I spent much of my childhood in Southern California, where the Mexican border was only a short drive away, making the coast of Baja a frequent family destination for exploring and indulging in some amazing regional foods. While living in the Yucatan a few years later, I began to realize how incredibly diverse the cuisine of Mexico actually is and that the food I loved in the Yucatan had similarities but was also very different from the foods I had loved in Baja as a child. One thing is certain, its influence is deeply rooted in the foods and flavors I enjoy and prepare today, especially my love of chiles. This is my adaptation of Chicken Tinga (tinga de pollo), a shredded chicken dish bathed in a mildly spicy, smoky sauce, served on homemade corn tortillas and dressed with avocado slices, a hint of sour cream and a sprinkling of cotija cheese….
Chiles are one of those divine foods that most certainly were a special gift from on high. Necessity being the mother of all invention motivated the ancients to preserve these gifts by smoking them, exalting the humble jalapeno to new heights of flavor and complexity. The smoky nuances of the chipotle peppers are distinctive in this salsa, making it a great dip or condiment, but the real magic happens when paired with meats and vegetables as a marinade or sauce. Whipping up an enticing home cooked meal quickly and easily with this salsa places it at the top of my short list for weekday meals….
Whether you already know you love the spicy, earthly flavors of a good harissa sauce or want to give it a try for the first time, this recipe will not disappoint. I use our Tomato Harissa Sauce recipe that we waterbath-can each year, making this quick and easy to prepare. If you have not pre-made our sauce and want to use your own red harissa paste (homemade or store-bought), I’ve included the substitutions in the recipe notes below. The small amount of honey adds a subtle sweetness to the harissa’s spiciness while the Preserved Lemon brings additional complexity to the sauce….
If you haven’t tried harissa by now, you are missing out – it’s just that good. With as many variations as there are regions in North Africa, this spicy paste is often thought of as the Mediterranean/ Middle East’s version of Asia’s sriracha sauce. It is used as a base to liven up flavor in curries and stews or as a condiment. Harissa’s complex blend of spicy chiles, garlic, spices, salt and olive oil is wickedly addictive, with a brazen red color that is enticing and seductive.
I started making two different variations of harissa sauce a couple years back. I make the more authentic sauce/ paste, made with chilis, spices and olive oil, year round, as it has a limited refrigerator life of about 3 weeks. This harissa sauce for canning has tomatoes added and no oil and has a shelf life of one year, when canned and stored properly. We grow quite a few tomatoes in our garden each year for canning salsas and tomato sauces. Since I make several meat dishes by combining harissa with stewed tomatoes, this canned version was a no-brainer for me. This sauce eliminates most of the prep work, making it perfect for weekday meals, without sacrificing flavor. Getting a home cooked meal on the table on those days when I’m really pressed for time or exhausted from a long day is a definite win-win….
Like many edibles in China, dumplings can be traced back for centuries, with as many nuances as there are regions in China, each conveying profound esoteric and symbolic connotations. Asian dumplings are the epitome of a cultural food masquerading in its simplicity, only to reveal an underbelly of complex flavors and depth. Much easier to master than one might think, dumplings are fun to make and can be customized by the color and flavor of the dough, a variety of fillings and the way they are folded or sealed. These tasty little pockets of flavor are a popular holiday dish and will leave party guests and family wanting more. Top them off by serving with an array of aromatic dipping sauces and a spicy chili oil….
Ranking high on our culinary ‘love lists’, Chermoula and potato roti are both ‘go to’ recipes that make it to our dinner table on a regular basis, for both family meals and dinner parties. Used in many North African countries, this regionally diverse area has spawned numerous incarnations of this parsley, cumin and garlic based marinade. Traditionally a marinade for seafood, we prefer switching it up with chicken. Nearly foolproof, the beauty of this chermoula is that any fresh shrimp or chicken breast anointed with this marinade and properly grilled, renders a perfectly balanced, exquisitely flavored dish. Its amber color with flecks of green and red are a visual treat when served, each bite evoking a moment of silence, as the brain tries to identify each flavor as it’s released in the mouth. Yes, it’s that good!…