Southwest Cuisine has gained popularity more then ever in recent years. Many people from all over the world are beginning to descend upon the southwestern region of the United States to see just what the hype is all about.

When thinking about southwestern cuisine one will often immediately think of chilies and spices, which is a huge component to many of the southwestern dishes, however there is so much more to the cuisine besides that!  Aside from culturally diverse spices, chilies and corns, the amount of love and passion is what excites me most about cooking in this beautiful part of the country.

The foods of the American Southwest are strong and bold, evolving from harsh land with many cultural influences, including Native American, Spanish and European. It is a cuisine that is satisfying, straightforward and eaten for pure pleasure, not analysis.   The popularity that southwestern cooking has risen to, is nothing short of a culinary evolution for people living in the U.S.. It is part of our craving for real food, real taste, and real texture.

The booming of southwestern dishes has expanded the choices of ingredients cooks need to produce the real thing, and these winds of change smell like apple wood, limes and spices. All proving America’s new-found appreciation for southwestern cuisine consists of much more than simply tacos and fajitas.

Southwest DishesCilantro is another dynamic staple in southwestern cuisine. Most people either love or hate this unavoidable, pungent herb. The leaves of Cilantro are very fragile and should be stored in a refrigerator in the upright position much like flowers. Plastic wrap should be placed over the herbs for extra protection and used within 3-5 days. Cilantro could be used in a wide variety of dishes ranging from soups, stews, marinades, braises and even on grilled meats during the last minutes of grilling. Cumin is also popular, it is a spice that brings a distinct flavor to any dish you are preparing, from both a tasting and aromatic standpoint. However, cumin is hardly a new spice and has been available in the supermarket for years, but due to the Tex-Mex fever it’s became more popular. In truth, our heavy application of this spice separates the U.S. from the subtler Mexican approach to this seasoning. For a nuttier, richer flavor, toast the seeds, stirring them over low heat in a small heavy skillet for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown and grind the seeds just before using.

To get you started, let’s put together an easy dish. Start out with some good habaneros, fresh crushed garlic, sea salt flakes, crack black pepper, Spanish olive oil and white wine vinegar. Combine all these ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Rub the easy-to-make marinade over an all-natural whole chicken and roast it in the oven for about 1 hour at 350 degrees. After it’s finished it won’t be a surprise for your entire house to smell like heaven once the bird is out of the oven, needless to say, you’ll be the hero of the party.  Serve this chicken with whipped potatoes and a fresh green leaf salad with a light roasted garlic vinaigrette for one fantastic meal!

More from ABQ-Live and Marc Quinones coming soon!