Most of my conversations with friends, no matter how they start or where they wander, inevitably lead to discussions about dinner. “What are you making tonight?” “What did you have last night?” “Have you ever cooked chicken with harissa?” That’s pretty much the script of my phone call with my friend Rachel about a month ago that led to us deciding to both make grilled harissa chicken and eggplant rice bowls for our families that night. I’ll show you the photos we texted to each other.
Harissa is a complex, aromatic, spicy North African chili paste. It can be used as a flavor base for cooking, as a dip for bread, or as a condiment, like ketchup or hot sauce. The exciting flavors in harissa come from roasted ground chili peppers and aromatic spices (cumin, coriander and caraway), oil and garlic. You can make your own harissa from scratch or you can buy it as a dry seasoning mix or as a paste.
I used a dry harissa seasoning for this recipe. I keep dry harissa seasoning in my pantry so I can have harissa paste any time I like. I just mix the dry spice with oil, a little salt and little something sweet – sugar, coconut sugar or apricot preserves. Sometimes I add garlic or fresh herbs to the mix.
I buy my harissa seasoning at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it at your local grocery store, you can buy harissa seasoning online.
Boneless chicken thighs are one of my favorite things to grill. Harissa takes them to even higher heights of deliciousness. The chicken comes off the grill tender and juicy inside, golden brown outside, amazing flavors throughout.
I also love eggplant on the grill. There’s nothing easier – just slice it, brush it with oil, and sear it on both sides for a few minutes. The harissa-apricot glaze takes it over the top – irresistibly tender, sweet, spicy, yum!
This recipe is so quick and easy. Here’s how it goes: If you’re making brown rice, get that cooking first since it takes about 45 minutes. Next, mix up the harissa paste and toss the chicken thighs with it. While the chicken marinates, slice the eggplant, and brush it with harissa-apricot glaze.
Grill the harissa chicken and eggplant for a few minutes per side.
At the last minute, sauté the cherry tomatoes in a skillet with olive oil, and assemble the bowls. Garnish with lemon and mint.
By the way, one of my many food-focused chats with Rachel led to another delicious blog post that you might want to check out: Mexican-spiced chicken with Nectarine salsa.
Chatting with friends about food is one of my favorite sources of cooking inspiration. So please leave a comment here or connect with me on Facebook. I’d love to know what you’re cooking these days. Do you have any favorite seasonal recipes? Is there a dish you’ve had on your travels that you loved and want to share?
Here’s the recipe for grilled harissa chicken rice bowls. I hope you enjoy!
- 2 cups raw brown rice, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt
- 8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 7 tablespoons of store-bought Harissa Seasoning, divided
- 2 tablespoons white sugar (or substitute coconut sugar)
- 2 Eggplants (1¼ pounds each)
- 5 tablespoons apricot preserves
- 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges, garnish
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped, optional garnish
- Mint sprigs, optional garnish
- Make The Rice: Get the rice cooking, per package directions. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt to the cooking water. The rice will take 45 minutes to an hour.
- Make The Harissa Paste and Marinate the Chicken: In a large bowl, whisk to combine 3 tablespoons dry harissa seasoning, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons sugar (or coconut sugar) and 1 teaspoon salt. Add chicken thighs to the bowl and toss to coat. Cover the chicken and set it in the fridge to marinate while you prepare the eggplant.
- Make harissa glaze and Prepare the Eggplant: In a small bowl combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 5 tablespoons apricot preserves, 4 tablespoons harissa seasoning, and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Cut the eggplant, crosswise, into ½-inch rounds. Lay them out on a tray or baking sheet in a single layer. Use a pastry brush to paint the eggplant slices with harissa glaze (top side only), using half the glaze.
- Grill The Chicken and Eggplant: Preheat the grill to medium high. Grill the chicken for about 5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Slice into strips. Place the eggplant on the grill glazed-side down. Brush the tops with glaze. Grill eggplant for about 4 minutes, until there are grill marks on the bottom sides. Flip and grill for another 3-4 minutes, until tender.
- Sauté the Cherry Tomatoes: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium eat. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with ½ teaspoons salt, and cook, tossing occasionally, for 7 minutes, or until the skins just begin to split. Sprinkle generously with fresh ground black pepper.
- Assemble The Bowls: Divide the rice among 6 shallow bowls. Arrange chicken slices, eggplant rounds and cherry tomatoes over the rice. Season, to taste with salt and pepper. Add a wedge of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh mint to each bowl. Garnish with whole mint sprigs, if you like.