After we finished hacking up herbs, I went on my merry way. I'd bought a Nesco dehydrator (at only 1/5 of the cost of a restaurant-quality device), and it was all pristine and white at home, just waiting for me to mess it up.
Whereas Price's looked like a run-of-the-mill wine fridge, mine resembled a small igloo for a miniature sled dog or a plastic version of Amy Winehouse's beehive hairdo. He'd recommended pouring the tomato and chili purees into two pans then placing them in the dehydrator, but my round receptacle wouldn't accommodate that plan.
Why not use foil, then? I layered a few pieces on to two levels of the Winehouse beehive, then carefully dribbled in the purees I'd made from canned, diced tomatoes and chipotle peppers in adobo. Those ingredients are practically the same as heirloom tomatoes and fresh chilies that have been fermented in salt and water, right?
I turned on the dehydrator and let a wave of noise wash over me -- I hadn't expected this, but it was louder than the grinder I use to make chocolate at home. I usually stow that in my NYC-sized closet for 24 hours or so when it's working away, but the Winehive was much too large.
Six ear-splitting hours later, I decided I couldn't wait the 16 hours Price had instructed. I turned off the dehydrator and opened it up, hoping to find thick pastes of both ingredients. Instead I'd made... paint! Van Gogh himself would have been envious of the texture of this substance, which had shellacked itself on to the foil as if it were the makings of a masterpiece.
Abandoning one disaster for another, I moved on to the flowers. Like my canned ingredients, who needed fresh hibiscus or peonies from local farms when I could get perfectly nice bouquets at my local bodega, flown in straight from Central and South America? Front and center in the bouquet bloomed a red rose, and since rose was one of the first prized flavorings in the history of the world (along with salt, sugar and, eventually, vanilla), it called out to me.
Before I dehydrated them, the rose petals tasted a bit like chewy plastic, but three hours at 95 degrees really concentrated the aroma of my great grandma Sara, with more than a hint of bitterness from the pesticides most likely used on the crops. (I'd washed them as Price had instructed, gently in a bowl of cool water, but alas.)
I'd made... paint!
Honestly, I'm amazed I let the whole thing brew for three hours, because half an hour in, the pollen being distributed throughout my house via the dehydrator's open-air tunnel gave me the wickedest allergy attack I've had since I put my face in a litter of kittens. I'm also pretty sure I dislocated something with the force of my sneezes. But once my eyes had dried, I powdered the petals in a coffee grinder, which, with its stale bean crumbs, added a nice depth of flavor.
Then it was time to try the tomatoes and the chilies once again, making sure that I put much thicker scoops into the machine this time. And it worked! After only three hours in the Winehive, the pastes were ready to blend with the powdered flowers and the almost two dozen other ingredients in the recipe, including urfa biber, a kind of Turkish chile that can only be found at approximately one and a half spice shops in New York City. Price's recipe makes boatloads of harissa, but after combining everything, I had a scant cup.
Sure, I could have made a dish imitative of Il Fiorista's, but since I'd mastered the art of dehydration, I wanted to push it to the next level. So if my neighbors smell something funny in the hallway, it's probably the last piece of my magnum opus: dehydrated prawn strips for my ingenious harissa "fruit" leather over polenta pellets. Truly high class.