How To Roasted Bell Peppers & Harissa Recipe

Copyright © ShulieMadnick
There are several positive things that came out of quarantine. I started cooking more vigorously and posting on Foodwanderings, after a long hiatus from writing here. I also have my husband, not traveling full time, but working from home. It's nice to have him home. I also started listening to audiobooks for the first time. For some obscure reason, I resisted listening to audiobooks over the years, but when we walk on our steep street, it distracts me from the excruciating effort of climbing uphill. 

On our recent daily walks, on our quiet street, I have been listening to 'The Color of Water' on Audiobooks. 'The Color of Water' is James McBride's, an African American author's tribute to his white mother.  I am midway through just in time for a book club Zoom gathering this week. We will wrap up the book in a second session next week. Coincidentally, Oprah Winfrey just announced James McBride's newly released NYT bestseller 'Deacon King Kong' as the next Oprah's Book Club pick. In 2015 McBride an award winner, a multiple NYT bestseller author, a musician, and a former journalist received the National Humanities Medal by President Barak Obama "for humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America."
Copyright © ShulieMadnick
During quarantine, I am also learning about redlining and other institutionalized, systemic racism. This past weekend, we went by Black Lives Matter Plaza in DC, masked, to support the demonstrations against police brutality and excessive force used against the African American community. The diverse, mostly young demonstrators were very peaceful and under disproportionately heavily armed what looked like military and police guard. The area around the White House that was blocked by humvees was more extensive than any I've seen in decades. I got jittery at the sight of militia looking fellows carrying wide-barrel, rubber bullets guns, and other weapons, while making their rounds in front of the White House. I felt that the situation could turn volatile fast at the whim of the army or the police, and there was nowhere to hide.

I am reading, writing, photographing, and cooking a lot but couldn't ignore the monumental historical events as they are happening outside our doors.
Copyright © ShulieMadnick
Back to food...

Harissa, a North African condiment, most associated with, but not exclusive to, Tunisia. There are many versions of Harissa in North Africa, not to mention the similar Yemenite Schug and the South East Asian Sambal. The purest, most basic version of Harissa is made with rehydrated dried red chili peppers, garlic, salt, and oil to seal and preserve. Great on sandwiches, fish, and a dabble to jazz up soups, just to name a few uses. I love the kick my version got with that beautiful orange color, achieved by emulsifying the olive oil with the ingredients in the food processor.

There are several methods of roasting bell peppers. I find peeling the skin with the direct stove-top and grill charring methods is more challenging. With the broiler method, the peeling is not a messy process. In this post, I slightly tweaked an earlier harissa recipe and added the step by step how to roasted bell peppers photos. As you can see from the skins in the glass bowl, they came off smoothly. I add to the roasted and peeled bell peppers some oil and a touch of salt and serve it as a side dish, a salad, on sandwiches, or use it as an ingredient in the harissa recipe below. 

makes approx. 20oz


2oz dried red chills*
3 large bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut along the ribs
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
Juice from 1/2 large lemon

Extra olive oil to seal the top
Boiling water


Add dried red chilies into a large bowl and cover with boiling water. After 1/2 an hour, drain the water. Stem, if necessary, after soaking.

Line the bell peppers skin side up on a cookie sheet. Broil until skin is completely charred. With a heat resistant spatula, immediately remove to a large Ziploc bag and seal well. Be watchful not to get burnt from the steam. Peel the charred skin when cooled down.

Add the caraway, cumin, and coriander seeds to a skillet on medium heat. Toast for a few seconds until you smell the aromas being released. Be careful not to burn seeds. Process the toasted spices in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder until you get a powder.

Add all the ingredients, except the extra oil, for sealing into a food processor and whiz until you reach a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust for salt if necessary. Scoop into a jar and cover the top with oil to seal. Secure with a lid. Make sure to replenish oil for sealing after each use. Keep refrigerated adequately sealed with oil.

*I used chili Japones I had in my pantry, but you can use Ancho chills for milder, lesser heat, or a variety of red chills.


  1. Hello Shulie! It has been so long since I have seen Food Wanderings pop up in my email box. I was beyond thrilled to see a whirlwind of posts this morning. So happy to have you back in this little space - and cannot wait to catch up on what you have been doing!

  2. Hi Denise, So good to have you back here and thank you for your note. I am really enjoying being back and active on Foodwanderings and posting frequently. Inspired by quarantine and my son cooking. :)