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Meet the Spice Blend - Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid

Updated: Feb 22

Welcome to the next installment of my Meet the Spice Blend series, where I'm sharing the inspiration for, back stories of, and uses for my ever-expanding collection of small batch, handcrafted spice blends. Next up, let's meet Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid (formerly known as Five-Chile Harissa)!!

five chile harissa

The Inspiration - Harissa

Harissa, a vibrant and fiery chile paste, boasts a rich history and holds significant cultural importance in the culinary landscape of North Africa and the Middle East. Originating from Tunisia, this aromatic condiment has been a staple in the region's cuisine for centuries. The name "harissa" is believed to derive from the Arabic word "harasa," meaning "to pound" or "to crush," alluding to the traditional method of preparing the paste by grinding red chiles with garlic, olive oil, and various spices. Apart from its bold and robust flavor, harissa carries symbolic meaning in local cultures, representing the warmth and passion of the people. With its versatility, it finds its way into various dishes, from couscous and stews to grilled meats and dips, becoming an integral part of the culinary heritage and a source of national pride for the countries where it is cherished. Today, harissa has gained international acclaim, capturing the palates of food enthusiasts worldwide, further cementing its significance in global gastronomy.

As a long time lover of harissa, I couldn't resist putting my own spin on it. Enter Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid, a combination of New Mexico chile, California chile, chipotle chile, pasilla chile, guajillo chile, coriander, cumin, garlic, mint, lemon, caraway and kosher salt that (I believe) captures and pays homage to the complexity and depth of flavor of traditional harissa paste in a dry spice blend.

As for the name, classic movie fans will recognize the reference to the famous line from the 1942 film "Casablanca," which, of course, was set in Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco in North Africa. "Casablanca" wasn't actually filmed in Morocco, but if it had been you can bet that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman would have eaten their share of harissa-spiced dishes.

Flavor Profile - Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid

Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid is a tantalizing blend that awakens the senses with its rich and robust flavor profile. At its heart lies a symphony of chiles, including the bold New Mexico chile, the vibrant California chile, the smoky chipotle chile, the earthy pasilla chile, and the mildly sweet guajillo chile, each contributing a distinct depth of heat and complexity. Complementing the chiles, the blend features aromatic notes of coriander and cumin, adding a warm and nutty undertone. The subtle hint of garlic infuses a savory essence, while the bright burst of mint and dehydrated lemon lends a refreshing, tangy twist. All this harmoniously coalesces with the subtle warmth of caraway and the final touch of kosher salt, enhancing every element of this enticing spice blend. Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid is sure to elevate any dish, igniting a delightful dance of flavors that will leave taste buds begging for more.

Versatility in the Kitchen - Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid

Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid is a versatile spice blend that can elevate a variety of dishes. Here are some creative and delicious ways to use it in your home cooking:

1. Spicy Marinade: Create a zesty marinade for meats or vegetables by mixing Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid with olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. Let the ingredients infuse for a while before grilling, roasting, or sautéing your choice of protein or veggies.

2. Harissa Hummus: Blend some Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid into your homemade or store-bought hummus for an exciting twist. It will add a smoky and spicy kick to the classic chickpea dip, perfect for serving with pita bread or vegetable sticks.

3. Harissa Aioli: Mix the spice blend into mayonnaise to make a delectable Harissa aioli. This creamy and spicy condiment pairs wonderfully with burgers, sandwiches, or as a dip for fries or grilled artichokes.

4. Harissa Roasted Vegetables: Toss your favorite vegetables (such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers) in olive oil and Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid. Roast them in the oven until tender and slightly caramelized for a delightful side dish.

5. Harissa Couscous: Infuse your couscous with the flavors of Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid by adding a teaspoon or two to the cooking water. It will create a savory and aromatic base that pairs well with grilled meats or roasted vegetables.

6. Spicy Seafood Dishes: Try Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid on your favorite seafood dishes, especially salmon, shrimp, crab, or lobster. Whether you add it as a marinade for your shrimp or mix it into a homemade salmon burger patty, it is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

7. Harissa Soup: Add a pinch or two of Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid to your favorite soups for an extra layer of complexity and heat. It works particularly well in tomato-based soups or hearty stews. It's also the secret ingredient in my Moroccan Lentil Soup Mix.

8. Harissa-Crusted Roast Chicken: Rub some Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid under the skin and over the surface of a whole chicken before roasting. The result will be a succulent and aromatic chicken with a crispy, spicy crust.

9. Harissa Breakfast Scramble: Mix Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid into your morning scrambled eggs for a fiery and flavorful breakfast. Add some chopped fresh herbs and serve with toast or pita for a delightful morning meal.

10. Harissa-Crusted Lamb Chops: Simply rub some lamb chops with a generous amount of Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid and sear them on the grill or a grill pan for a quick and delicious main dish or even a party appetizer. I mean, who doesn't love a meat lollipop? (Ok, maybe the vegans and vegetarians among you don't. But we meat eaters will happily eat your share.)

Remember, the key to using Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid is to start with a small amount and adjust to your desired level of spiciness. Enjoy experimenting and exploring the diverse world of flavors this spice blend has to offer!

A Bite of Good Recipes that use Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid

Looking for some more concrete guidance on how to use Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid? Check out these A Bite of Good recipes!

First, I apparently LOVE the combination of pasta, seafood, and Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid because I've got recipes for Harissa Shellfish Pasta and Spicy Crab Pasta with Harissa and Preserved Lemon and Pappardelle with Spicy Pesto, Grilled Zucchini Ribbons, and Charred Corn

Second, if Brussels sprouts or broccoli are on the menu at my house, Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid will probably make an appearance. The flavor combo just sings. Don't believe me? Try my Harissa-Spiced Salmon and Romanesco Cauliflower or my One-Pan Harissa Chicken Thighs with with Brussels Sprout and Kale Orzo or my Quick Lemon Broccoli Pasta with Five-Chile Harissa.

Harissa Shrimp Scampi - We love head-on shrimp in our household, but this fabulous recipe can just as easily be made with head-off shrimp as well.

Harissa and White Bean Stew - This is one of my favorite cold weather soups. Even without meat it is hearty and warms you right down to your toes.

Harissa-Marinated Grilled Chicken Skewers - This is a go-to in my household for easy weeknight dinners or even for camping. It's quick, with lots of flavor and easy cleanup. What's not to love?

Fabulous Five-Bean Salad - Whether you're looking for an easy make-ahead desk lunch or you're headed to the park for a picnic, this is a fabulous option to have in your back pocket.

Spicy Baked Feta Pasta with Lamb - Take the internet-famous baked feta pasta and add some ground lamb and some of my Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid. What could go wrong? Um, absolutely nothing!

Ready to get your own Harissa Lookin' at You, Kid? Get it here.

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