The summer is coming. It’s time to update our menus with easy-made refreshing dishes as good for light dinner for two as for a big pool party. Cocktails, beer, and all that jazz.
Why is a Latin American fish salad next to a French Polynesian one combined in one recipe?
Ceviche is made with cubed raw fish marinated in citrus juice, strained, combined with sliced and chopped vegetables (most commonly avocado, tomato, onion, green onion, cilantro, chili peppers), and served cold.
Ota Ika is made the same way, but with the addition of coconut milk or creme. Some of the vegetables mixed with fish are the same, and some are different (most commonly cucumber, tomato, onion, green onion, and spicy peppers). Coconut milk softens the acidity of the initial marinade and makes the dish somewhat tropical holiday dreamy and elegant.
I divide all Harissa recipes into three groups: basic, variable, and exquisite ones. For basic harissas, the list of ingredients is shorter — dried chiles bring heat and fruity flavors, cumin and coriander represent spices, garlic (often sun-dried) adds pungence, salt, and olive oil. Variable harissas may include sun-dried tomatoes and fire roasted sweet peppers, onion, and herbs. Extra fancy harissas have an extensive list of spices and herbs and even include Damask rosebuds. My recipe belongs to the second category.
Hatch season is relatively short. There are only so many Hatch dishes we can have within a few weeks — we cannot possibly try them all. That’s why I anticipate every next harvest — to discover and enjoy new recipes. This year, mild Hatch stuffed with crabmeat is my new find. The combination was featured by Central Market. I adjusted their original idea to my taste and kept making it every other day — so good!
Last year, out of curiosity I experimented with traditionally red Middle Eastern recipes — Zhoug, Harissa, Dukkah, Shakshuka — replacing red ingredients with locally available green and featuring Hatch green chile peppers. Everyone liked green harissa and green dukkah, but their combination in shakshuka was a hit.
Last year I finally discovered dukkah and it found its honorable place in my kitchen. I served many vegetable spreads, salads, casseroles, appetizers turning basic recipes into flavorful Middle Eastern delicacies with one simple step — sprinkling dukkah on top. Besides Ottolenghi’s recipe, I created a few my variations. The one with dry powdered Hatch is one of them.
If you read about original Salsa Macha, you’ll see that there is a reason for its name. Salsa Macha comes from Veracruz region that features extremely hot chile peppers comapeños available only locally. It’s a truly fiery condiment. When this salsa is made in other regions of Mexico, comapeños are replaced with other hot peppers (e.g., arbol). I admired this condiment not so much for its heat, but for the bold and intense flavors. To adjust it for my palate, I combine my favorite dry and fresh red chile peppers, which are fruity and smokey, but pretty mild.
This salsa is one of my favorite. I like seafood, and it’s perfect with many seafood dishes as a side. It’s beautiful! Bright, sunny colors of fresh tropical fruit. It tastes like vacation in Hawaii, if, of course, you come across excellent ripe golden pineapples and Ataulfo mango. This salsa is easy to make — all its ingredients are raw, but you have to know smart ways to cut, slice, and dice pineapple and mango to enjoy the process of making it. When you do, you can make this salsa quickly and impress your guests with a presentation.
I prefer slowly cooked beef shanks for plain khashlama and leg of lamb for festive version. A slow cooker/crock pot is the most convenient device to make this dish. Otherwise, assemble vegetables and meat layers in an iron pot, start on the stove to bring water to boiling and finish in the 300F oven by slowly cooking for another 3-4 hours. There is also a version when meat is cooked first; then it is layered with vegetables in small ceramic or clay pots and cooked in the oven to serve khashlama individually portioned. In this case, it only takes 1-1.5 hours in the oven — just to cook vegetables.
Toppings are my favorite part of this soup. I think they are what makes this traditional Mexican soup exceptional from the taste and texture point of view as well as its serving and eating experience. I like how some recipe authors refer to pozole as a “soup-salad,” because so many raw ingredients are added to a hot bowl of soup right before eating it.
Tortilla soup is one of the most popular Mexican soups. Google it, and you can easily get tons of “classic” recipes and even more variations. The base is always the same — dry red chili peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, tortilla chips, cilantro, and lime. In some recipes tortilla chips are used to thicken the soup, in other, they are the topping. In central Mexico, this soup flavor is defined by pungent and tangy thin fleshed pasilla, in Michoacan region it’s a fruity and mild ancho, in Puebla a smokey chipotle takes the place. There are also a variety of additional toppings from cooked meat and poultry to avocado, cheese, and cream. Every local chef or home cook features the best regional ingredients in this soup. I often joke comparing tortilla soup in Mexican cuisine to borsch in Ukrainian.