How to make healthy choices every day

Finding my Mojo in the Canary Islands

Well, our trip was unbelievable. Almost everything about Gran Canaria is totally surprising; the varied, awe-inspiring landscape, the freakishly perfect weather, the many “clothing optional” opportunities. The only thing I could really complain about is the food – horrendous. Not a fresh vegetable or lentil in sight – a serious nightmare for anyone who cares even remotely about their diet, let alone flavour – don’t even get me started on the Spanish omelette made with fake eggs and frozen french fries. I kid you not. Horrendous.

Luckily I had packed dried chickpeas, red lentils, brown rice, and quinoa, which I lived off of for the week, with some additional fresh produce from the grocery store tossed in. But I seriously wonder how the locals survive on red meat, fried everything and bread so white it literally dissolves in one’s mouth.

The one thing I actually did enjoy (seriously, the only one), was a condiment called mojo sauce (pronounced mo-ho), a welcome accompaniment to most local dishes, often boiled potatoes and fish. But once to my delight in a quiet café up in the mountains, the mojo came to our table by way of olives from a nearby tree, smothered in its flavour-city gorgeousness. I was smitten. And I couldn’t wait to get home to make my own version!

Mojo sauce is much like other regional delights in that there is no real “recipe” for it, as every family has their own version. The backbone ingredients include fresh red bell peppers, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, herbs, spices and stale bread – with variations and additions according to the creator. My version kicks things up a notch by roasting the red peppers, adding some lemon juice and a little agave nectar for sweetness. And instead of stale bread, I thought almonds would do the trick, keeping this saucy sauce gluten-free.

Canary Island-Inspired Mojo Sauce
2 sweet red peppers, roasted
1 clove garlic
¼ cup almonds (preferably soaked)
1 small bunch cilantro
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
splash of vinegar (your choice of type)
1 tsp. agave nectar (or honey)
a couple pinches of sea salt
½ tsp. toasted cumin seeds
1/8 tsp. crushed chili flakes

1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C
2. Wash peppers, slice them in half and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and place in preheated oven on the top rack. Roast for 30-45 minutes until the skins are blackened.
3. Toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, remove from heat.
4. If you soaked your almonds overnight (learn why it’s a good idea here), peel them now, and place in food processor along with the other ingredients and pulse until chunky.
5. Once the peppers are roasted, remove form oven and let cool. Peel skins and place in food processor. Pulse to incorporate. Blend until desired consistency is reached (I think chunky is best).
6. Serve. Refrigerate leftovers.

Tip: So far I’ve discovered that this sauce is delicious as a spread on toast with avocado (ugh, to die for!), a dressing in a salad of wheat berries, chickpeas, red onion, shredded sweet potato and olives, and a great accompaniment to raw veggies. But be creative – try this with anything and everything and I’m sure you’ll find your mojo too…

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