With his name attached to more than 40 restaurants across the U.S., and as far off as Dubai, chef Michael Mina knows his way around a kitchen (and a globe). The Egyptian-born chef recently revamped the menu at his eponymous Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant by returning to his roots and paying homage to his Middle Eastern heritage.
One dish that illustrates his love affair with Middle Eastern cooking is this harissa-grilled chicken lafa. This wrap is a texture and flavor explosion of hummus, pickled cauliflower and harissa-marinated chicken wrapped in warm pita bread.
Harissa is a red chili paste popular in various North African countries, and Mina’s traditional version calls for charred red peppers pureed with a variety of spices, like cumin, coriander, fennel and caraway, as well as garlic, tomato paste and olive oil. You’ll want to put it on just about everything, so you should probably make way more than is necessary.
*Recipe courtesy of Michael Mina, photo by David Varley
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- 4 red dried chilies, seeds left inside
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped, divided
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- To taste kosher salt
- 8 boneless chicken thighs
- 1/2 pint hummus, prepared
- 1/4 fennel stalk, shaved
- 1/4 cup celery leaves
- 1 dozen rounds of pita bread
To make the pickled cauliflower
- 1 The day before making the lafa sandwiches, make the pickled cauliflower. Break the cauliflower floret into pieces, then combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- 2 Add lemon, garlic and peppercorns to quart jar. Using tongs, place florets in jar and cover with pickling liquid.
To make the harissa
- 1 Preheat grill to medium high. Char red peppers until black on all sides, place in bowl, cover, reserve.
- 2 Cut the cumin, coriander, fennel and caraway in a dry sauté pan and toast them until they become very aromatic. Grind all in a spice grinder.
- 3 Peel the peppers (they should be cool enough). Remove and discard seeds as well.
- 4 Chop dried chilies and place in bottom of food processor to pulverize while adding chopped garlic and tomato paste. Puree until smooth, adding 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season to taste.
- 5 Place the paste in a container.
To make the chicken
- 1 Spoon out half of harissa paste and rub chicken liberally before grilling.
- 2 First grill the marinated chicken on the hot side of grill, then finish on the slower side of the grill until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
- 3 Take the cooked chicken and slice into bite-sized pieces and reserve in a warm place.
To assemble the sandwiches
- 1 While chicken is cooking on the slower side of the grill, toast the pita on the hot side.
- 2 When the bread is done toasting (should be puffy and golden brown), brush with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and reserve on a plate with a damp towel on top to keep it from drying out.
- 3 In a small mixing bowl, place the rest of the ingredients and mix salt, pepper and olive oil.
- 4 When pita is all cooked, brush hummus in middle of each and place the chicken in the center. Top with the raw vegetables, pickled vegetables and garnish. Serve with lime wedges and extra harissa sauce.