Last night, some friends and I cooked a Moroccan feast for a birthday party. My husband and I brought the first courses--roasted eggplant with buttermilk and yogurt sauce and pomegranate seeds from London chef Yotam Ottolenghi's new cookbook "Plenty" (it's the dish on the cover), plus roasted peppers with preserved lemon and capers, and a Moroccan carrot salad from Paula Wolfert's new book "The Food of Morocco."
The Frenchman made couscous his way, more Algerian in style, with lamb shoulder, chicken and merguez sausages he made a special trip to Los Feliz and McCall's Meat and Fish Company to buy. (They were wonderful, by the way.) He put in lots of vegetables, too--zucchini, turnips, onions. And passed two teapots of broth, one dosed with harissa. And that was his secret ingredient -- Mustapha's Moroccan Harissa bought at Monsieur Marcel in the original Farmers Market at Fairfax and Third.
Mustapha's is nothing like the stuff you buy in a tube (though that's something chef and cookbook author David Tanis always travels with). This one is loose in texture, a vivid crimson in color, with a bright, focused heat. Mustapha's is made from Moroccan hot red chilies, red bell pepper, a little tomato, and olive oil. A dab of the fiery harissa could be used to rev up all sorts of dishes.
You could also make your own as Amy Scattergood did when she was at The Times. Here's a link to her story Harissa, Mon Amour. I didn't try her recipe when she first proposed it, but I think I'm going to do it now that I'm on a harissa kick.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo: Mustapha's Moroccan Harissa. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times