Harissa (North African Hot Sauce/Paste)

Hey Dude!

Man, I am so excited. I finally tried my hand at harissa, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Don’t know if you’ve ever had harissa, but back when I was selling hummus, a company from D.C., called Cava, was demo-ing some harissa next to me, and I fell in freaking love with it.

What makes their harissa unique, and so damn good, is their use of stewed tomatoes. So I wanted to see if I could figure out a harissa with tomatoes at the base. And since I have several bags of smoked or dried peppers in my pantry, my brain put the following together

  • 10-12 sun-dried tomatoes (I used Bella Sun Luci)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 ancho peppers (dried poblanos, check a Mexican grocery store)
  • 1 smoked ghost pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • Salt, caraway, ground coriander, parsley
  • Lemon juice
  • Red wine vinegar

My method was quite simple. I roasted the red pepper and sun dried tomatoes at 350 degrees. I pulled the sun-dried tomatoes out after about 10 minutes, then kept roasting the pepper about 20 more minutes. After it was roasted, I let it cool until I could handle it, and I pulled the skin off.

Meanwhile, I submerged the ancho peppers and ghost pepper in a glass of water. Likewise, I soaked the now roasted sun-dried tomatoes in a separate glass of water.

Then, I simply combined all the ingredients in my food processor, adding a few shakes of each of the seasonings.

I used the lemon juice and red wine vinegar for flavor, preservation, and pasty consistency, 1 tablespoon at a time. In all, I think I used 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1-1/2 or 2 of red wine vinegar. Added a little more salt, and bam. I have a delicious African condiment. Goes great on sandwiches, meat, pita bread, mixed with hummus, whatever!

I’m not sure roasting the sun-dried tomatoes was necessary, so next time I’ll probably try it without and see how it compares.

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Easy Jamaican Cornish Game Hens

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Hey Daniel,

I wasn’t going to make a post about this, since I didn’t do much except throw a few things together, but the result was so outstanding, and the ingredients are readily available at many grocery stores, that I thought it was worth sharing. I got all my ingredients at Whole Foods, except for the game hens (though I did seek out cage-free hens).

  • 2 Hens
  • 1 Bottle Jamaican Jerk sauce (like this)
  • 1 Bottle Carribbean-style hot sauce (this one is awesome)
  • 1 8.5 oz package of Seeds of Change Carribbean-style rice and red beans (or similar – SOC is organic, and it only needs to be heated)
  • A small amount of bell pepper, onion, and mushroom slices (or whatever you’d like)
  • Butter

The night before, I brushed the jerk sauce all over the hens, covered them and put them in the fridge.

When I was ready to eat, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. While that was heating, I sauteed the veggies in butter. When they were about done, I added the rice mix and stirred for about 60 more seconds. I took that mix, and stuffed the birds silly. It was just about the perfect amount of stuffing. Next, I brushed melted butter all over the outside of the birds, put them in a covered dish in the oven. After 30 minutes, I removed the cover and stuck a meat thermometer in the breast. (I think most say you’re supposed to do the thigh, but their thighs are so tiny.) About every 10 to 15 minutes, I got in the oven and re-brushed the butter and jerk sauce (that was in the bottom of the pan) over the birds. I think it was about 40 minutes later that they were ready. Doesn’t really matter, though, if you watch the thermometer, and brushing is the perfect opportunity. (165 degrees.)

Once I pulled them out, I carefully put them each on a plate, and drizzled the jerk sauce – now a gravy – over the tops of the birds. I served with a bowl of the hot sauce as a dipping sauce. That fruity spicy sauce was a delight! We both devoured our own hens, even after a salad. There were leftover rice and beans and veggies, but I’m going to let them soak up the gravy goodness and have it as leftovers.

Now the little carcasses are on the stove making broth! Easy, delicious, and effective.

jamey

Hot Sauces of Two Dudes


to Daniel Larkin
from Jamey Bennett 

Hey man,

I hope your journey is fantastic. I wanted to drop you a quick note about some sauces I made today. I made two hot sauces, two wing sauces, and finished up my fermented hot sauce. I think one of the wing sauces needs its own post, and the fermented sauce deserves its own as well.

