black olives with harissa

The spicy North African condiment called harissa is often mixed with olives or served with salads, couscous, or tagines — meat or poultry stews.

1 pound oil-cured black olives (preferably Moroccan)*
For harissa*
1 teaspoon cuminseed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 hot red dried chilies*, stemmed but not seeded (about 2 inches in length)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
1 medium red bell pepper, roasted (procedure follows) and chopped coarse
1 tablespoon olive oil
*available at Middle Eastern or Mediterranean markets

In a colander rinse olives under cold water 1 minute and in a large bowl cover with cold water. Soak olives 4 hours to remove excess salt and drain well.

Make harissa:
In a mortar with a pestle, an electric spice grinder, or a cleaned coffee grinder grind seeds fine. If using mortar and pestle, add chilies, garlic, and salt and pound to taste. If using a spice or coffee grinder, transfer seeds to a small food processor and add chilies, garlic, and salt. Grind mixture to a paste. Add pepper and oil and pound or purée to a coarse paste.

In a large bowl stir together harissa and olives and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 6 hours or overnight. Olives may be prepared 1 week ahead and kept chilled, covered.

Serve olives at room temperature.

To roast peppers:
Using a long-handled fork, char peppers over an open flame or on a rack set over an electric burner, turning, until skins are blackened, 4 to 6 minutes. (Or to broil peppers on rack of a broiler pan under a preheated broiler about 2 inches from heat, turning every 5 minutes, 15 to 20 minutes, or until skins are blistered and charred.) Transfer peppers to a bowl and let stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. Keeping peppers whole, peel them, starting at blossom end. Cut off pepper tops and discard seeds and ribs.

Makes about 3 cups.

From “Gourmet” magazine, August 1994