Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cold Days, Sunny Meals

The temps are dipping. There's more night than light and the pressure of the holidays are coming  at full speed. It would be nice to escape this, take a trip to a warm happy go lucky island or exciting , exotic country. However that ' s impossible - or is it? Cooking sunny bright meals, from sunny bright places is a mini escape from  dull, chilly days.It's an exciting way to enjoy winter cooking.

One sunny bright place that has so many tasty recipes is Morocco. This corner of northwestern Africa has some yummy dishes that are easy to make. Cooking Moroccan may also be the perfect time to add a tajine pot to your kitchen arsenal. Everyone from Williams-Sonoma to J.C. Penney's now sell  them.  If you don't have one, no worry. A pressure cooker can sub for it. Slow cook a chicken with an array  of such spices as cumin and ginger.Saffron colors it to a blazing sun yellow  while raisins temper the spices kick. A plus is that it takes an hour which allows you to work around cooking it. A second  plus is that the recipe is bendable.You can use lamb or veggies instead of fowl.. Couscous is another dish that will bring to mind colorful bazaars and rainbow sunsets. Squash and chickpeas are added to this wheat semolina along with dried fruit and spices such as turmeric and cinnamon. For a light weekend supper try bagels with za'atar, an easy to make dip. This is a mix of sumac,thyme and roasted sesame seeds along with marjoram, oregano and coarse salt. Dip the bagel(it should be hand rolled , not those big puffy kinds) first in  a small bowl of olive oil and then the spice mix. Za'atar can also be sprinkled on eggs,, salads and veggies to zing them up.

Everyone love the Caribbean , with it's warm seas and balmy nights. To capture some of that heat , try making a few of the dishes of the area. Jamaica gives us the fiery jerk - which can be translated into a pork , chicken or chicken wing dish. You can buy jerk seasoning or better yet make it yourself. It's a blend of onion powder, chives, allspice and cinnamon. Cayenne gives it its' color and fire while nutmeg and cinnamon gives it a tinge of sweetness. It can be rubbed on the wings a few hours before.  Serve it with a tangy pineapple infused sauce. Jerk pork is another fiery dish, guaranteed to satisfy that longing for Kingston. It's taking pork loin, marinating it with a heady mix of Scotch Bonnet peppers, a mix of orange and lime juices along with  a blend of soy sauce and olive oil and then grilling it over an open flame (hopefully the grill hasn't been put away yet) Serve with a plate of hot festivals, a fried zeppoli like fritter that tempers the jerk's spiciness. Plaintains can also be served. These are a type of banana that are excellent prepared the sweet way with brown sugar and butter. Vanilla and cinnamon are also added to accentuate the taste.Plaintains can also be fried into a fun crispy chip too.

Let your kitchen take you to those exotic, sunny places. It's easy to make a tangine or jerk chicken and pretend you're in Morocco or Jamaica. Consider these exotic dishes a vacation for your palate.

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