Traditionally used as a flavoring for couscous and a rub for meats, harissa is most commonly found in Tunisia and the Saharan desert region where its flavor is prized for adding oomph to stews. Lori happened upon her first taste of this delicious condiment during a trip to Tunisia, where the locals ate the peppery paste spread simply atop slices of crusty fresh French bread. It took her years to stumble upon one of the best flavor pairings ever — harissa and orange. But, once she discovered it, we couldn’t get enough.

The sweet acidity of orange juice marries incredibly with the smoky, rich flavor of the harissa, and even (dare we say?) tames its sharp heat into something quite manageable. We love the pairing as flavoring for roasted chicken during the winter months. But, we love it equally as much captured in a delicious compound butter that’s perfect for summer grilling. Try the butter over a flaky filet of grilled fish. Or do as this delicious recipe suggests and spread a generous pat of that smoky, citrusy butter atop a cob of succulently sweet grilled summer corn. You won’t be sorry.

Corn with Orange Harissa Butter
By Lori & Paul
Makes ½ cup

Ingredients:

4 ounces sweet cream butter, softened
1 tablespoon harissa paste*
1 teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate
1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)

Directions:

To make compound butter: Place butter, harissa, orange concentrate and orange zest (if using) into a medium bowl. Beat it together with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Refrigerate if not using immediately. Butter can also be frozen for up to 6 months.
To grill corn: Remove the husks from the corn, pulling off every single trace of the silky threads that, if left in place, will inevitably get stuck in your teeth.

Place the corn on the grill 15-20 minutes before the rest of your meal is ready. Close the lid and grill over direct heat for about 4-5 minutes until some of the kernels get toasty golden. Don’t burn them. Give the ears a quarter-turn and close the grill back up. Keep browning and turning until the corn is evenly browned. Serve hot with plenty of harissa butter on the side.

*Prepared harissa paste can be found in many ethnic grocers or specialty stores. Alternatively, purchase dried harissa spice from your local spice purveyor. Grind the spice finely and mix with warm water until a paste forms. Allow the paste to sit for 15-20 minutes, adding a bit more water if it becomes too thick. Garlic, salt, and olive oil can also be added to taste. Harissa paste keeps well for 2-3 weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator.

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