Field Notes

Master Class: Harissa

Editor’s Note: In addition to featuring specific chilies and how to use them, we’ll be looking into some of the most classic preparations of chilies from around the world in a series called “Master Class.”

Forget fish sauce and kale; the ingredient of the moment that we’re most excited about is harissa. This red pepper condiment is ubiquitous on the tables of restaurants and homes alike in its native Tunisia, and nearby countries including Algeria, Libya and Morocco. But it has made serious inroads in the States as well, appearing with regularity on the menus of top restaurants including Bar Bolonat in New York City, Lucques in Los Angeles, Butcher & Bee in Charleston, and countless others.

It’s popularity has soared in the home kitchen too, thanks to a more readily available supply (we like the Mina line) and encouraging recipes in hit cookbooks like Ottolenghi.

And we here at the Chili Lab are hardly immune to this harissa fever. The beloved condiment was one of our most inspirational muses in creating our line of chili butters

In comparing recipes for harissa, what’s clear is this: the term is broad. Harissa varies in consistency, intensity of heat and flavoring components. That said, there are some common overlaps: Most harissa is made with a blend of medium-heat red chilies, with the addition of garlic, coriander, cumin, caraway and olive oil.

Even more broad is harissa’s potential it the kitchen. Use it as a rub for meat, a sauce to add to stews or soups, a condiment to ramp up your next sandwich or plate of eggs.

Tune in on Wednesday when we share our harissa recipe, and Friday for more suggested applications.