The “Recipe Redux” theme this month is spring cleaning. So after peeking into my fridge to see what I haven’t used in a while, one ingredient treasure I found was harissa. I adore it! But for some reason I forget I have it. So I put it to excellent use.
I was so lucky to host two amazing food-loving dietetic interns this spring. One of them, Rahma Rekik, was actually born in Tunisia where harissa is a popular condiment. So as part of her internship experience, I asked her to create a recipe inspired by her Tunisian roots. Here’s her story behind this recipe makeover.
Harissa, olive oil, and spices are just a fraction of the ingredients used in Tunisia, a small country in North Africa that many people often mistake for Tanzania. Growing up there, I developed a palate for these amazing, robust flavors. However, there was one dish — for some reason — I couldn’t wrap my tongue around. It was overly flavorful for my taste. Tunisians eat it with a baguette and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s called “Omek Houria” which means “the mother Houria” — most likely named after the recipe developer but no one really knows. It’s been a popular mashed carrot appetizer in Tunisian cuisine for decades. Although I was not fond of this dish, I wanted to be. First of all, it’s plant-based and healthy. Second, it’s very high in vitamin A. Third, all my family and friends liked it and I felt so different for not eating it. I had to find a way to incorporate it into my food dictionary but make it more interesting, hence, this recipe!
I absolutely love this very elegant appetizer! It has a perfect balance of flavor, color, and texture. The harissa and the coriander give it a nice kick. The mushrooms and baby greens add a bite to the dish. Everything falls together perfectly!
This dish is perfect as an appetizer if you’re hosting a party. And now you can tell everyone that you know how to cook a Tunisian dish! ~ Rahma Rekik
Calories saved: 190
Why it’s better for you? It’s loaded with plant-based goodness!
- 16 (2/3-inch-thick) diagonal slices whole grain French baguette
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon naturally-brewed soy sauce
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large (5-inch) portabella mushroom caps, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices (8 ounces)
- 1 recipe Tunisian Carrot Puree (see recipe below)
- 1 cup packed baby leafy green mixture, such as fresh baby arugula and watercress
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange bread slices on a large baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 10 minutes. Set aside
- Whisk together 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the mushrooms and toss lightly to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and sauté until fully wilted, about 7 minutes.
- Spread 1 tablespoon of the Tunisian Carrot puree on top of each toasted baguette slice. Top with the mushrooms then the leafy green mixture. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and serve at room temperature.
Per serving: 150 calories, 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 400mg sodium, 19g total carbohydrate, 4g dietary fiber, 5g sugars, 5g protein
TUNISIAN CARROT PUREE: 12 ounces carrots, scrubbed (or peeled) and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices ~ 2 large cloves garlic, sliced ~ 1 teaspoon harissa paste ~ 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil ~ 1/2 teaspoon sea salt ~ 1/4 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
Add the carrots, garlic, and 2/3 cup cold water to a large skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover tightly, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until fully softened and no liquid remains, about 20 minutes. (Hint: Add extra water by the tablespoon, if necessary.) Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked carrots and garlic to a medium bowl, add the harissa, olive oil, salt, and caraway and mash well with a fork into a smooth paste. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 1 cup.
The “Before” Version
Per serving: 340 calories, 19g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 30mg cholesterol, 620mg sodium, 33g total carbohydrate, 2g dietary fiber, 3g sugar, 12g protein
- Go vegetarian to please more palates. Portabella mushrooms can have just as much savory appeal as beef, especially with a splash of naturally-brewed soy sauce to pump up the umami.
- Add a pop of color. A spiced up carrot puree with worldly flair can be more enticing than a rich cheese spread while providing vivid orange color.
- Serve greens on top of your finished appetizer so they stay crisp and fresh; mix up types of greens for extra flavor and eye appeal.