a little harissa and naan for snack. But boy, oh boy, is it amazing in breakfast potatoes. Potato skillets are one of the most common weekend breakfasts in our house since I’ve had to break up with eggs over the past couple years (bums me out so much—I love them, they just don’t feel the same way anymore). Now, I know I’ve written about Skillet Breakfast Potatoes before, but these are on another level.
- 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, diced
- 1/2 red pepper, diced
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup frozen potatoes
- 2 tbsp harissa
- salt & pepper
- Heat a medium skillet (with a lid) over medium-high heat.
- Dice the bacon and add to the hot skillet. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Bacon should be starting to cook, but not yet crisping up.
- Add the diced pepper and onion to the pan and stir. Let this sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Drizzle in the olive oil and add potatoes to the pan. Let cook for 5 minutes.
- Spoon in the harissa and sprinkle generously with salt & pepper.
- Cover the pan and allow to cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes begin to crisp up.
- Serve hot & sizzlin'
Spice up your life.