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Secret Recipe: Quick Harissa from Aziza

Image by jules:stonesoup/Flickr

7x7 asks the city's chefs for the recipes to their most loved cocktails, bar snacks, starters, mains, and desserts. If there's a dish you can't stop thinking about and want to make at home, email Your wish may end up on the blog, along with the actual recipe from the chef.

Out this month, Mourad Lahlou's cookbook Mourad: New Moroccan (Artisan Books) introduces Moroccan fare with the recipes to his most popular dishes at his Richmond neighborhood restaurant, Aziza. Among the recipes is one for a traditional, smoky harissa  that involves soaking four types of dried chiles and pureeing them with olive oil, garlic, and seasonings. "Ever since I opened my first restaurant, I've served homemade harissa in little dishes as a condiment with all kinds of things," he writes. "I soon realized that we were going through five gallons of the stuff a day, and it was totally impractical to have one cook soaking and seeding that many peppers." So he experimented with simpler versions until he came up with a quick harissa that uses a tomato puree, cooked down with cayenne and paprika to create a rich, deep sauce. 

Makes about 2 3/4 cups

1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree, preferably San Marzano

3 cups cold water

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1/2 cup garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

6 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

6 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Put all the ingredients except the olive oil in a large nonaluminum saucepan, and whisk them together. Place the pan over medium-high heat, and bring to a gentle simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the puree has thickened and reduced to 2 1/4 cups. Don't let the heat go above a low simmer, and keep an eye on the mixture so it doesn't burn.

2. Working in batches if necessary, transfer the harissa to a blender, turn it on, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Pass the harissa through a fine-mesh strainer.

3. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight glass jar, with a film of the olive oil on top, for up to three months.