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Harissa Chili to Warm the Home

The author’s Harissa Chili, inspired by the recipe in Einat Admony’s “Balaboosta” cookbook. Photograph by Gayle L. Squires.

Having become a well-practiced apartment mover over the past few years, I’ve learned that the best way — literally and figuratively — to warm your house is to cook and then share with friends. Sure, the last few days before a move and the first few days after it are all about take-out, delivery and treating yourself to that restaurant that just opened, which you’ve been wanting to try. But once the boxes dwindle and your kitchen no longer resembles a yard sale, getting back in front of the stove just feels so good.

After my last move, my housewarming meal was a chili Shabbat dinner. The recipe is below, but here’s the gist: first, sauté ground beef and lamb in a pot so hot it sizzles. Remove the cooked meat and place it into a bowl –— how proud are you that you can now find your bowls? — and then melt down (in the same pot) the aromatics and stir in some canned tomatoes and beans. The kick comes from North African harissa chili paste and a smidge of chipotle pepper. The most important part of the recipe, of course, is inviting over a few friends — the ones who are close enough that they’re not fazed by climbing over the last lingering boxes or pouring salt out of the container because you can’t find the shaker — to devour the entire pot of chili with a bottle or two of wine.

In the months since that dinner almost exactly a year ago, I’ve made this chili twice: once without meat (I just doubled the beans) and once with leftover barbecue brisket in place of the chopped meat. Good news: The chili freezes really well, so grab your largest pot and double the batch.

I moved again a few weeks ago, on one of the snowiest days of winter. The movers packed up most of my belongings, but I hand-carried the most important stuff. I crammed a suitcase with the contents of my freezer and trudged an icy seven blocks from old apartment to new. In that suitcase was a container of harissa chili — leftovers from the vegetarian batch. I invited over a neighbor and defrosted enough chili to fill two large mugs that we balanced on cardboard boxes.

Unpacking could wait. I was home.

Gayle Squires is a food writer, recipe developer and photographer. Her path to the culinary world is paved with tap shoes, a medical degree, business consulting and travel. She has a knack for convincing chefs to give up their secret recipes. Her blog is KosherCamembert.

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