Harissa Grilled Pork Chops.

Often the best meals are the simplest, and these simple harissa pork chops are both easy to make and a little bit special, too. It’s the harissa. This spicy Tunisian mix of flavors has a real transformational power when it comes to seasoning meat, and I find myself using it more and more these days. You’ll see the rest of this recipe’s ingredient list is quite simple and basic – the harissa really stands on its own, with very little else needed by way of flavoring. And I just love recipes that are a breeze like this one: throw the marinade together with the meat in the morning, let the flavors develop and sink in all day in the fridge, and at the end of the day you’re just 15 minutes away from a tasty and speedy dinner. I’m having this for dinner again tonight!

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

for marinade:
4 small pork chops (I used 4 2oz chops)
2 tsp harissa (I get mine from The Spice House)
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed with the side of a knife
salt and pepper, to taste

for yogurt sauce:
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
harissa, to taste
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Just the Recipe link: Harissa Grilled Pork Chops

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, stir together harissa, olive oil, garlic clove, and salt and pepper. Pour the marinade over the pork chops and use your hands to work it into the meat a bit. Cover and let the chops marinate in the fridge; I waited  about 45 minutes for the first batch I made, and 24 hours for the second. Both were great.

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When the chops have had their time with the marinade, remove them from the fridge and let them come to room temperature a bit while you preheat the grill or pan. Over medium high heat, cook the chops a few minutes on each side, depending on how think they are, until cooked through. Mine took about 3 minutes per side.

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The yogurt sauce couldn’t be simpler: just combine all the ingredients. Serve a big scoop of sauce over the chops and enjoy.

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Steamed Artichoke with Harissa Butter.

Let’s use our imaginations for a second. It’s something like 100,000 years ago and you’re a primitive human, walking around and looking for food. You spot a green, tough, pointy-leafed, stringy-stemmed, hairy-hearted and bitter-tasting vegetable. Naturally, you do not eat it. And none of your fellow humans eat it either. It’s clearly a bad food option. You move on and continue your search. Are the berries on that bush non-poisonous? Only one way to find out!

Are you enjoying the imagination game? I find myself thinking about this kind of thing a lot: how many thousands of years had to go by before someone figured out how to prepare an artichoke so that it’s a delicious treat instead of the “problem vegetable” that it is in its untouched state? The artichoke is one of the weirdest vegetables there is, and it’s pretty labor-intensive to prepare, and yet it is all so worth it to get to that delicious heart and eat the meat off the bases of the leaves. Mmmmm.

Despite its baggage, I am a huge fan of these guys, and today I share with you the best artichoke and dressing I have ever eaten. The dressing is a simple combo of melted butter and harissa, a red spiced paste that comes from Tunisia and is usually made from chilis and olive oil. It goes so well with artichokes, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this combo before now. Please please please make this simple recipe as soon as you can – it it magnificent.

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INGREDIENTS (this recipe easily doubles/triples/etc.)

1 artichoke
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp harissa paste (or more, to taste)

Just the Recipe link: Steamed Artichoke with Harissa Butter

DIRECTIONS

Fill a pot with 1 inch of water, toss in the bay leaf, and set it to boil. Meanwhile, prep the artichoke for steaming. Using a serrated knife, chop the stem most of the way, and cut through the middle of the artichoke so that you trim off the leaf points. Pull the small leaves off the base and discard.

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When the water is boiling, put the artichoke in the pot, wide cute side down and stem up. Cover, turn down to a low boil, and cook 20-30 minutes. It’s done when you can easily pull off smaller leaves at the base near the stem. Remove the artichoke from the water and set is aside to cool down a bit.

To assemble the harissa butter, melt the butter and stir in the harissa.

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When the artichoke has cooled enough to touch, take out the choke. Take your tongs and use them to find the middle section of the artichoke, where the purple-y leaves are. Use the tongs to pull this section out of the artichoke and expose the hairy choke in the center.

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Then trade the tongs for a fork. To remove the hairy center, use the fork to gently loosen the hair from the heart. Pull it away and throw it out. Continue to gently loosen the hair and remove it until the heart is clean and exposed.

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Put your artichoke on a plate and spoon about half of the butter over the center, over the heart. Use the rest for dipping the leaves; I like to dip each leaf and scrape the base for the “meat,” and then eat the heart last. These are so unbelievably good!!

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And thank you, oh culinary pioneer of the past, who discovered the glory of artichokes and made this meal possible.