Harissa is to North Africa what Tabasco sauce is to Louisiana—a fiery red elixir as essential to human happiness as barbecue itself. Harissa is popular from Tunis to Marrakech, and the formulas vary as much as the foods for which the sauce is destined. Most versions call for some sort of dried hot red chile to be fortified with garlic, coriander, and cumin. Here’s a quick version made with hot paprika (or you can use red chile powder). Be sure to use only very fresh paprika.
Step 1: Place the paprika, garlic, salt, coriander, cumin, olive oil, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of hot water in a blender. Puree until a smooth sauce forms.
Step 2: Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or lemon juice as desired. The harissa can be refrigerated, covered, for at least 1 week. Let it return to room temperature before using.