Red pepper-harissa dip

You could be really serious and roast all the red bell peppers for this recipe, but I don't – I buy a jar of them and save myself the work. In fact I try to keep a jar on hand in the pantry in case friends stop by unexpectedly; it's easy to whip this up and cut up some vegetables (carrots, celery, cauliflower – whatever's in the fridge) to serve with it. Sometimes I use walnuts in it, sometimes pecans: whatever I happen to have. Sometimes if I don't have harissa (which you can buy in a tube or a jar in well-stocked supermarkets), I might open a can of chipotles en adobo, and use a little of that. If I don't have crème fraîche, I might use sour cream in its place. You see – the recipe is super easy-going. This serves four people; just double everything if you want to serve more. You can serve it as soon as it's done, but if you let it chill in the fridge for an hour or three, the flavors and texture get even better.

Serves 4

7 or 8 walnut halves or pecan halves

6 ounces roasted red peppers (if you squish them into a measuring cup, it's about 3/4 to 1 cup)

1/2 teaspoon harissa paste

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons crème fraîche

Heat oven to 350. Place the nuts in a pie tin or small baking dish and toast them in the oven for five minutes; or toast them in a dry sauté pan on the stove on low heat (watch them like a hawk so they don't burn!). Put them in a food processor (I use a mini-version for this) with the peppers, harissa and salt and process till smooth. Transfer it to a bowl, stir in the crème fraîche and put it in the fridge for an hour or more so the flavors meld before serving.