This Saturday, the weekend before the much loved/dreaded Valentine’s Day, my sister had a potluck with her work friends. As she is aware of my enthusiasm for potlucks, she invited Zoeya and me. The theme was Red Food. (Sidenote: this was not my first Red Food potluck). She made a delicious baked spaghetti and one of her friends brought an amazing red velvet, white chocolate and raspberry trifle – no beef, we asked. My contribution was a harissa-esque dip served over hummus, and a quinoa salad.
I tried to shape the harissa into a heart!
Here’s something spicy you can make for your lovah: harissa. I use the term “harissa” loosely – this was more of a dip than a sauce or paste, and I made it not-too-spicy lest there be wimpy tongues at the party, but honestly the heat could have been to be turned up a notch (next time!). The other silly thing I did was that after I blitzed it the first time I decided that in color it wasn’t red enough for a red food party so I added some tandoori masala thinking that spices were spices. Mistake! Although it still tasted good, it starting smelling distinctly Indian instead of a North African…so next time, paprika.
This is very versatile! Use as a dip, condiment on salads or sandwiches, or as a wet rub or part of a marinade. I served it over hummus.
Red Pepper and Sun-dried Tomato Harissa
3 red peppers
heaping tsp each cumin and coriander seeds
seeds from 2 cardamom pods
1 jar sun-dried tomatoes (minus the several I ate)
heaping tsp paprika
salt & pepper
1/2 – 2 tbsp red pepper flakes, depending on how hot you want it (maybe a little less for a dip and more for a condiment or wet rub)
1 tbsp olive oil
Heat oven to 450° Roast the red peppers by placing them directly on the oven rack and roast until blacked, turning once. Remove to a glass bowl and cover to sweat them (so it will be easier to take the skins off). Once cool, remove stems, seeds, and skins.
In the meantime, in a dry skillet toast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds and cloves. Grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process to a thick paste. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
I also made:
I had my Persephone Salad in mind, but was in the mood to make something with quinoa. I found this recipe for Quinoa, Fennel, and Pomegranate Salad online, which looked delicious, but I still wanted to make pomegranate vinaigrette so I combined the two!
Quinoa Salad with Fennel and Pomegranate
For the quinoa
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed (red if possible! I couldn’t find it so used tricolored)
2 bulbs fennel, sliced (reserve fronds)
4 cloves garlic
tsp cumin seeds
tsp chili powder
handful fennel fronds (removed from stalk), chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
handful mint, chopped
1 head red leaf lettuce, chopped
Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain.
In the meantime, heat olive oil to medium high and saute fennel and garlic with salt & pepper until fennel is very tender. Add cumin seeds and chili powder and saute for another minute.
Toss warm quinoa with fennel, herbs, and lettuce (I just love tossing warm things with lettuce because it makes it super green and wilts it just slightly).
For the vinaigrette
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp honey
salt & pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
Whisk all together.
Toss quinoa and vinaigrette together, and top the whole thing with 1/4 cup or so pomegranate seeds
Someone enjoyed dinner (although she was more a fan of the spaghetti than the salad).
Zoeya’s favorite thing to say to me nowadays is “I am waiting patiently, but you are taking TOO LONG!”