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Originally published Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Recipe: Harissa

Makes 1 cup

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

3 cloves garlic, halved

3 dried New Mexico chilies

12 sun-dried tomato halves (about 1/2 cup)

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Salt

Cayenne pepper

1. In very small skillet combine cumin and caraway seeds and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until very fragrant and garlic begins to color, about 5 minutes. Transfer the garlic to a food processor. Grind the toasted cumin and caraway seeds with a mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder and add to the food processor.

2. Return skillet to heat and add chilies. Toast until lightly browned and very aromatic, 2 to 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl; add sun-dried tomatoes, cover with boiling water and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit until chilies are quite soft, about 20 minutes. Drain through fine-mesh strainer, reserving the soaking liquid.

3. Transfer chilies and tomatoes to food processor, add oil and vinegar, and process until very smooth and uniformly blended, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down sides of work bowl as necessary. Adjust seasoning with salt and cayenne to taste. Add a tablespoon or 2 of the reserved soaking liquid if the harissa is too stiff. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate until needed. (Harissa will keep in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for 1 week.)

Note. Bulk-dried chilies are available at Latin speciality stores and in many well-stocked supermarkets. Be sure to use vegetable oil; olive oil will taste bitter if puréed in the processor for the extent of time it takes to purée the tomatoes and chilies.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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