Serve up this Spicy Meal to Beat the Summer Heat


After a brief reprieve hot temperatures and high humidity are rolling back in! If you’re like most people you instinctively reach for cooling foods and beverages like watermelon, ice cream, ice water and iced tea only to find that relief is temporary. On the other hand, according to the Huffington Post “eating spicy foods…raises your internal temperature to match the outside temperature. (It) makes you sweat, which makes your body cool down faster. “ Case in point: We served up this ‘Zest’-y meal on two occasions this week keeping us and our guests cool as cucumbers!

This meal has 3 elements to cook. But don’t let that or the long ingredient list intimidate you. If you prepare and set out your ingredients first (mis-en-place) then it comes together easily.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

For the chicken:
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 lemon, juiced
2 lbs chicken - thighs, breasts, bone-in or boneless - whatever you like

Combine marinade ingredients. Coat chicken. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight (preferred). Grill or roast until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Meanwhile, prepare couscous and tagine.

For the couscous:
1 cup whole wheat Israeli (pearl) couscous
Chicken stock

Cook couscous according to package directions using chicken stock in lieu of water. Keep warm.

For the Tagine:
2 TBSP olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1"-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 whole cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp harrissa or more to taste
2 tsp honey
1 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2” slices
1 lb plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/2 cup water
1, 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Fresh parsley or mint, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Pita and tzatziki for serving (optional)

  1. Prepare tagine while couscous is cooking: Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add onion and carrot and saute until tender. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir in ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, harissa and honey and saute until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add zucchini and tomatoes to the pan and stir in the water. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not overcook or zucchini will be mushy. Stir in the chickpeas and lemon juice and heat, uncovered, about 5 minutes, just until chickpeas are heated through.

  2. Combine cooked, warm couscous with tagine. Top with cooked chicken and garnish with fresh parsley or mint.

Serve with warm Mediterranean (pocket-less) pita and tzatziki. A cool and creamy dessert like a light lemon mousse topped with berries and toasted almonds is the perfect end to a spicy meal.

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