This weekend signals the unofficial start to grilling season, so kick it off on a spicy note and add some zing to your usual burger line-up. A few months ago I took the plunge and tried a new ingredient, and since then harissa paste has become my new secret cooking weapon. A little bit adds lots of flavor, so start off small if this your first time cooking with it.
Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili paste made with a combination of chilies, garlic, coriander and caraway. In North Africa it’s used mainly in meat or fish and vegetable stews, and the recipe for it varies from family to family. Here in the west, we’ve adapted it to use in just about everything from soups, stews to sandwiches and fiery potato salads.
While it’s easy to make from-scratch —it comes together quickly in the food processor, I’ve found an excellent prepared one by DEA—you may have seen the brightly colored yellow tube at your local market too. My favorite way to use it is simply slathering mushrooms with some paste and a bit of olive oil. A quick roast in a 400ºF oven transforms them into a tender, spice-flecked taco filling. I plan to use this trick on portabellas for an inspired grilled vegetarian burger. You can also add a dollop to ground beef before shaping into patties. For a more subtle boost, just mix some into your regular ketchup. Once you start dabbling, you’ll find the possibilities are endless—and quite delicious too.