Knock-em-dead Harissa sauce!

…And a sampling of New Year’s letters we had to stop reading…

Below is our ristra of Hatch cayenne peppers, slowly diminishing as we make more harissa sauce, recipe below…


But first:

letters… we get New Year’s letters…

Since we’ve made friends in different states over the years, we get New Year’s letters (instead of Christmas cards) from a number of them, near and far, and several of them are notable for the speed at which I ceased to read them. Or at least paused for a few days. I’ve saved them over the years, and thought I’d share just the first few sentences or so from a few – up to the place where I had to fold the letter up and start doing isometrics or scrubbing tile grout.

Microsoft Word - NewYearsLetters.docx

*Sigh.* It’s good to know when to stop.


A last-minute shopping moment: the killer backhand

I was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping at a retail store not too far away, gathered my purchases, and went to the checkout counter where a demure and kindly and very elderly woman asked me if I’d like to save another 20% (on top of their sales prices) by applying for a store credit card. I said, sure, why not?

Well, henceforth, almost nothing would go right for her with the store’s computers. Understand, this woman was rivaling granite outcroppings for longevity, stood not a few inches higher than our kitchen counter, and she was struggling some with all the technological marvels the store had supplied her with. I showed her my driver’s license – four separate times. I gave her my social (or entered it on a keypad) – three separate times. The store manager came to assist her, and then returned later to assist her again. But what I’ll never forget was her backhand.

Several times, after she entered something on the computer keyboard, she took the back of her hand and struck a decisive blow against the computer screen. WHAP! She’d smile triumphantly, and then a minute or two later after entering some more stuff she’d whap the screen again. It wasn’t a glancing blow – it was a direct hit. I laughed a bit and said, “Wow. You’re treating it like a toaster.”

“It works,” she said with her smile, and whap! she’d strike it again.

I warn you, if you should encounter her: don’t mess.


Knock-em-dead Harissa sauce!

DSC_9939Please oh please don’t let us run out of this!

Harissa sauce – a tongue-taunting blend of dried cayenne peppers, garlic, olive oil and spices – is a staple in Mediterranean cooking and a constant little jar of joy in our fridge. Enjoy new taste sensations with a small amount of harissa in pasta sauce or chili, on burgers, in a steak marinade, with scrambled eggs… the list is endless if you like some fireworks shooting off in your mouth.

To make about 20 ounces – or 1 1/4 pints – you’ll need:

  • small jars with tight lids for storage
  • 4 oz. dried cayenne peppers (or peppers of similar heat on the Scoville scale)
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. dried mint
  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Wearing gloves (you don’t want anything from the cayenne pepper anywhere near your skin or eyes), chop the peppers, put in a bowl, cover with boiling water, and let soak for 1 hour. Now drain them and put in a blender/processor with all other ingredients, except start with only 1 tbsp. of oil. Process for about 20 seconds, scrape down the sides of the pitcher, and process again for about 30 seconds. Add 2 more tbsp. oil, process again, and repeat until all the oil is in and you have a thick gooey paste.

Spoon into clean jars, seal, and store in the fridge for up to six months.


There you have it for now. Cheers, all!



Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.