Start the meal with a chicken soup flavored with guajillo chilies, which are widely used in the cuisine of Mexico. The broth is light, and the crunchy tortilla strips and chunks of creamy avocado give this soup a heavenly flavor.
The kefta, tomato and egg tagine is home cooking at its best from the heart of Morroco. Make the meatballs in advance, and the dish will come together in no time. Andy Harris cracks eggs into his version from "A Month in Marrakesh." We did the same, making divets and burying the cracked eggs right into the sauce to the unsuspecting delight of diners. Add some rice and a salad and you've got the makings of a great meal.
From an Indian kitchen comes a chicken braised in a gravy made with caramelized onions and yogurt. Light spices saffron and cardamom allow the flavors of the browned onions to shine. The onions canbe caramelized ahead of time and frozen until needed, easing preparation of the final dish. Wipe up the sauce with naan or some good crusty bread. You don't want to let any of it go to waste.
The red peppers in the red pepper tart, from "My Beverly Hills Kitchen," also can be frozen to ease final assembly. Just roast and peel, deseed and freeze. Serve the tart as a hot entrée, use cookie cutters to turn it into cold appetizers or eliminate the crust and serve it as a savory flan. Now that's a dish with mileage. If you go with a vegetarian stock base, this meal fits as a vegetarian main. But beware: This tart is rich.
An Italian mother is the inspiration for Florina's zucchini Parmesan. A store-bought sauce is daughter Pat Clark's nod to convenience.
The kidney beans are robustly spiced. Paired with brown rice, they're perfect for Meatless Mondays
Wait until your meal is served to pull out the edge of darkness bars from "Baking Style," by Lisa Yockelson. These are so rich and good they belie their ease of preparation.
Kefta, tomato and egg tagine
1 pound 2 ounces minced beef or lamb
1 small red onion, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ginger, grated
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra for sprinkling
2 pounds 3 ounces tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped
½ tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
For the kefta, combine the minced beef or lamb, onion, cumin, paprika, ground coriander, grated ginger and fresh coriander in a large bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Mix well and shape into 1-inch balls.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the kefta for about 5 to 7 minutes, browning on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
To make the tomato sauce, add the onion, garlic and parsley to the frying pan over a medium-high heat and sauté for 5 minutes until softened. Add the tomatoes, cumin and cinnamon and season generously with salt and pepper. Add a little water, stir and cook for 5 minutes.
Return the kefta to the frying pan with the sauce and cook for 30 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
Make four little indentations in the top of the sauce, then break eggs carefully into them. Continue to cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until eggs have set. Sprinkle parsley on top. Serve immediately.
This recipe is from "A Month in Marrakesh: Recipes from the Heart of Morocco," by Andy Harris and David Loftus (Hardie Grant Books, $34.95).
Chicken in a caramelized onion sauce
Serves 10 to 12
¼ cup vegetable oil, divided use
2 cups or more chopped onions
12 skinless bone-in chicken thighs
1 teaspoon minced ginger root
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
6 green cardamom pods, roughly crushed
6 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 green chili, sliced
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup flour
½ cup cilantro
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cup milk
Heaping ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and sauté, covered and stirring as needed, until onions caramelize and turn a dark brown color. This will take about a half hour. Add more oil, if needed.
Meanwhile, wash and pat dry chicken.
Remove onions from pan and let cool.
In the same pan, heat 2 more tablespoons oil. Add ginger, garlic, cumin seeds, bay leaves, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon and chili. Sauté a minute or two. Dredge chicken in flour and add to pot, in batches if necessary, and brown 5 or 6 minutes per side. Increase heat to medium high if necessary and add more oil if needed. Also, salt the chicken while it browns
Once onions are cooled, put them in a blender with the yogurt and blend until smooth. Pour yogurt mixture over browned chicken and add cilantro. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
Meanwhile, heat milk for 1 or 2 minutes in microwave. Add saffron to milk and let steep until chicken is no longer pink inside, about 30 minutes.
Once chicken is tender, add saffron and cook 2 or 3 minutes longer.
This recipe is from Sharon K. Ghag.
Edge of darkness bars
Makes 40 bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
10 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
10 large eggs
4 cups superfine sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with parchment, leaving 2 to 3 inches of foil to extend on all four sides (to lift bars out of pan). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Sift both flours, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder together. Whisk melted butter, melted unsweetened chocolate and melted bittersweet chocolate in a medium size bowl until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs just to mix. Add the superfine sugar and beat for 1 minute. Blend in the butter-melted chocolate mixture and the vanilla extract. Resift flour over the chocolate mixture and whisk slowly to form a batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in a preheated oven for 36 to 39 minutes, until just set. Cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for 4 four hours and then lift out of pan.
This recipe is from "Baking Style: Art * Craft * Recipes," by Lisa Yockelson (Wiley, $45).
