Harissa is a North African pasta with all the flavors of the Mediterranean; cumin, coriander, caraway, mint and chili peppers. It is excellent as a marinade for grilled lamb, beef, chicken or fish. You can do this with fresh Serrano, Cayenne, or Habanera peppers. If you are growing chili peppers in your garden, plant a batch of harissa while they are fresh. If you prefer a milder harissa, use red ancho chiles (ripe poblano chiles). There’s certainly no reason you can’t make this Moroccan pasta with chipotle peppers (smoked red jalapenos) too. The smoky tones would add another dimension of flavor.

The yogurt sauce recipe below will tame the heat of the chiles, and the honey and cinnamon will add a touch of sweetness that will also help to caramelize the surface of the salmon as it cooks. There’s just enough orange juice to give it a sour note and balance out the rest of the flavors.

Harissa and yogurt make a flavorful sauce for sesame-coated lamb meatballs. Watch the Cat Cora recipe video at McCormick Gourmet. Chicken tenderloins can be marinated in harissa and grilled on skewers. The grilled harissa-marinated flank steak with fresh eggplant and bell peppers is especially flavorful and is served with your favorite couscous, Mediterranean black bean salad, and fresh figs with yogurt and honey.

Harissa paste is very easy to make, it does not need to be cooked and it is best to prepare it a couple of days before using it. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. This recipe makes about 1-1/2 cups. It can be doubled or tripled and poured into hot sterilized jars to within 1/2 inch of the rims. Coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil before sealing and refrigerate. This makes an unusual hostess gift or a gift for your favorite food lover.

Ingredients for Harissa Paste:

or 1 cup fresh red chiles, seeded and deveined

or 3 garlic cloves, crushed

or 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

or 3 teaspoons coriander seeds

or 3 teaspoons cumin seeds

or 1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds (or fennel seeds)

or 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried mint flakes)

or 1/2 cup olive oil


1. Process chiles, garlic, salt, seeds, and mint leaves in a food processor until smooth.

2. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the remaining oil to the chili mixture in a steady stream while the processor is running.

3. Place the harissa in a glass jar and drizzle with the reserved oil to coat. Seal and refrigerate.

Grilled Salmon with Harissa Yogurt Sauce


o 1 pound steaks or salmon fillets, 1-inch thick, cut into 4 portions

or 1 tablespoon Harissa paste (recipe above)

or 1 cup yogurt (Greek style)

or 2 tablespoons of honey

or 1 tablespoon orange juice

or 2 teaspoons orange zest

or 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (use a microflat rack)

or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (McCormick’s Gourmet Collection Saigon Cinnamon)


1. Salt and pepper salmon fillets. Fold the thinner end of each fillet toward the top of the fillet so that each fillet is relatively the same thickness from end to end.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and beat to incorporate. Remove 4 tablespoons of sauce for the marinade. Chill remaining sauce until serving time.

3. Pour the marinade over the top and skin side of each salmon fillet. Let stand for 20 minutes.

4. Place fillets, skin side down, on rack 6 inches from heat source and cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until both sides are golden brown, turning once. Don’t overcook. The center of each fillet should be pink to red, depending on your preference. Cooking it well will dry it out.

5. Serve with a dollop of chilled sauce and garnish with minced mint if desired.


1. You can grill on a griddle or in a nonstick skillet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil onto a hot grill or nonstick skillet. When the oil is hot but not smoking, place the fillets on the grill, skin side down. Cook as above.

2. Dried chilies can also be used to make Harissa paste; just soak the dried chiles in hot water to cover for 20 minutes and drain. Process as directed.

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