Suzi's Blog

Harissa and Carrots Thanks to Olives, Lemons and Za’atar



We were at DeGustibus, the cooking school at Macy’s, listeing to Rawia Bishara discuss her new book Olives, Lemon, and Za’atar. She went to the core philosophy of cooking, her book, and her immensely satisfying Brooklyn restaurant Tanoreen. “Use what you have. Fresh. Today fresh,” she repeated throughout her demo.

She used harissa in the demo for a Turkish salad. We took her word and followed it. When we had an event for celiac patients and their families, we treated them to harissa and carrots. Earlier in the day, our produce vendor had mentioned he had carrots, lovely spring carrots with perfect tenderness. It was natural to follow Raiwa’s admonition. The carrots were gently poached, then mixed with harissa.

Your version of this will depend on the potency of the chile paste you use. It will be an adventure, unpredictable and exciting. If the results are too hot for you, you can try to dilute with a little more oil or lemon juice. Don’t add the cumin until you’ve done a taste test.

This hot sauce is, well, a hot sauce. It has universal application. In the Middle East, a primary use is with fish or, interestingly, in lentil soups. Or chicken, or on potatoes, or … I said universal and that is true.

With this recipe, you can make the real deal: authentic in ingredients and preparation, as real as the chile peppers that are its genesis.


Yield: 2+ cups


  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chile paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground caraway seeds (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon ground dill seeds (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅔  cup fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the chile paste, cumin, caraway and dill seeds, if using, and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and ⅓ to ⅔ cup water, depending on desired consistency, and bring to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat, let cool and season with salt. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The hot sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.

Source: Olives, Lemons, and Za’atar by Rawia Bishara

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60MM Macro Lens, F/5.6, 1/20th second, ISO-2500


Super Bowl Idea: Brian’s Super Chili Nachos


My personal culinary debt to Mexico is great: margaritas, Caesar salad, and nachos.  If you just add chicken wings, marshmallow fluff, and brownies, I think that constitutes a completely balanced diet. And while you won’t be consuming all of those at your Super Bowl party — well, probably you won’t — nachos are a core dish for many of us. Easy to prepare, they are wonderful to consume one touchdown at a time.

According to Kate Heykoe, author of Macho Nachos, these addictive treats are a fairly recent creation from our southern neighbor.  In 1943, a Mexican chef invented the dish on the fly to please some visiting American wives.  And supposedly he even used Wisconsin cheddar cheese!

Nachos can be a snack or meal.  You’ve probably had plenty of bland plates of overworked chips and the fast food versions are rarely exciting.  In contrast, Kate’s book is filled with interesting variations: some honest basics, versions that can be speedily created, and even breakfast and dessert varieties.

The nacho recipe below is mine, but I do want to credit Kate for its inspiration.  And, to accompany the nacho, I’m adding Kate’s recipe for Avocado Creama, a beautifully cooling side to balance the heat of the nachos.

Heat.  Yes, my nachos offer some heat.  They won’t burn your mouth, but they are definitely warm.  I suggest using two key ingredients.  The first is chili, and there is no better chili to use than our recent blog, Texas-Style Chile [].  This Tom Valenti recipe really elevates this dish from a “snack” to a full meal.

The second ingredient is the jalapenos to use.  Nacho lovers can endlessly debate just what to do here.  The great divide is over fresh jalapenos — that you simply slice and add — versus something in a jar.  I am a jar man, but not just any jar.  There is a product that will provide a striking new dimension to your Mexican and Southwestern dishes: candied jalapenos.  You may be able to find candied jalapenos in your local megamart and there are web-recipes to make them yourself.

Here is my nacho recipe followed by Kate’s creama recipe.  Whether you make these for snacks or a full meal, you are in for a treat.


Brian’s Super Chili Nachos


  • 5 ounces corn tortilla chips
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese [or Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack]
  • ¾ cup candied jalapenos, or more depending on your tolerance
  • 1 large onion finely diced
  • 2 cups chili [ideally Tom Valenti’s Texas-Style Chili]
  • Sour cream, avocado creama, diced tomatoes, or additional grated cheese as garnishes



Preheat the oven to 475°.

Spread the tortilla chips evenly over pan [half-sheet] lined with foil.  Cover evenly with the grated cheese.  Evenly sprinkle the jalapenos and diced onions.

Top with the chili.  This is best done a spoonful at a time.  Just try to cover in bite size globs.  Spreading the chili evenly over the other ingredients is not easy, and not necessary.

Bake the nachos for about 7 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted.  If the chili is leftovers and has been refrigerated, it may take about 10 minutes to fully heat the dish.

Remove from the oven and serve with the garnishes.

Source: Brian O’Rourke


Avocado Crema


  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and pit removed
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Variations are unlimited, but consider: chili powder of any variety, garlic, chives, cilantro, or green chili


Puree all the ingredients in a blender or food processor for one or two minutes.  Sample the taste and add additional seasoning — salt or white pepper — to suit your palette.

Source: Macho Nacho by Kate Heykoe