Harissa Chicken and Golden Beet Salsa

Until about a year and a half ago, I had been basically vegetarian, with the occasional exception of raw fish.  Being that I first became a vegetarian well before I learned how to cook, I never really learned how to cook meat (broadly defined, as in, any type of animal).  So, I’m trying to learn now.  There have been some trials, and some errors.  Let’s just say it’s difficult to successfully cook meat when you are a hypochondriac with a broken meat thermometer.  I first turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everythingwhich made sense given that the vegetarian version of that book has been quite helpful, but I have to say, that book has been a real disappointment in my meat education.  I think it just assumes more knowledge than I actually have, which is surprising because usually Bittman assumes no knowledge at all.  But there are very basic things like how long certain items will keep in the fridge, or how to defrost them, or knowing when you’ve overcooked something that are inexplicably absent.  Which is not a big deal, but then his recipes are kind of misses too.  Sometimes he’s a bit too ‘minimalist,’ as if the best way to eat anything was only with salt and lemon.  I know I’ve been trying to cook and eat white people food, as part of my life’s research and work, but sometimes I miss recipes that don’t require 8 different spices.

Surely there must be some balance.  Cue the cosmopolitan Yotam Ottolenghi, who, along with his business partner, Sami Tamimi, has a new book out called Jerusalem.  This book is really interesting, actually, because it needs to walk a fine line of acknowledging the city’s, um, problematic political situation while also being a happy sunshiny isn’t everything lovely cookbook (incidentally, Ottolenghi is Israeli while Tamimi is Palestinian; they both grew up in Jerusalem but then moved to gay friendly Tel Aviv and finally to London).  So, for example, they have a page dedicated why no one culture can claim ownership over a particular food, hummus, for example.  There is also a reference to how divided palestinians worked to “distract the soldiers and sneak some beautiful fish across the barbed wire,” without further comment.  I think it’s actually pretty impressive for a cookbook to venture into such territory and highlight the cuisines of the city’s Sephardic and Arab populations (no bagels here).

In the book, the below is a fish dish.  I did make it once with some cod, and that was good, but then made it with chicken as well, to try to atone for my aforementioned failures in this area.  The chicken was a success, largely because I got a working, digital meat thermometer and because I used to the internet to figure out how long I should keep it in the pan and oven.  The chicken was marinated in harissa, which I think might be a thing I make every couple of months and keep around, since it’s sort of the best thing ever.

Harissa Chicken and Golden Beet Salsa


1 boneless chicken breast

1/4 cup harissa (you’ll want to make your own)

1tsp ground cumin

Golden Beet Salsa

1 large golden beet

1 medium orange

1 lemon

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

1/2 of a red onion, chopped

1/3 cup parsley, or more if you want

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

3/4 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne powder or chili flakes

1tbsp olive oil


1. Put the chicken breast in a zip-lock bag with the harissa and cumin and mix it all up.  Place in fridge to marinate.  I probably washed my hands and the counter 5-7 times during this process.

2. Quarter the beet and place in boiling water for 20-30 min, until a knife easily pierces it.

I had one very large beet that I placed in the water whole, and it took FOREVER to cook.  Cutting it up would make more sense.  You’ll have to peel it when you take it out, but after cooking the peel sort of just falls off.  Golden beets also don’t bleed their color onto everything and make a huge mess, as much.  Anyway, once you cook, drain and peel the beet cut it up into a pretty fine dice (smaller than I did).  Place in a very large bowl.

3. Peel the orange and lemon, and take out the sections.  This involves cutting in between the white membranes to release the non-bitter part of the fruit.  This is basically impossible to do without mangling the fruit and squeezing out all the juices.  Best to do this over the bowl so any juices remain part of the final salsa.

If you want to see some fancy french guy make all this look easy, watch this video

Whatevs, fancy french guy.

4. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a pan on medium heat for three minutes.  Remove to a coffee/spice grinder or mortar and pestle and crush to a powder.  If you don’t have both a dedicated spice grinder (separate from your coffee grinder) AND a mortar and pestle then, I mean, what’s the point?  Why are you even doing this?  Just give up, non-fancy person, and stop reading my fancy duck blog.

J/K!!!  You, my turtle friend, may use ground spices, but just this once.  You can find ground cumin and coriander at whole foods for $157, each.  If only they sold pre-sectioned oranges.

5. Mix all the rest of that shit together in the bowl, and voila, beet salsa.  Is it super delicious.  Yes, it is.

6. Ok – chicken.  Heat an oven to 400. Take the chicken out of the bag with tongs and place them in a very hot cast iron pan that already contains very hot – almost smoking – olive oil.  I had a 1″ thick chicken beast, and I cooked it on medium-high heat for five minutes per side.  After this, place in the oven for ten minutes.  Take out and stick your new reasonably priced meat thermometer in it.  Just stick it in there.  It should be at 165.  If not, return the pan to the oven and check every five minutes.

7. Once the chicken is done, transfer to a plate.  Don’t use the same tongs because those are contaminated.  Btw, I hope you’ve been washing your hands, the counter, your floor, and the inside of your fridge every 2-3 minutes during this whole process.

8. Return pan to medium heat.  Add 1 tbps olive oil to the pan.  Spoon the extra harissa into the pan and keep stirring to deglaze.  Remember, this paste has touched raw chicken so you want to cook it through.  Never can be too careful.  Anyway, after 3 minutes of this, you’re good, and you can pour this harissa sauce onto your chicken.  I had a yogurt sauce that I had made that I added as well, but this is not necessary.  Add beet salad.  Eat.

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One Response to Harissa Chicken and Golden Beet Salsa

  1. Rachel M. says:

    1. i need to make harissa.
    2. let’s make harissa fiiiiiiiiiiish.

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