I admit it-I'm in a rut. There have been so many changes in my life this past few months that I am unconciously stuck cooking the same meals or main ingredients, week after week. Lamb stewed in wine sauce with tomatoes and mashed potatoes-3 times in the past 3 months. Lentils with sweet sausage-twice in 6 weeks. Green beans with lemons or with tomatoes-innumerable renderings. Pasta in all it's varied forms shows up at least twice per week-with anchovies and parsley, lots of cheese, or just olive oil with garlic .
Now, I know I've spoken before about my ability to obsess over one, single, tantalizing ingredient. But, apparently I also have the ability to aggregate those ingredients and stay around a central theme. For months the theme at Sucar's house has been mediterranean-olives, eggplant, lentils, lamb, anchovies, and of course, tomatoes. I throw in some potatoes or pasta for comfort and sweeten life with apples, figs, or wine. The truth of the matter is that there are several key meals that have been floating around for ages and I just rotate them around.
Since the insanity is evacuating our house (temporarily I assure you) I've recently realized the error of my ways and reached out to my spouse for help. Like all true lovers of compulsion, I find it difficult to stop once I start the rut. K. and I discovered something new about our relationship. I actually like cooking with him in the kitchen. Especially if he helps pick out the menu. K. flipped through my cookbooks and chose Harissa as the destination for dinner. (OK it's still Mediterranean, it's not Sucar's standard version of Mediterranean. )
Harissa is a hot chili paste from North Africa that is used to flavor meats, fish, couscous-it's a lot like a Tunisian ketchup or salsa. Put it on anything and you'll get a kick. Sweet and savory and hot at the end. We have a little jar in the fridge now for tasting.
Mortar this together or use a food processor/spice grinder:
8 cloves of garlic
2 oz. paprika
2 oz. red pepper
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp black pepper
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp coriander
Then, add in about 1/4 cup olive oil. Should make a sludge that smells like an exotic destination. We fiddled with the ingredients a little until it smelled like our dreams so feel free to substitute. What you want is heat combined with a little sweet and a little salt.
You can use as a rub or just add in to dishes. Will keep in the fridge if covered with olive oil for up to 3 weeks!