SO…let me start with my basic sauce. I started making this when I lived in Hawaii, and had a surplus of peppers. After messing around with a few different ways of making this sauce, I settled on a basic, “Keep It Simple Stupid” recipe. Basically, I just take a bunch of peppers, boil them in vinegar for about 20 minutes, throw in a blender with some salt (and maybe a bit of garlic), and you’re done. Today, I made one variation on this: I boiled serrano, jalapeno, and green cherry peppers in water. Drained, added vinegar and Goya’s Adobo seasoning (it’s basically salt and garlic powder), and blended with a tablespoon of sugar.

Next, I’ve been jiving on this amazing carrot hot sauce from WMD Hot Sauce , a local sauce company (UPDATE: now defunct), that I had custom made for my groomsmen and priest. So I did a little google search on carrot hot sauce, and this is the plan I devised. It made way more hot sauce than I imagined, but it is pretty good.

I took a little bit of onion and 4 or 5 garlic cloves, and cooked them in a bit of macadamia nut oil until the onions were slightly translucent. I threw in 1 lb. organic baby carrots, about 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of vinegar, and the juice of 5 limes. Brought it to a boil. After a few minutes I added a little less than 1/2 pound of habaneros (mostly reds, a few oranges, and one red cherry pepper from my garden). I cooked all of this until the carrots were pretty soft and easy to break apart with a spatula….this also meant I had to add a little more water at one point. I put this all in the blender, and added salt, 1 tbs. sugar, and added vinegar little by little until it blended smoothly. I chanced it, and added some water, too. Pretty soon I had the consistency I wanted. It tastes fantastic, but with that many habaneros…wow. And the carrots bring such a delicious sweetness to the sauce.

Now, here’s the bonus. I took some of the sauce, melted some butter, pressed up some garlic, tossed in some soy sauce, and bam! Wing sauce. Could have used some cilantro, too, but it was really great.

Happy saucing!

UPDATE: I did the cooking my cast iron skillet. Evidently, I have a lot to learn, because the next few times I used my cast iron skillet, our eyes hurt from spiciness in the air…

Spinach Enchiladas

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin 
date Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 10:02 PM

Dude,

I’ve got something for your Mexican night, mostly invented tonight. The best part about this is not the enchiladas themselves, it’s the sauce. Now, you might ask, what made you think to do this, Jamey? I’m glad you asked, and I’l tell you. I went to the grocery, trying to spend between $10 and $20 for a fat ass platter of verde enchiladas (recognizing that a few of the ingredients were already on hand). When my bill was over $30, I knew something was up. Turns out, the three cans of verde enchilada sauce were $4.49 each.

I put the cans back, and came up with this. Here’s how to make the sauce.

  • 28 oz can of tomatillos
  • 1 small can of green chiles
  • 1 tsp. cane sugar
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • a handful of cilantro
  • the juice of two small limes
  • 1 cube of bullion dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water (I used chicken/tomato)
  • a couple of jalapenos
  • salt to taste

I mixed all of this in the blender, then I threw it in a skillet and simmered for about 15 minutes.

While I was doing all that, I was constantly mixing in fresh spinach in a pot with a little bit of butter. As it cooked down, I’d add another handful. I don’t know how much I put in there, but it was at least a pound, if not 1-1/2 pounds.

To make the enchiladas, I microwaved about 25 corn tortillas for 1 minute. This is important because they will break if you use them cold.

I chopped an 8 oz block pepper jack into rectangular blocks. I also had 2 bags of 8 oz. shredded “Mexican taco” cheese.

Another can of green chiles.

One diced tomato.

Each tortilla got a pinch of tomatoes, green chiles, some chunks of pepper jack cheese, some shredded taco cheese, a spoonful of the simmering enchilada sauce, and a forkful of spinach. Roll it up and throw it in a oven-worthy dish. Once you’ve filled the dish, you’ll probably have to move to another one. Then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of all of the enchiladas. Finally, pour the enchilada sauce over the top.

