Make Ahead

Sara's Green Harissa

September  7, 2012
2 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes about 2 cups
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. —hardlikearmour

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • pamelalee
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • testkitchenette
  • ashleychasesdinner
  • SKK
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

59 Reviews

Hilary G. August 9, 2013
A total favorite of mine! I serve it to most all of my guests. Just note, it does not freeze well in my experience.
rebekahnicky June 13, 2013
this looks amazing. how long does it last? seems like alot is there a way to preserve it?
cant wait to make it tonight
hardlikearmour June 13, 2013
It keeps at least a week refrigerated. I think it would freeze well, but haven't tried it. One of my favorite uses for it is as a dressing for panzanella which sucks up a good amount of it.
rebekahnicky June 13, 2013
that sounds great. i feel like it could go with anything.. thanks.
pamelalee June 11, 2013
What a wonderful blend of flavors! We enjoyed the harissa over grilled salmon, chicken, and roasted asparagus. The recipe made enough for another meal plus a couple portions to freeze. I highly recommend it!
hardlikearmour June 11, 2013
I'm thrilled you tried and enjoyed it!
ksmeadowlark June 5, 2013
I cannot find escarole, what do you think of kale as a substitute? Or can you make a better suggestion for a sub? Can't wait to try this, it is gorgeous!
hardlikearmour June 5, 2013
The kale might work, but I've not tried it. I think something a bit more tender would be a better option. Something a little bitter, but not crazy bitter -- maybe a mix of young dandelion greens or endive and romaine. I think romaine alone would work pretty well.
ksmeadowlark June 14, 2013
The romaine worked! Thanks, a fascinating recipe.
hardlikearmour June 14, 2013
Glad it worked!
OH! And congrats on being recipe of the day. Well-deserved (as always) !
WOW! Sarah, this looks amazing. And it certainly travels the world between the escarole, ginger and ras el-hanout (one of my all-time favorite spices). I can't wait to try it !!!!
hardlikearmour June 4, 2013
Thanks! It's pretty tasty stuff -- it makes a great dressing for panzanella.
HCR November 15, 2012
Thank-you! This I found literally brilliant. I had to leave out garlic and onions, so I added more of the other spices to taste and added half of a lemon, peel and all. Your Green Harissa cannot not work!
hardlikearmour November 15, 2012
Thank you! I was surprised at how much my husband and I liked it, so I'm glad you've had the same experience. It is very versatile, and I'm glad you tweaked it to your taste!
testkitchenette October 23, 2012
Making and freezing in ice cube trays to add to soups!
hardlikearmour October 23, 2012
ashleychasesdinner October 9, 2012
What a creation you have shared!! Amazing, can't wait to try!
hardlikearmour October 10, 2012
Thank you, apcd! (almost alphabetical!) I hope you enjoy!
ianwalk September 30, 2012
you rock like armor! i never cease to be amazed by your culinary creativity.
hardlikearmour September 30, 2012
Muchas gracias, kind sir!
SKK September 29, 2012
This is so good! Another home run!
hardlikearmour September 29, 2012
Thank you!!! I couldn't be happier that you tried and liked it!
fiveandspice September 28, 2012
Congratulations Sara! What an awesome all purpose condiment. I love this!
hardlikearmour September 28, 2012
Thanks, 5&S! It does complement lots of things.
mrslarkin September 27, 2012
Hooray! Congrats hla!
hardlikearmour September 28, 2012
Thank you, mrsL!
BlueKaleRoad September 27, 2012
I love this recipe! My taste buds are dancing. Congratulations!
hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
Thank you, BKR! That's a very good description - wish I could rename it "Dancing Tastebud Harissa"!
Midge September 27, 2012
This is ingenious, hla. Congratulations!
hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
Thank you, Midge! I can't take credit for the ingenuity, just my tinkering with it!
meganvt01 September 27, 2012
Congrats HLA! A stunning recipe, can't wait to try it.
hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
Thanks much, megan! The color is pretty spectacular, and the flavor is not bad either ;-)
Beautiful, M. September 27, 2012
What an inventive and intriguing recipe! Can't wait to try this!
hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
Thank you, BMF! I hope you try it, it's surprisingly tasty.
Kukla September 27, 2012
Worm Congratulations hardlikearmour on being chosen as a finalist!!
hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
Thank you, Kukla!
EmilyC September 27, 2012
Congrats HLA -- I'm honored to be in the finalist circle with you! Your recipe is a beauty and I can't wait to try it!
hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
I feel exactly the same!
gingerroot September 27, 2012
Congratulations hardlikearmour! I'm happy to see this is a finalist .
hardlikearmour September 27, 2012
Thank you, gr! It was a pleasant surprise for me this morning.