zucchini and harissa

Yes, I have been flakily absent from the blogosphere lately, but there is a good reason: I was apartment-hunting in Washington, DC, which was time-consuming and stressful and not very much fun. Also, I was recovering from a really weird crazy spider bite and a very badly smashed fingernail. Seriously.

But I am back. I am up in the NC mountains, my favorite place in the world, scrambling to pull together this cookbook that I have been working on for months and months. Maybe years at this point. Anyhow it’s a love song to my two years in Morocco in photographs and flavors (sort of like this blog, come to think of it). I’m also frantically trying to re-learn my School Arabic for grad school in the fall (currently doing this by reading Nizar Kabbani’s incredible love poems – I’ll have to post a few of those soon – and listening to the BBC in Arabic. Which is currently broadcasting a top 10 world pop music countdown (think phrases like “raqm waHd ya3ani “Dizzee Rascal”)…very entertaining but not particularly good for the re-learning of the Arabic).

I digress. I will be here for the remainder of the month of June testing recipes and photographing ingredients. Like this:

nothing says summer like fresh mint

Good enough to eat, no?

Needless to say I’ll be blogging the process in the hopes that 1) you will be inspired to purchase said book if/when it is ever finished (at this point I’m thinking of just titling it “Inchallah”) and 2) you will be inspired to come visit me for part of this month so I don’t have to eat all of my test recipes alone.

So, the process of test-kitchening dozens of recipes inherently involves a lot of trial and error. Today was a mixed bag: a lot of recipes that I’m 90% happy with, so just a bit more tweaking and they’ll get there, a few that turned out very happily, and one that was an utter disaster (ie hot chile peppers are feisty buggers, aren’t they. They make you think so hard about not touching your eyes that you absent-mindedly end up touching your nose and your knuckles, which is really nearly as bad).

Today’s Most Successful Recipe gave me hope, though. It’s a great summer recipe – makes use of in-season tomatoes and zucchini.

Zucchini Baked with Fresh Harissa

You will need:

1 zucchini (for two people)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers
2 red peppers of your choice. If you like spicy, pick two hot peppers; if not, you can do sweet, though I find it best to split the difference. Today I used one fresh hot pepper and one roasted red pepper from a jar and it turned out very nicely.
Juice of one lemon
1 T salsa of your choice
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
1 tomato, quartered
1/2 tsp each of salt, pepper, and cumin, plus more for serving
Dash of hot sauce
Dash of cayenne pepper

First, make your harissa (which is a typical Moroccan spicy chile sauce, though my version has fresh tomato and salsa for a fresh summery taste): blend together everything except the zucchini and 3 of the garlic cloves. You can always adjust the sauce to taste if it’s too spicy or too mild.

Preheat your oven to 375•F.

Next, slice your zucchini into medallions about a quarter of an inch thick. Place them in a casserole dish and sprinkle them with the rest of the garlic slivers. Spoon a generous amount of the harissa over them and toss to coat all the zucchini. Finally, drizzle the dish with olive oil and add some salt/pepper/cumin on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes and enjoy. It’s very tasty with some fresh Moroccan bread, but that recipe isn’t quite ready yet…


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