I am personally delighted to introduce this month's Secret Ingredient because I grew up on it. Harissa is Moroccan ketchup, a North African chili paste, made from spicy red chilies and garlic. Most commonly sold in tubes, like the popular tubed tomato paste, it also looks a bit like tubed tomato paste. But instead of being sweet and tinny, it is fiery and pungent.
Don't confuse it with hot sauce--it's not simply hot. It also reeks of garlic and coriander, adding a hot, briny, and heady flavor. It reminds me of my Moroccan grandmother, Mémé, who has this deep russet red hair to match the harissa, and the same saucy, piquant personality. She is also the one who introduced me to harissa as a child by way of her spicy stewed olives.
I won't give everything about harissa away today--we have all of September for that. But I'll start you off with one recipe: Harissa and Honey Glazed Roast Salmon. I love the exciting contrast between sweet and spicy, and since the harissa infuses the salmon with garlic and coriander, you can get away with using just a few ingredients. Harissa also steeps everything in a deep fiery orange ruby hue, which is just so beautiful, especially glossed in the honey melting over that shell-pink salmon.
You can find harissa at Middle Eastern markets and gourmet food stores (where it can be more expensive). There is a great range in preparations, which we will discuss next week, but whatever Moroccan or Algerian or Tunisian harissa you buy, it will be great in sauces, stews, batters, dressings, and glazes. It is spicy on your tongue, rather than in your throat or your nose. It's just a great adventure--a huge spicy hot bang for your buck.
Harissa and Honey Glazed Roast Salmon
- 4 1/2-pound salmon filets, skin on
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons harissa
Preheat the broiler.
Rub the salmon with olive oil, and season with salt. Place on a baking sheet with a lip, lined in foil, and broil for 10 minutes in the top third of the oven.
Meanwhile, make the glaze by whisking together the honey and harissa.
After 10 minutes, the top of the salmon will begin to go golden. Brush most of the honey-harissa glaze over the salmon, reserving a bit to gloss the salmon with later.
Broil for 5 minutes with the glaze on, basting the glaze back over the salmon once or twice as it cooks. Remove the salmon from the oven, and pour the rest of the glaze over it. Serve right away, with some crusty baguette or fluffy couscous!