Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Harissa Grilled Chicken Kabobs with Garbanzo Bean Tabbouleh

LESLIE: One pleasure in writing the Spice Shop Mysteries is discovering new-to-me spices and blends. Harissa is a North African blend that Amanda Bevill, owner of World Spice Merchants in Seattle and co-author of World Spice at Home, compares to American chili powder, but with more complexity and depth of flavor. Her blend combines caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds, which are toasted and mixed with guajillo chile flakes, garlic, smoked paprika, Hungarian (or sweet) paprika, pequin chiles, and ground cinnamon. Much easier to buy a small jar!

We find harissa to brim with flavor, not heat. The smoky touch from the paprika gives it a dark, earthy flavor, accented by the chiles and cinnamon. To my mouth, it’s more reminiscent of mole than of chili powder, with an almost chocolate-y depth. In this recipe, the honey adds a lovely sweetness that complements the other flavors without overwhelming them.

Harissa is also available as a paste; if you use a paste in this recipe, substitute it for the powder but start with a smaller amount of olive oil and thin to a workable texture.

This is also not your usual mint and tomato accented tabbouleh. The bulgur and garbanzo beans or chickpeas are a great combination. We used red bulgur because we had it, but any variety will do. It takes about twenty minutes to cook, so start it and let it cook while you make the sauce and grill the chicken.

Harissa is also great to spice up nuts. Combine 2 tablespoons of harissa powder and a tablespoon of kosher salt. Stir into a pound of raw almonds and cashews. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, stirring once to cook the nuts evenly. Place the baking sheet on a rack; the nuts will continue to brown slightly as they cool.

Harissa Grilled Chicken Kabobs with Garbanzo Bean Tabbouleh 

1 cup (dry) bulgur wheat, cooked
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) harissa powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1-1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1-15 ounce can garbanzo beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
½ to 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Heat your grill.

Cook the bulgur wheat following package directions.

While the bulgur is cooking, mix the harissa powder with the olive oil and honey in a small bowl to make a paste.

Cut the chicken into long strips and thread on skewers. Brush with half the harissa paste. Grill 6-10 minutes, turning once, until cooked through.

Mix the bulgur with the garbanzo beans. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice, and salt.

Place the tabbouleh in a shallow serving bowl. Remove the chicken from the skewers and place the strips on the tabbouleh. Drizzle with reserved harissa.

Serves four.

From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming soon!): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Thank you for clarifying so nicely what harissa is. I've been seeing it mentioned a lot recently and wondered where is fit in the taste spectrum.

    1. You're welcome, Libby. Amanda's book includes recipes for many of her shop's favorite blends, including harissa, although as with all blends, variations abound.

  2. Love the recipes and the series! Thanks for sharing.

  3. The harissa powder sounds like an amazing spice mix -- love World Spice Merchants!

  4. Thanks for explaining and for the recipe. You are the best

    1. Thank you, but I beg to disagree -- READERS are the best!