I’m admittedly a little late to the Harissa game. I’ve eaten it before, but I haven’t used it all that often until recently, and let me tell you – I have REALLY been missing out.
Harissa is seriously good stuff. It’s like tomato paste, but spicier…like chili paste, but tomato-ier. It’s rich and complex, slightly smoky, spicy and basically all the things I love when it comes to a flavor profile. I recently found some very authentic Harissa paste at my local spice market, and I immediately knew I wanted to use it with veggies in some sort of tart or pastry-forward dish.
I decided to go with a vegetable tart because a) I hadn’t had one in a while, and b) they’re easy, but very, very pretty, and I’m into that kinda thing. I decided to use tomatoes and asparagus because I knew both would stand up to, and complement, the harissa paste in all it’s smoky, spicy, flavorful glory.
The result is not just a beautiful meal, but a really complex and surprising dish. The harissa-ricotta base is creamy and rich and perfect as the foundation for something light; the vegetables are charred and fork tender and savory and all around wonderful, and the hot honey on top is nothing short of condiment perfection, if I do say so myself.
The dish is also extremely versatile…if you don’t love asparagus, mushrooms would be great here, and if mushrooms aren’t your thing, squash or zucchini would be perfect alternatives. If you want to dial down the harissa flavor (a sentiment I do not personally understand) you can always go half & half with harissa and tomato paste, and I’m sure everything would taste fabulous. Here’s my current go-to recipe to get you started:
Harissa-Spiced Asparagus & Tomato Tart
For the Tart
- 1 sheet store-bought, ready-rolled puff pastry thawed according to package instructions
- olive oil
- 1 shallot chopped
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 250 g ricotta cheese
- 2 tbsp harissa paste
- 1 bunch asparagus chopped into thirds
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes quartered
For the Hot Honey
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp chili flakes
For the Harissa-Spiced Yogurt Sauce
- 170 g plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp harissa paste
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the Green Garnish
- rocket a few handfuls
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 pinch salt
Preheat your oven to 200FAN (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit)
Meanwhile, roll your pastry sheet onto a baking tray. It should come wrapped in parchment paper, leave it on the paper. if it doesn't come wrapped in parchment, make sure to place a piece on the baking tray before you put the pastry down. Score a one-inch border along the edge of the sheet with a knife and then, using a fork, liberally prick the inside of the pastry sheet (I make a fork mark every inch or so).
Heat a pan over medium-high heat and saute the shallot and garlic in olive oiol (enough to just coat the bottom of the pan) until they're golden-brown, about 5-7 minutes.
While the shallot and garlic cook, prepare your ricotta base by stirring the harissa into the ricotta until it's thoroughly combined and very smooth.
Also use this time to prepare your hot honey by combing the honey and chili flakes in a sauce pan and heating over medium heat until the mixture has bubbled and thinned out, about 5 minutes.
When the shallot and garlic are browned, distribute them on top of the pastry sheet as evenly as possible. Then, using a brush, brush the remaining oil from the pan all over the pastry sheet, including the edges.
Smear the ricotta mixture inside the scored border, making sure to distribute the ricotta as evenly as you can.
Arrange the asparagus and tomato however you like, taking care to stay within the border you scored earlier.
Drizzle the hot honey over the vegetables and bake for 22-25 minutes, until the pastry is deep golden brown and the aspargus is fork tender. If the middle of the tart puffs up excessively at any point while it's cooking (like a big bubble) just poke it with a knife to deflate it.
While the tart bakes, prepare the yogurt sauce by combing all of the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and stirring until it's very smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more lime juice or vinegar to thin it to your desired consistency.
You can also prepare the greens by dressing them lightly in the lemon juice and pinch of salt.
When the tart is done, remove it from the oven and slide the tart – still on the pastry sheet – on to the counter or a cutting board and let it cool for about 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with the yogurt sauce and green garnish. Enjoy!