While reading up on harissa online, stupid, politically detached me just learned, for the first time, about the Tunisian revolution that happened in January of last year.
This “People Power” revolution ended autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year reign, forcing him to flee the country in exile and usher in a new era of Tunisian democracy. Since that moment, Tunisia has become a model and inspiration for democratic change in the Middle East, sparking a chain of revolutions and uprisings across the region known as the “Arab Spring”.
In honor of the Tunisian revolution’s first-year anniversary, here’s a Reneelicious Recipe (courtesy of Chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman) for a fantastic, celebratory chicken and couscous dish enlivened by spicy Tunisian harissa.
By sheer coincidence, today also happens to be the 26th anniversary of the original People Power revolution here in the Philippines, making this tribute all the more befitting. 😉
A celebration of flavors and textures, each with its own distinct voice but blending together harmoniously on my plate. Isn’t democracy delicious?
Beautiful can of harissa from Le Phare du Cap Bon. This 135 g can sells for PHP 65 at Rustan’s Supermarket.
A standard ingredient of North African cuisine, harissa is a Tunisian hot chili sauce whose main ingredients are piri piri (a type of chili pepper), serrano peppers, and other hot chili peppers. It also contains spices such as garlic paste, coriander, red chili powder, caraway, and vegetable or olive oil.
Close-up of the lovely couscous with dried cranberries and mint leaves.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 – 1-inch dice (Ren used boneless chicken thighs)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cardamom (Ren substituted 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp ground ginger)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup couscous
- 1/4 cup raisins (Ren used dried cranberries)
- 2 Tbsps harissa, or more to taste
- 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces zucchini, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1 cup cooked (or canned) chickpeas (rinse if canned)
- 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 1 cup; use drained canned tomatoes if you wish)
- 1/2 cup shredded mint
- Toss chicken with cumin, cardamom, and salt and pepper to taste and allow to sit while you prepare the couscous.
- Bring 1 1/2 cups of stock to a boil. Combine couscous, raisins, 1 Tbsp of harissa, 1/3 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste in bowl. Pour boiling stock over couscous, stir, then seal top of bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
- Put remaining 2 Tbsps oil in large skillet and turn heat to high. Allow to heat up for a minute, then add chicken and cook until it begins to brown (about 2 minutes).
- Add zucchini and toss, still over high heat, until it begins to brown (about 2-3 minutes).
- Stir in chickpeas and remaining 1 Tbsp harissa and 1/2 cup stock, along with the tomato. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and simmer for 2 minutes, after which the mixture should become brothy. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and/or harissa as needed.
- Serve on top of couscous and garnish with mint.
DID YOU KNOW?
That Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman co-authored two cookbooks together? The first, released in 1998, was called Jean-Georges: Cooking At Home with a Four-Star Chef, and the second, published two years later, was titled Simple to Spectacular. Both are available on amazon.com.
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