Throw that into a 350 degree pre-heated oven, and when the cheese appears to be melted, it’s time to eat!

Alison told me she thought it needed salt or something like that. I thought it was perfect.

Enjoy.

Fresh Red Sauce

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey10:39 AM

I know I’ve told you about my rustic marinara with carrots, onion, celery, rosemary, thyme, oregano and Cabernet Sauvignon; a recipe I learned/adapted while working at Cafe Nonna in Nashville.  I use this for lasagna and other hearty dishes.

But I don’t know if I’ve ever told you about my simple red sauce.  It’s nothing I learned at a job or from some aged family member.  I’m slightly ashamed to admit I learned it from Anthony Bourdain’s “Skills” episode of No Reservations.  (Most other things on that episode were stupid basics I already knew, but the sauce stood out so much to me that I made it the next day.)

I’ve made this recipe using both fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes, and as long as you use San Marzano canned tomatoes, there’s almost no discernible difference.  I’ll probably still make it fresh every now and then just because I enjoy the process.  The recipe calls for Roma tomatoes, but I’ll bet you can use any tomato variety, so long as it’s been vine ripened and has a good sweet flavor.

To make it with fresh tomatoes

  • Blanche a few pounds of Roma tomatoes until the skins break, and then transfer them to a bowl of ice water.  This should only take a few minutes, and it’s more efficient to only do a few tomatoes at a time – that way you don’t drop the temperature of the boiling water too much, and you can keep a closer eye on the tomatoes.
  • Once the tomatoes have cooled, peel the skin off.  (this is actually very easy, since the skins have separated during the blanching process)  Over a bowl, run your fingers through the tomato cavities and take out as many seeds as possible.  Don’t worry about getting them all, I think that’s impossible.  You can reserve the liquid and seed mix to strain and add later if you think the sauce needs it.
  • Toss the tomato flesh into a heavy-bottomed pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.  Cook this all on low for about 45 minutes, mashing it with a potato masher every few minutes.  The goal is to get a semi-smooth consistency without having to use a blender.

Or, you can use two 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes.  Toss them in a pot with the oil, salt and pepper – skip the potato masher – and cooking for about 30 minutes.

Here’s the secret to this recipe, and where the fresh and canned tomato recipes converge.  In a separate small pan (I use one of those tiny single-egg pans) toss between five and ten cloves of garlic cut in half.  Obviously, the more garlic you use, the more you’ll taste it, so plan accordingly.

Next, throw in a handful of fresh basil leaves on top of that; again, using as much as you think you would like, but at least a good handful.  Sprinkle on a few more red pepper flakes, and douse it all with enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the garlic.  (I use the one-egg pan because I can easily cover the garlic with less than a cup of oil.)  Warm this mixture on low heat until the basil has wilted into the oil, and keep it on low while the tomatoes simmer. The point here is to infuse the oil with the garlic and basil flavors.

When your tomatoes are at the right consistency, pour in the oil – through a strainer, leaving the garlic and basil behind – and whip vigorously to incorporate the oil into the tomato mix.  (In the picture below, I’ve separated the oil into another container, because I was dehydrating the tomato mixture for a hiking trip.  You can’t dehydrate fat, so I packed the oil separately an incorporated it at camp.)  

Anyway, now take a deep whiff!!  Hot damn!

This is great served just with noodles. Throw 4 ounces of al dente noodles and a splash of noodle water and about 6 ounces of sauce into a shallow pan.  Let it simmer until the noodles are done, and then drop in about a tbs of butter (yum) and some chopped fresh basil.  Toss it all in the pan for a bit – try to look like a celebrity chef.  Plate it up and eat.

It’s a super simple sauce, and you can’t beat the freshness of it all.  The sweet acidic tomatoes and the rich garlic and fresh basil.  Man, it’s great.

OR!!!! This stuff makes fantastic pizza sauce!  The flavors are so fresh and bright, that they just sing on a plain cheese pie.