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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.