Harissa is a fabulous thing. I recently had some with couscous, when I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at Chez Panisse. I love harissa because I can make it myself, put it in a little clip-top jar with a quarter inch of oil covering the top and keep it in the fridge for a thousand years. Its been so long since I made harissa that I don't even remember what is in it. You don't have to make it from scratch, though, its easy enough to buy at a middle eastern grocery or probably at Andronicos or Rainbow. But if you happen to have a food processor and access to Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, you can make it pretty easily too.
This chicken recipe is a good one - so easy my husband made it without complaining. I thought it was delicious and the kids ate it too, with a little coaxing. They would not eat the snap peas we steamed to go with, but that's OK because there were more for me.
Grilled Chicken with Harissa and Mint: (adapted from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries)
2 teaspoons harissa paste
2 Tablespoons yogurt
3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken pieces (we cut up a whole chicken and use 2 breasts and 2 thighs, but you can do whatever)
a handful of mint leaves
salt and pepper
Stir the harissa into the yogurt, then whisk in the olive oil, a little salt and some pepper. It might look a little curdled, but don't worry about it. Roll the chicken pieces in this.
Heat up the grill, and place the chicken on it to cook. As soon as nice char marks are on the lower side, flip the chicken pieces onto their other sides and continue cooking. To test for doneness, take a knife and slice into the thickest part of the chicken. The meat should look opaque and have only clear juices running out, not pink.
Mince the mint leaves. Sprinkle them onto the chicken after it is done cooking. Serve hot off the grill, with a simple salad or steamed snap peas.
Harissa: (adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
12 dried red New Mexican chilies
3 guajillo chillies
4 garlic cloves
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for storage
Wipe off the chillies with a damp cloth, break off the stems, shake out as many seeds as you can. If you're sensitive to chillies you'll want to wear gloves for this. Tear the chillies into pieces, put them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water, and let it stand for at least 30 minutes. Remove from the bowl, and snip the chillies into little pieces.
Grind the chillies, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, caraway, cumin and coriander seeds and a little oil in the food processor until a smooth paste forms. Add a little of the chili soaking water if needed. Pack into a clean jar, cover the surface with oil and refrigerate.