I guess harissa is not so much a spice as it is a paste made of a spice blend and other flavor-contributors. Nevertheless, it has a heat that sneaks up on you and suddenly, out of "nowhere," kicks you in the throat.
I know, I'll wait while you all run out to find this magical condiment. I know, it's too tempting to resist with a review like that. It might take you a while to find it, though.
Tonight, I made Cauliflower-Chickpea Tagine from The Urban Vegan. Funny story. I made this because Mister wasn't feeling terribly hungry, which I thought gave me a little liberty to spend more time making dinner. If I knew he had something to do, I would have made my other quick-cooking dinner. In fact, I almost did, but I though Mister would enjoy the tagine. I hadn't even added the cauliflower to the simmering carrots, tomatoes, and garlic when Mister came in and started to set up the table.
Anyway, the end of the story is that I did my best to speed-simmer and help the rice finish absorbing all the water, while Mister stalled his plans a little so we could have at least a little time for dinner. I got a few bites into my bowl and felt justified in my initial reaction to the recipe's prescribed half-teaspoon of harissa: entirely too little. I got about halfway through my dinner thinking that next time I would add a whole teaspoon (even though the 1/2 teaspoon was definitely heaping). All of a sudden, I got a swift kick to the back of my throat and realized I had completely underestimated that building heat of harissa. I took a short water and olive break and then got back to my tagine, recognizing that it was actually sneaky spicy and it would get me again if I wasn't vigilant.
Overall, it was a very good tagine. Although the recipe suggests salting to taste at the end of the cooking process, I did not find salt necessary at all - the spices and vegetable broth did quite a good job of flavoring the dish without added salt. I enjoyed the kick of harissa, and despite its assault on my esophagus, I probably will increase the amount in the future. All that said, there was nothing terribly outstanding about this tagine - nothing that made it stand apart from a dozen other Moroccan-inspired recipes I have. Perhaps with some tweaking it could turn into something a little more memorable, but not every dinner has to be life-changing, so maybe I'll just let it go.
Speaking of letting go, the poor cat continues to be plagued by his tail. Damn thing follows him everywhere, taunting, haunting, just waiting for the chance to be seen and chased. It followed him all the way from the old apartment and won't even give him a moment's peace to relax on the couch.
Fortunately, it's an exceptionally long tail, which makes it pretty easy to get a hold of. As long as he doesn't let go, he should be able to get some sleep tonight...