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….
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….
I honestly feel pesto is as close to perfection as it gets. This simple green sauce that borders on divine can be used as a sauce or marinade for pasta, meats, vegetables and salads and its proportion of ingredients are fully customizable. That being said, this is my family’s favorite version, served traditionally, with pasta.
Each summer, we grow 3-4 huge pots of basil, which makes enough pesto to feed my family through the winter months. Freezing individual 1-2 ounce scoops of sauce, before vacuum sealing, keeps it fresh tasting and worthy of serving. Using the best quality ingredients will make the sauce that much better.
I love this recipe for its’ spicy, sweet flavor and as a way to use a variety of the chiles we grow in our garden every year. Each year it I change it up a bit by choosing different combos of peppers. I get a kick out of taste testing the guys when they try naming which chiles were used for each batch. Peppers not only have their own distinct flavor, but also heat attributes, as in – when and where the heat first registers when it hits the palate and how long it lasts. Let’s just say that our abilities in discerning each pepper’s distinct flavor and heat characteristics hasn’t reached the level of connoisseur yet, but we get a good laugh out of trying. This relish is as good as it gets on hot link sausages, hot dogs and smoked or roasted meats. On a similar note, it rocks with Asian noodles….