North African food is complex and labor-intensive, but an artisanal pantry item like this organic Tunisian harissa paste from Les Moulins Mahjoub can be an essential shortcut to getting the flavors right, with a medium-level spice that delivers a full exotic punch - a smoky, fruity heat from coarsely ground sundried peppers and tomatoes, perfumed with coriander and caraway.
It's not just for tagines and couscous. Use it to spice up pastas, grill marinades, or aioli dips.
Harissa by Les Moulins Mahjoub, $9.75, Le Pain Quotidien, 801 Walnut St., 215-253-3114.
- Craig LaBan