Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tunisian Seared Lamb with Harissa

Harissa is a deliciously bold, spicy sauce common in North African cuisine. A mixture of chiles, fragrant spices, and a little lemon give harissa a balance of dynamic flavors. The cuisines of Tunisia, Libya, and Algeria feature generous amounts of harissa—used for marinating meats before roasting, searing, or grilling, or simply added to sauces or condiments.

Most harissa recipes call for dried or fresh chiles ground with caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds—the common spices of this dish—as well as olive oil and fresh lemon juice. You can use a mixture of fresh and dried chiles, or all dried or all fresh (typically, roasted red bell peppers). For this recipe, I used two types of dried chiles and one fresh chile, blended with spices, oil, and lemon to bring out the richest depth of the ingredients.

Harissa Ingredients
Whatever technique you use, harissa is a deeply flavored, fiery red sauce that enhances whatever it touches. And lamb is one of its favorite companions.

Note: For the dried chiles, I used mild California and hot chiles de arbol, then added a fresh red jalapeno to tip the balance to the spicy side. If you prefer to go milder, use a fresh red Fresno chile in place of the jalapeƱo.

Serves 2

  • 4 chiles de arbol, stems removed
  • 1 California chile, torn into 3 pieces, stem removed
  • 1 small red chile (jalapeno for spicy, Fresno for mild)
  • 1/4 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 8-oz lamb leg steaks, about 1-inch thick
  • olive oil, for brushing
Lamb Leg Steaks
  1. Place the chiles de arbol and California chiles in a small saucepan and add about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Drain the chiles, reserving 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, finely chop the softened chiles. 
Stemmed and Torn Chiles
Water Added 
Softened Chiles 
Chopped Chiles

  1. Place the chopped chiles in a food processor along with the reserved cooking liquid. Add the red chile, 3 spices, garlic, and lemon juice to the processor and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Process the harissa mixture until chunky. Add the extra virgin olive oil and process until chunky smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons for serving. Rub the remainder all over the lamb steaks. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  3. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and brush with olive oil. Sear the marinated lamb until lightly charred and medium, about 5 minutes per side (or until desired degree of doneness).
Ready to Process
Ready for Oil 
Marinated Steaks 
Beginning to Sear
Seared Lamb
Serve the chops, passing the reserved harissa alongside.

Tunisian Seared Lamb with Harissa

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