Sara's Green Harissa

By • September 7, 2012 63 Comments

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Author Notes: I had never heard nor thought of green harissa until I was paging through the MIX magazine put out by the Oregonian last spring. There was a recipe from the chef at and co-owner of Laurelhurst Market (one of my all-time favorite restaurants) for grilled baby romaine with green harissa.

What?!? I was intrigued. I tried the grilled romaine right away, but put the harissa idea aside. Toward the end of summer I needed something to jazz up grilled vegetables so I came back to the harissa. Never one to leave well enough alone, I made some tweaks, and after playing around a bit have come up with a version I'm quite happy with. It's very fresh and green tasting, with a mildly bitter edge, a pleasant spicy heat, and just enough tang to balance it out. The flavor is wonderful with grilled eggplant or summer squash. It also works well to brighten fatty or rich foods like grilled steak or eggs in any form. I'm thinking about stirring some into sour cream or Greek yogurt for an easy crudité dip. Or maybe I'll toss some with stale bread and tomatoes for a panzanella. I bet if you give it a try you'll think of some great ways to use it, too.

Food52 Review: WHO: hardlikearmour is a veterinarian and amateur baker and cake decorator living in Portland, OR.
WHAT: A vibrantly green sauce alive with flavor and ready to serve with anything from side dishes to entrees.
HOW: If you can operate a knife and a blender, you're golden -- this recipe takes just minutes.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This sauce is anything but one-note, and its texture is perfect for drizzling on anything from abstemious steamed tilapia to an indulgent rack of lamb.
The Editors

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 ½ cups washed and coarsely chopped escarole
  • 1 cup washed baby arugula leaves
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeds and stem removed
  • 1 to 2 serrano peppers, seeds and stems removed
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro (I like to use the stems)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint
  • 1 medium to large clove garlic
  • 2 green onions, roots discarded
  • zest of 1 large lemon (2-3 teaspoons)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ginger juice (from a medium-sized ginger root)
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ras el hanout (or sub ½ t cumin, ½ t coriander, ¼ t ground ginger, and ¼ t black pepper)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • ice cubes
  1. While you are prepping your ingredients, fill your blender pitcher with cold water and a generous handful of ice cubes. This will help keep your harissa nice and cool, so the fresh flavor isn't compromised.
  2. Wash and chop your escarole. Measure it by placing it into a 4-cup measure and firmly press it so packed down it measures about 2 ½ cups. Add the washed baby arugula and measure the same way so the total is about 3 ½ cups. Once you quit pressing on it, it will spring up a bit above the 3 ½ cup mark. Set aside.
  3. Coarsely chop the peppers, cilantro, mint, and garlic. Slice green onions. I like doing this on a flexible cutting board, and just push everything to one side as I finish with it. Note: If you are worried about the heat level, set aside half of the serrano pepper to add at the end if desired.
  4. Zest and juice lemon. Add zest to the pepper pile, and set the juice aside.
  5. Grate the ginger on the coarse holes of a box grater. Take small handfuls of the grated ginger and squeeze it over a bowl to obtain ginger juice. This kitchen hack shows you how:
  6. Pour ¾ cup olive oil into a glass measure. Set aside.
  7. Now that the prep is done, empty the ice water from the blender. Dump the pepper pile, 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon ginger juice, ras el hanout, and salt into the blender pitcher. Pour about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in as well. Add 2 ice cubes to the mix, then put the lid on the pitcher. Blend until homogenous (I have a 2 speed blender, so pulse a few times on the lower speed, then blend on high. I'm sure you know how to best use your particular blender).
  8. Blend in the arugula and escarole a generous handful at a time. You may need to stop the blender and push the greens in on occasion. Blend until homogenous, then gradually stream in the remaining olive oil. The mixture should lighten in color and become emulsified. You may not need to add all of the olive oil. Taste and add salt or lemon juice as needed. You may also blend in additional serrano if you held some back and would like more heat. (Or if you're aargersi, just go ahead and start with 3 serranos!) Use immediately or refrigerate. The mixture will thicken with refrigeration, and some water may separate. Just give it a good stir before serving.

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