Red pepper tart
Serves 8 to 10
8 large red bell peppers
5 whole eggs
5 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup grated Gruyere cheese, firmly packed
3 tablespoons chopped chives
2 teaspoons chicken stock base
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Pre-made pie crust fitted into a 9-by-13-inch pie crust
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Roast peppers on a baking sheet in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skins begin to blister. When the skins are fully blistered, remove the peppers from the oven, let them cool 2 to 3 minutes, and then cover with plastic wrap and let steam for 15 minutes. The steam will loosen the skin. Remove plastic wrap and peel the skin. Chop peppers in half, discard seeds and dice peppers into strips. Let peppers drain in a colander for at least 15 minutes, tossing them occasionally to get out all the extra water. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, purée the peppers until they are smooth. The puréed peppers should measure 4 cups.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, cream, lemon juice, Gruyere, chives, chicken stock, sugar, Parmesan, melted butter, salt and black pepper until they are well blended. Stir in pepper purée until fully combined. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees. Pour the mixture into a prebaked 9-by-13-inch tart shell and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until slightly firm. Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or cold.
This recipe is from "My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist," by Alex Hitz (Knopf, $35).
Chicken soup with tortillas and avocado serves 4 to 6
2 guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
½ cup hot water
2 tomatillos, husked and washed
2 Roma tomatoes
½ small white onion, diced
1 large clove garlic
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds total)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
To serve: 3 corn tortillas; 2 tablespoons vegetable oil; diced Hass avocado; lime wedges
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chilies and toast on both sides, turning occasionally and pressing down with a spatula, until they soften and blister. Remove from the pan. When the chilies are cool enough to handle, tear them into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the hot water and soak the chilies, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
While the chilies soak, line the skillet with a piece of aluminium foil. Add the tomatillos to the skillet and roast over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred in spots and softened. Remove the tomatillos from the skillet.
In a blender, combine the chilies and their soaking liquid, the tomatillos, tomatoes, onion and garlic, and purée until very smooth. (For a smoother texture, you can press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, if you like.) Transfer the purée to a 5-quart slow cooker. Add the carrot, chicken, salt, broth and water, and stir. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours in the slow cooker, or until the chicken is tender.
While the chicken is cooking, cut the tortillas in half, then cut the halves into strips ¼-inch wide (or into small squares). Heat the oil in a small skillet and fry the tortilla strips until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and discard the skin and bones. Shred or dice the chicken into 1-inch pieces and return to the broth. Add the cilantro. Heat through, taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
To serve, divide the fried tortilla pieces among the serving bowls and ladle the hot soup over them, including some of the chicken pieces in each bowl. Garnish with a few pieces of avocado and serve very hot with lime wedges on the side.
Scatter a bit of grated Monterey jack cheese or queso fresco over the tortillas before you pour the hot soup on top.
Add 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans to the slow cooker for the last hour of cooking.
This recipe is from "The Mexican Slow Cooker: Recipes for Mole, Enchiladas, Carnitas, Chile Verde Pork, and More Favorites," By Deborah Schneider (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, $19.99).
North Indian kidney beans
Makes 12 cups, to serve 12 to 14
1 (16-ounce) package kidney beans, 2¼ cups, rinsed and picked over
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 chili or some chili pepper
3 tablespoons oil
6 whole cloves
4 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
4½ cups water
1 (15-ounce) can tomato purée
1 teaspoon salt
Chopped fresh cilantro, optional
Cover kidney beans with water and soak overnight. Purée garlic, onion, ginger and the chili.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Put the cloves, allspice, cinnamon, bay leaf and cumin seeds into the oil and sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds. Lower the heat to medium and stir in garlic, onion, ginger, chili mixture. Cook until everything smells sweet and starts to brown. Stir in coriander and turmeric and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in drained beans and water. Increase heat to high and bring almost to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, about an hour. Stir in tomato purée and salt. Add more water if necessary. Simmer until beans are very tender, 30 minutes. Season with more salt, if necessary.
This recipe is from "The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes," by The Lodge Co. (Oxmoor House, $24.95). The Indian name for this dish is rajma.
Florina's zucchini Parmesan
Serves 6 to 8 as entrée
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise
½ cup canola oil
1 jar marinara sauce
16 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Mix salt, pepper and flour in a shallow dish. Salt and pepper the eggs in a separate shallow dish. Dredge each slice of zucchini in the flour, then coat in the eggs, then dredge again in the flour and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. In batches, cook the zucchini on each side until golden brown, adding more oil as needed.
Heat the marinara in a saucepan.
Spread a ladle-full of heated marinara in the bottom of the baking dish. Place one layer of zucchini on top and cover with more marinara and about one-third of the Parmesan. Repeat this layering twice more with the remaining zucchini, marinara and Parmesan.
Cover with foil and bake about 35 minutes or until the zucchini is fork-tender. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.
Bee entertainment Pat Clark shares a recipe from her mom.