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Harissa shrimp with new potatoes recipe

Harissa fried shrimp with new potatoes. Photo: K. Yencich Harissa is one of those condiments that sounds good when you read about it. Even so, you never buy it because you can’t figure out what you’ll actually do with it when you get it home. But looking at Zena Foods’ harissa at the Kensington Farmers Market in its clear plastic container, it suddenly seemed like something a cook could work with. And so it was. Harissa, a North African condiment made of medium-hot chilies and olive oil, and which sometimes includes other spices, is common to Tunisia and Algeria where it is used to season soups and stews, meats, and other savory dishes. Specific chilies and spices vary from place to place and cook to cook according to local preferences and personal tastes. Accordingly, Zena’s harissa has a mellow, almost-sweet base of red peppers, and the full-bodied overlay of ancho chilies, with a little bit of a hot kick to it that sneaks up on you just when you think you’re done.

Zena’s harissa is available in Berkeley (along with many other Zena products) at the Sunday Farmer’s Market in Kensington. Other commercial brands of harissa, many of them imported, are available at any supermarket with a good selection of ethnic foods, and at local Middle Eastern Markets. If you’re feeling frisky, you may make your own harissa from a variety of online recipes. A recipe for Spicy Skillet Shrimp with Garlic Potatoes (which also includes a bonus recipe for Big Shrimp Summer Salad) by Tara Duggan in the San Francisco Chronicle was the inspiration for Harissa Shrimp. Harissa Shrimp swaps out the original, almost-Greek spices for harissa, moving the dish across the Mediterranean from southern Europe to North Africa. Duggan’s columns, “The Working Cook,” are a regular feature in the Food section of the San Francisco Chronicle, and are accessible in their archive. She is also the author of the book, “The Working Cook,” (Chronicle Books, 176 pages, hardcover). The links are live; check it out. Harissa Shrimp with New Potatoes Adapted from Spicy Skillet Shrimp with Garlic Potatoes by Tara Duggan serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled, raw shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons harissa
  • 1 pound small (1-inch diameter) new potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1-tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated (about a teaspoonful)
  • 1-teaspoon harissa
  • Salt to taste
  1. coated with the spice mixture; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
  2. Cook the new potatoes, whole, in boiling salted water until just BARELY DONE, 12-14 minutes. Cool and slice in half. NOTE: The “barely” part is important -- if the potatoes are over-cooked, they’ll fall apart when you pan-fry them later on. You may cook the potatoes ahead of time, and set them aside.

When it’s time for supper:

  • First, the potatoes: Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a 12-inch frying pan; stir in the harissa and minced garlic and cook for a few seconds. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring until the potatoes are fully coated with spice, and lightly browned, 3-5 minutes.

  • Then the shrimp: Remove the potatoes from the pan; add one tablespoon of olive oil to coat the bottom of the hot pan and stir in the harissa-coated shrimp. Cook, stirring until the shrimp are fully cooked, about 5 minutes.

  • Reunite the potatoes and the shrimp; serve.