Homemade Merguez and Harissa Couscous Salad

Merguez is a spicy African sausage usually made with lamb. It’s one of my favorites, and I wanted to suggest our school meat market start making it, but then I found a New York Times recipe that could be recreated at home without sausage casings. I didn’t think the recipe called for enough spice, so I added more paprika and cayenne.

Kat found a recipe for an herbed couscous salad with harissa and cherry tomatoes. It was the perfect side with the sausage, plus it used the harvest off my cherry tomato plant, my box of couscous and the can of harissa I bought at the eastern market a while ago. I am moving very soon and so every day is an effort to use up the goods that I have and not buy anything extra. The salad is supposed to have a lot more fresh herbs, but we weren’t about to go to the store, so we used the mint and cinnamon basil we could get off Kat’s plants.

I served the whole thing with a little plain yogurt since the sausage and couscous both had a lot of heat.

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Chipotle Apricot Barbecue Sauce

When I was home for spring break, I got a few free issues of Edible Los Angeles, a small magazine I believe in its second year. If you’re not in LA, there are several other Edible cities magazines worth checking out.

I found an amazing-sounding recipe for shrimp and bacon skewers with apricot-ancho barbecue sauce that, you can ask Michael or Kat, I mentioned roughly every time someone said bbq for the next four months.

Though I still haven’t made the skewers, I made a variation of the sauce to marinate and serve with a barbecued pork loin. The spicy apricot glaze was meant to match the flavors of the spice-rubbed spare ribs that were routinely doused in an apricot ale. (I had early trouble with the grill so they came out much too charred, at no fault of the recipe. We’ve had previous success with it, but cooking three big racks of ribs on one temperamental grill was just too much for me.)

The pork loin, though, was able to cook with indirect heat once the ribs were off, so it came out much more succulent. The barbecue sauce was a hit, but of course, there was bacon in it, and let’s be honest, pork on pork is a winning combination.

Although, I imagine it would also be magical on shrimp and chicken, too.

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Peach and Bell Pepper Salsa

More and more, I find myself needing to cook. Not because I want to eat but because I just feel like chopping and mixing. Getting a perfect dice on an onion? Rapidly slicing celery? Whisking a vinaigrette? Grinding spices? These are all therapeutic activities for me. And it just doesn’t feel right anymore to go too long without doing them.

Which is probably why at about midnight after going to dinner with my family — and less than seven hours until I needed to wake up for a marathon day of graduation ceremonies — I ended up inventing this salsa.

I wanted to make sure everything would be ready for our graduation BBQ the next day, and I just felt compelled to start chopping. I started by dicing jalapeno peppers, followed by two bell peppers and some red onion I had in my fridge. I added lime juice, olive oil, salt and cilantro. I thought I could add tomato when I got some the next day. But when I looked at it, the yellow bell pepper reminded me of mango, and I wanted the salsa to be sweet.

Well, I found a can of peaches in the pantry, cut those up, and tossed them in. A little more lime juice, a squeeze of fresh orange. Hey, this is actually really good.

It sat overnight, and then it made its debut at the BBQ. We dipped chips in it and served it on burgers. The leftovers lasted several days in the fridge. Bell pepper is nice because it keeps its crunch for a while. And what I think is fun about this salsa is that the peaches and yellow bell pepper look similar, as do the jalapenos and green pepper, so you kind of never know what you’re going to get.

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Grilled Pork Kabobs with Thai Dipping Sauce

Missouri is very capricious when it comes to weather, so we relish every warm, sunny day we get. For us, that means barbecuing.

Well, when Missouri graced us with nearly a week of sunshine we grew tired of burgers, brats and Italian sausage. To mix things up one evening, we had a Thai-inspired barbecue.

As seen on the plate, we had ground pork kebabs with a soy/chili/cilantro sauce, rice, crab wontons and cole slaw with a sesame-ginger dressing.

The wontons and cole slaw were the product of our own experimentation, as most of our recipes are, but this time we didn’t keep track of what we did. The kabobs came from a Thai cookbook, so you can absolutely recreate those.

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Chorizo Taco Salad with Corn Salsa

Last week I picked up a pint of beautiful cherry tomatoes at The Root Cellar. I popped a whole one in my mouth and it was like candy (which is a wonder because I didn’t even like tomatoes really until I got to college). I was so happy to finally have a tasty tomato after months of winter. But the sun was shining that day in Columbia, and I decided to make a meal that would feel like my perennially warm home of Los Angeles: a light and fresh taco salad.

I love beans and cheese too, but this was not a day for those. This day was about the fresh tomatoes and greens I had picked up. I made a sweet and spicy corn salsa with the cherry tomatoes. Then, I filled the tacos with a chorizo and ground beef mixture, green peppers and red onions (cooked, but still tender), the salsa, sour cream and cilantro. I put the tacos on top of a bed of greens for presentation, then we went out to my front porch, and smashed the tacos and mixed the whole thing together to eat as a salad.

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Mango Sherbet with Candied Habanero Peppers

Mango is such a rich, almost creamy fruit that works incredibly with hot chili peppers. Mango salsa, mango chutney, Trader Joe’s Chili-Spiced Dried Mangoes… I’m a big fan of all of these so pairing mangoes and habaneros in ice cream didn’t seem too crazy.

I found a simple recipe for mango sherbet in a South American cookbook. I liked the idea of sherbet (fruit puree with some cream) because I try to avoid making custard for time and fat reasons, but sorbet wouldn’t have had any cream to counter the heat of

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the habs. Sherbet was the perfect solution.

The candied habaneros are good, but I prefer my ice cream without interruption, ie. crunchy bits. If you like toppings, go with the candied pepper pieces. Personally I liked the sherbet better with the spicy syrup that was left over from making the candy.

Either way, habaneros are plenty spicy, but they have a fruity flavor that is nice with mango. The heat hits after the initial cool of the sherbet, so the best remedy is another bite of creamy, icy mango. Continue reading “Mango Sherbet with Candied Habanero Peppers”