The Dish That Made Me Say “Holy Sh*t” and the Wine I Paired With It

Harissa seemed like an easy enough ingredient in the weekend dinner recipe.  But no, it required searching throughout the city of Des Moines until finally, it was found.

The recipe came from Chef Seamus Mullen’s new book, Real Food Heals: Eat to Feel Younger and Stronger Every Day.  Spaghetti squash halves were rubbed with harissa and drizzled with olive oil and honey.

The roasted squash halves were filled with a mixture of beef, garlic, fresh ginger, pine nuts, golden raisins, and–you guessed it–more harissa.

On its own, harissa is a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste made up of peppers along with spices such as garlic, cumin, caraway, and some tomato. Its earthy flavors get a boost from the slowly spreading heat of the chili peppers.  Blended with all the flavors and textures of this recipe, the dish was a wild explosion of flavors that somehow all blended together perfectly!

Or to put it another way, HOLY SH*T this stuff was CRAZY delicious!!!!! I may have shouted this many times throughout the evening…

I don’t think I fully comprehended the intensity of this dish while I was searching for a wine to pair with it.  I just fell back on the tried and true guideline of “sweet with heat.”  I chose this charming Loosen Brothers Dr. “L” Riesling from Germany’s steep-sloped Mosel region.

The Loosen brothers craft this as their “entry-level” Mosel Riesling, as it embodies the racy and elegant characteristics of this region and is offered at a modest price. Only Riesling grapes are used and the wine is stainless steel fermented.


Immediately I noticed the edgy minerality in the aromas balanced with ripe peach and melon and a hint of honey.

The palate also shows sweet stone fruit and melon along with bits of honey. And then a zing of bright lime balances the sweet flavors. There is even just a tiny bit of spritz to keep it all lively and fresh. The elegance of the sweet honeyed fruits are balanced by the racy lime–a perfect example of Mosel, indeed!

Just as the old adage of “sweet balances heat” suggests, the sweet notes of the Dr. L Riesling did indeed cool the heat of the harissa on the palate. And even given the intensity of flavors in this dish, the racy, bright lime notes of the wine actually allowed it to match that intensity, finishing with a clean bright palate. And, ready for the next bite!

A wildly delicious dish and a Mosel Riesling were just the pair to get me loudly exclaiming!


With an intensely flavored dish!;

With spicy foods;

When you are seeking a sweet wine balanced with clean, bright acidity.

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