I don't remember where I was when I first tasted Harissa, sad to say. Some part of me just feels like it's always been there when I've needed it. It's a spicy, exotic, complex blend of spices hailing from Tunisia (Northern Africa).
Harissa is strongly chili based, using the piri piri chile in Tunisia. Mine still has a kick to it, but the spice has dropped back to basic cayenne, while the cumin has really been brought forward. Perhaps it's not a true Harissa, but I tend to prefer it balanced this way. It's still pretty fantastic, whatever you want to call it!
Normally, I'm a bit of a purist and prefer my meats and veggies to taste like their natural flavors. However, harissa is so overwhelmingly delicious, that ... when I use it on something, IT is what I want to taste! It's a sumptuous bounty of flavor!
I really can't think of anything that couldn't benefit from a dab of harissa. It's amazing as a marinade and a sauce. It's great on all meats and fishes. It's wonderful on veggies. I've even drizzled it all over pizza! Probably not great on ice cream, but ... that may be its only limitation. Try it. You'll be glad you did!
Served with a Tunisian Lamb Rack
, in the photos.