Sunday, July 12, 2020

Quarantine Food Diaries, Harissa Inspired Roasted Carrots

This vibrant red paste caught my eye from afar, I'd heard it's name before and picked it up off the grocery store shelf, Harissa. The name comes from the Arabic verb harasa, meaning 'to pound', or 'break into pieces'. It's thought to originate from Tunisia, where shoppers in spice souks watch it pounded out while-u-wait. The simplest versions are just the bare bones: chillies, salt and olive oil. 
I read these ingredients as well as turmeric, smoked paprika and lemon juice, on the small inviting jar in my hand. I bought it, brought it home, cracked it open and slathered it on a few carrots, popped them in the oven and 10 min later brought them out and dove in.  Did I not read the first ingredient was chilies? I can handle spice but this was overpowering and clearly not how it was meant to be used. What it did was inspire me. I was anticipating somehow the dense tangy sweetness of sundried tomato paste, mixed with the smokiness of a smoked paprika, turmeric, chilis and cumin ground into powders, the kind that are seen in perfect conical mounds in a souk. So it may not be Harissa, but this recipe was inspired by the sweet tangy tomato sauce that sits baking in the Sicilian sun for days on long wooden planks at every home in the heat of  August and my magic carpet ride imagination of what a souk looks like.

My tomato sauce is not as far a long as this image from my annual summer trips to Palermo and Terrasini, the coastal town, home to Cala Rossa where the cliffs shimmer like the red rocks of Sedona reaching peaks out of the azzure Mediterranean Sea, but Whole Foods has decent tomato paste.  Mine will be ready in as little as a week as long as I don't forget to bring them in when it rains!

Harissa (Inspired) Paste

2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garlic powder 
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste 

mash and smooth  together to a loose paste the consistency of runny yogurt, add more olive oil if necessary or a squeeze of lemon juice.
coat carrots and lay on a cookie sheet and broil for 10 min, turning only once, letting them get a little color!

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