It all started almost 20 years ago in NYC when I was introduced to amazing falafel. It wasn't foreign since my mom made it at home growing up - but it was always "Indianized" and a far comparison to New York City's legendary Mamoun's Falafel on MacDougal and 3rd Street. We would line up late night ready to bite into the crispy falafel balls doused in tahini and hot sauce. Mamoun's sauce was the right balance of heat and flavor without the vinegar taste of most hot sauces on the market. Back then, they didn't sell it by the bottle and you would just have to wait until the next late night to experience the deliciousness.
And then we (my now husband and I) discovered Cafe Magador...an equally delicious Middle Eastern restaurant on the lower east side. My husband is obsessed with spicy food and asked for hot sauce - thinking he would get a regular bottle of the red stuff. Our server brought out a tiny dish of HARISSA and we were in heaven! Spicy but not just extreme heat - blended with the perfect balance of flavors - it was amazing.
Fast forward to about two years ago when we couldn't find the right hot sauce to go with falafel here in Cleveland. I kept thinking about Mamoun's and Cafe Magadore wishing I could transport myself back to NYC. I started tinkering in the kitchen, making huge test batches and realized that harissa is actually really good on EVERYTHING! Family and friends started asking for it and my husband would go through jars and jars...
So what is harissa?
According to Merriam-Webster, harissa is "a spicy North African paste made from dried chilies, salt, oil, and other seasonings."
And it's delicious! We can't wait for you to try it on everything.