Green Garlic Harissa

Every summer, I sign up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) share. And every summer, my icebox becomes the cold place where zucchini and good intentions die. This year, I joined The Libertine Neighborhood Bag, which is carefully curated by co-proprietor Audra Luedde, hoping to do better. Along with a bounty of versatile veggies – this is the part that makes me jump and clap – the share includes The Libertine’s own gourmet treats like pickled cauliflower, ginger-infused simple syrup and green garlic harissa. What is green garlic harissa, you ask? Ah, readers, it’s a bright and fresh spread/marinade/flavor infuser. A reminder that leafy greens can taste transcendent if you prepare them like a pro – in this case, like master chef and sommelier Audra Luedde. Once I coaxed every last drop out of the container, I begged for the recipe so we can all enjoy this crave-worthy condiment.

Traditional harissa is a staple of North African cuisine made from fiery red peppers and aromatic spices, all whipped together into a hummus-like paste. The lush foliage and influx of seasonal green garlic after a week of St. Louis storms inspired Luedde to make her verdant variation. If you can’t track down green garlic, a few cloves of white garlic work just fine. And I found the rest of the recipe to be equally flexible. Sworn off kale? Spinach is a lovely substitute. Big cumin fan? Use a little more. Luedde’s recipe is more zesty than spicy, but I double down on the jalapeno in my personal supply because I hunger for the heat.

You can eat your harissa with crusty bread while standing alone over your sink enjoying a gourmet meal like I do. Or use it to make almost any old recipe new again. Try it drizzled over a scramble or tucked into some devilishly delicious eggs. It’s a tangy rub for chicken and steak, and brightens everything from roasted vegetables to fresh salads to fish. Add it to pasta like pesto’s more interesting cousin, or stir it into gazpacho to deepen the flavor. And just when you think you can’t make another ground beef recipe, harissa saves the day – and the meatloaf.

Of all the myriad items I bedazzled with harissa, the only dish that didn’t pass muster was a batch of sweet potato fries. I coated frozen fries before baking, and the whole thing simultaneously liquefied and burned. A better approach would be to mix harissa with sour cream and use it as a topping on both baked sweet and white potatoes.

A batch of fresh green garlic harissa keeps for about a week in the refrigerator, but I promise it won’t last that long. In fact, harissa is now the almost-most-used condiment in my refrigerator. It’s second only to homemade mayonnaise, which – you guessed it – tastes better mixed with a spoonful of the green goddess. And now that I’ve tossed my boring old condiments and dressings, I have even more room for zucchini. But this year there is no wasteful spoiling, because stuffed zucchini boats drizzled with green garlic harissa is a dish worth celebrating.

Green Garlic Harissa

Courtesy of The Libertine’s Audra Luedde

About 1½ cups

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
½ Tbsp. coriander seeds
½ lb. black or green kale, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded 
1 small scallion, trimmed
2 oz. green garlic, bulbs and stems (or 5 peeled garlic cloves)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup mint leaves 
¼ cup parsley leaves   
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
• In a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat, lightly toast the cumin and coriander seeds, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool.
• To the bowl of a food processor, add the kale 1 handful at a time and pulse after each addition until finely chopped. Add the cumin, coriander, jalapeno, scallion, garlic, olive oil, mint, parsley, lemon juice and salt and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Refrigerate up to 10 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Harissa-marinated chicken breasts 
Combine ½ cup harissa with ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt in a large zip-top bag. Add 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts and toss until the chicken is evenly coated. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from the marinade, shake off excess and bake 18 to 20 minutes or grill over medium-low, indirect heat 10 to 15 minutes per side. Serve drizzled with cilantro crema. (In a food processor, pulse ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, ½ teaspoon lemon juice and ½ teaspoon kosher salt until smooth. Refrigerate.)

Deviled harissa eggs 
Peel 6 hard-boiled eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Mix the yolks with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 pinch table salt and ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika until creamy. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons harissa paste and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the egg whites, garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately. 

Harissa burgers 
Mix 1 pound ground sirloin with ¼ cup harissa paste, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Form into patties and grill over medium-high, direct heat until desired doneness. Serve on buns topped with goat cheese and harissa aioli (½ cup mayonnaise mixed with 1 to 2 tablespoons harissa paste.)

Roasted harissa carrots 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut 1 pound carrots diagonally into 1½-inch slices. Toss with 2 tablespoons harissa paste, 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Roast until browed and soft, about 20 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through. 

The Libertine Neighborhood Bag