Thursday, July 28, 2011

Harissa Tempeh with Couscous and Sweet & Sour Okra

Tonight we attempted an intriguing Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fusion odyssey. My sister and I combined culinary forces for an unstoppable kitchen kicking experience. Twice the Kennairs! Twice the mess! It's cooking harissa with my sista!

It adds spice to foods and doubles as eye cream! 
This was my introduction to harissa, a tunisian hot chili sauce that my sister loves.  It has a nice, sneaky kick to it.  You can find it as either a paste or as dried packets. All our local Whole Foods had was the packets, so we used a hand blender to combine it with equal parts olive oil and hot water (about 1/4 cup each) and some grape tomatoes for sweetness.

Greek Style Couscous
Servings: 8-10
Time: 15 minutes

5 cups couscous 
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
15 grape tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup red onions
2 tbsp lemon
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Harissa to taste
Salt to taste

  1. Prepare couscous according to product instructions.
  2. Allow to cool then add in the remaining components.
I hope I didn't lose you after those crazy directions. We wanted a carb to help absorb some of the heat, so we went with a Greek style couscous.

Sweet & Sour Okra
Original Recipe
Servings: 4
Time: 20 minutes

12 oz frozen okra
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
7 tbsp water
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 tsp sugar
4 tsp lemon juice

  1. Defrost the okra and drain well. Defrosted okra has a tendency to become slimy. You can fix this with a tiny bit of vinegar
  2. Combine 4 tbsp of water, garlic and red pepper. Blend well.
  3. Mix in the coriander, turmeric and cumin until it becomes a paste.
  4. Heat olive oil over medium heat and add the spice paste. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes
  5. Add the okra, sugar, salt, lemon juice and remaining water. 
  6. Let the mixture come to a simmer then cook covered on low heat for 10 minutes.
Okra always reminds me of home thanks to my grandmother's amazing okra gumbo that is so spectacular it should be jarred and served as dipping sauce. Again we were trying to incorporate some sweetness to counteract the spice.

Harissa Tempeh
Servings: 5
Time: 75 minutes (inactive for 60)

12 oz tempeh
Olive oil
Lemon Juice
Soy Sauce

  1. Steam the tempeh for 5 minutes. This opens it up to better absorb marinades and removes some of the its natural bitter taste.
  2. Marinade the tempeh in a mixture of the remaining ingredients for about an hour. I recommend a 1:1 mixture of soy sauce and olive oil with lemon juice and harissa to taste (and desired heat level).
  3. Cook the tempeh over medium heat until browned (about 3 minutes per side).
Tempeh: soy protein that looks kind of like grainy hot dogs. You can't go wrong.
For our protein, I went with the fermented soy protein tempeh. To keep with our Mediterranean/Middle Eastern theme I decided to modify a marinade that I used before for making Gyros. This actually turned out to be tastier thanks to the harissa.

The meal ended up coming together quite nicely and was best enjoyed by just mixing it all together and pouring on copious amounts of the harissa paste.

It was great cooking with my sister whose style of adding ingredients willy nilly to taste provided a wonderful foil to my more methodical chemist approach. As I continue in this cooking journey and learn more, I hope to adopt that approach. If anything, it'll make writing up the procedures much faster.

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