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….
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….
My son and blog partner, Kaijah, is the pizza master in our family, so it was my turn to be his ‘kitchen schlepper/ gofer’. One of his fave go-to pizza dough recipes is from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, so when we first discovered Craftsy online classes (one of our affiliate partners), we signed up for their free mini class Perfect Pizza at Home, taught by Mr. Reinhart. I’m a bit jaded in regard to freebies, expecting the mini class to be a five minute teaser, enticing us just enough to be willing to dish out some cash to get his personal tips on making pizza. Not so with Craftsy – the free mini class was a full length feature, taught in full by the dough master himself….
This is the time of year when gardeners and farmers are busy reaping the fruits of their labor and keeping on top of harvesting the abundance of ripe offerings. Whether you have a summer garden or buy your veggies from local farmer’s markets or the grocery store, summer squash, tomatoes and peppers are in abundance and at the peak of their natural cycle. Grilling is one of our ‘go to” methods of cooking summer vegetables and with this Balsamic Glaze it makes a perfect farm to table side for any grilled meat….
A trip down memory lane
Reminiscing on some of our travels South of the Border, got me thinking about the foods and flavors we love the most. Everyone in our household is a full fledged heat lover and the bold flavors of the many chiles indigenous to Mexico and Central America are always hovering at the top of our favorites lists. Flashback to our time living in Costa Rica and the day my BFF’s grandfather, Miguel, taught us about making hot cocoa, rustic style, from the locally grown cacao beans.
After spending several hours roasting, crushing and working the cocoa nibs that would eventually become clumps of deliciously rustic chocolate, he wrapped it in a tattered cloth and proudly handed it over to his wife. …