Harissa Salsa

When I attempted my first “Kei Kurobe” recipe, Roasted Beets with a Curry Vinaigrette, I had to buy a lot of spices that I had never used before, such as whole cumin seed and coriander.  When I asked him when I would ever use these spices again, Kei sent me this recipe in response.  Of course, this recipe also required another spice I had not ever had before… *sigh* I am thinking I will just need to buy every spice A-Z to be prepared for more recipes Kei will throw my way….

Harissa is a pepper-based sauce commonly used in North African cuisine, primarily associated with Tunisia and Algeria, and most recently Morocco. Harissa uses bold aromatic spices such as cumin and caraway, and has a hint of smoky flavor.  Kei makes this refreshing Harissa Salsa and combines it with Housemade Ricotta over toasted bread, which is Kei’s take on an African-influenced classic Italian dish: bruschetta.

Harissa Salsa

Yields: 3-4 cups


  • 3 C of small diced tomatoes (About 2 lbs of ripe tomatoes; recommended to use heirloom or vine tomatoes. Discard the seeds of the tomatoes.)
  • 2 red peppers (or use jarred roasted red peppers)
  • 1/2 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 shallots, brunoised
  • 10 leaves fresh mint, chiffonade
  • 5 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground caraway
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup of EVOO
  • 1 T of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

This is the most time intensive and messiest part of the recipe, but it is well worth the effort… according to Kei.  I’m glad I tried it but I’m still thinking about going with the lazy way next time — store bought jarred roasted red peppers!

Oil red peppers and season with salt.

Take peppers and char on stove burner until the skin of the peppers begin to blister and blacken.  Make sure all areas of peppers are charred, place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap — this step helps loosen skin.

Let the peppers sit to loosen the skin while you prepare all the other ingredients.  After finishing all the other prep work, take the peppers out and peel off the charred skin of peppers (using a small knife will help).  Clean all seeds and skin off peppers.  Rough chop peppers.


Clean and cut tomatoes into small dices.  Gut the seeds with a spoon and discard.  Use a fine mesh sieve to drain the extra juice from the tomatoes — you can even save it for a refreshing beverage!

Chiffonade the mint and basil leaves.

Brunoise the shallots.

Toast all spices by heating them in a skillet for a few minutes.  Finely chop the cumin and other spices.

Zest the lemon and then juice.  It helps to heat the lemon up in the microwave for 10-15 seconds first before juicing.

Add all ingredients to bowl (tomatoes, roasted red peppers, shallots, mint, basil, toasted spices, lemon zest and juice, EVOO, red wine vinegar) and mix.  Season with kosher salt and pepper and enjoy!

Serve with Housemade Ricotta over toasted bread for an African-Italian fusion bruschetta!  We served this bruschetta as an appetizer before enjoying our main dish: Lemon-Dill Halibut.


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