It always intrigues me how cuisines from one culture can be worlds apart physically yet be exact replicas in almost every other way. The Tunisian spice paste harissa and the mole pastes of Mexico are a perfect example.
I hadn’t really thought too much about their similarities until last week when I decided to make harissa from scratch for the first time. Dried chiles got toasted and soaked, whole spices were warmed filling the entire house with their fragrance, vegetables were charred under an open flame until their skins crackled and blackened. The entire process felt like second nature, incredibly familiar to one I’ve done many times making homemade mole sauces and ground chile salsas.
My inclinations probably gave my harissa more of a Mexican flavor than is traditional—smoked morita chiles and charred tomatoes I don’t think are authentic. But it made a lovely dip on it’s own and when mixed with soft chèvre goat cheese and a little bit of cream cheese to ensure lusciousness in a harissa goat cheese dip.
I made this creepingly spicy dip for gently blanched asparagus and new potatoes; a very special seasonal crudite-style platter I brought to the Friends Who Fete Bridal Shower Meg and I threw for Aida over Memorial Day weekend. Any leftover harissa goat cheese dip was quickly consumed with tortilla chips and as a drizzle over a big plate of carne asada, grilled vegetables, and rice.
All the party details will be coming out this week so make sure you follow along the #FriendsWhoFete hashtag for lots of effortlessly elegant party tips!
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