Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Eclectic Fusion

One of the buzz words you hear a lot these days when discussing culinary styles is 'fusion'.  By definition, fusion cuisine involves preparing a meal consisting of dishes from various styles of cuisine.  In preparing eclectic fusion one can let their imagination run wild as one melds ingredients from a variety of ethnicities into one dish.  This gives cooking a whole new dimension as the sky becomes your limit with creativity.  No rules really apply here, as long as the combination of foods culminates in an enjoyable marriage of flavors.

We have all known that peanut butter marries well with jelly, the perfect spouse for Gorgonzola in a salad is a sliced pear, dark chocolate paired with the flavor of orange is amazing together, and who doesn't love the bliss of chocolate with peanut butter?  While these may be winning flavor combinations, these are not fusion.  These are just delectable pairings.

An example of fusion would be found at a northern Italian restaurant that Brian and I frequent.  They have the very best pasta entrees anywhere, thus the establishment's name of Pasta Pasta.  However, with your four cheese tortellini in creamy pink sauce, you can order an appetizer of fried calamari with a ponzu dipping sauce.  Asian meets Italian, thus, fusion.  A lot of fusion does include Asian influence, but once again, there are no hard and fast rules.

What inspired this particular blog was tonight's dinner.  Soupsters can rejoice as the plummeting temperature of fall settles in.  After tweaking a soup recipe idea many times over, last year I came up with this perfect example of eclectic fusion.  It combines flavors of Mexico and Morocco. Warning: those with weak palates do not attempt this at home, this dish is HOT!  If you love the fiery spice of hot food, however, then this dish will be enjoyable and will definitely take the chill away in even the coldest winter months.  I would recommend pairing this with a good fall craft beer, like a pumpkin ale.


1 pound bulk chorizo sausage
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chili, finely chopped
5 cups stock, either vegetable or chicken, whichever you have
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup Harissa sauce*
2 cups canned chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 8-10 ounce package fresh baby spinach

1 cup Harissa sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
pita chips

In a 5-quart stock pot, brown the chorizo, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon as it cooks.  When almost cooked through, add the onions and garlic.  Continue to stir, sauteing until the onions are cooked.  Stir in the chipotle chili, then add the stock.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the tomato paste and one cup of Harissa, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the remaining one cup of Harissa with the yogurt and set aside.  Add the spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted, then stir in the chick peas.  Remove from heat and serve, passing the yogurt sauce as a topping and pita chips to accompany.  Serves 4.

*NOTE - Harissa is a Tunisian condiment eaten throughout northern Africa.  It is made from various roasted peppers and chilies along with garlic and other spices.  It can be found in the ethnic section of well-stocked supermarkets.  I find it easy enough to make a simple version at home:

4 roasted red peppers (either from a jar or, preferably, roast your own)
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

So next time you feel like having some uninhibited fun in your kitchen, see what sort of eclectic fusion your creative mind conjures up.  Don't be afraid to try something new and crazy, that's how new dishes are created.  Culinary history reveals that all of the world's flavors do flow from one to the next and that the globe has become a literal melting pot of ingredients, every nation's cuisine influencing to some degree that of its neighbors; so fusion really does make perfect sense.  So all of you fall witches, uh, I mean chefs, break out your pots and see what brews out of your kitchen.

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