Zucchini with chile negro, pine nuts & basil


It’s summer and let’s face it, Mother Nature is being a bit of a show off. She’s treating us like we’re minor royalty and dazzling us with all her best from raspberries so sweet they make you want to cry to tomatoes that taste – well, like tomatoes should taste. So we smile and say ‘yes please’ and ‘thank you so much’ and enjoy every last bite of it.

Of course we know it won’t last forever – it never does. We roll from one barbecue to the next putting a mental block on the words ‘autumn’ and ‘winter’. Right now it’s all factor 50, cold rosé, and nabbing the last beach chair before someone else does.

If we can be bothered to cook it has to be quick, simple and tasty. Luckily, just about everything is in season so it’s a bit of a no-brainer. If you’ve got your own vegetable garden – you-industrious-so-and-so – so much the better. Then you can saunter out and pick your own and be incredibly smug about it.

And while you’re at it, pick a zucchini while it’s still small and cute and before it looks like a club wielded by a grumpy giant. Make a quick chile sauce, toast some pine nuts – aka piñon or pignoli – tear some basil leaves and you are done. Because who wants to spend summer in the kitchen when all the fun is happening outdoors?

Serves 2-3 as a side dish

1 zucchini, about 8-9oz

2 Tbsp pine nuts

1 lemon, zest & juice

1 small clove of garlic or half of a larger clove

1 dried chile negro

pinch of cumin seeds

¼ tsp smoked paprika (sweet pimenton)

4 Tbsp olive oil

small handful of basil leaves

To make the chile sauce, place the dried chile in a bowl and cover with not quite boiling water. Allow to sit for around 15 minutes until soft and pliable. Remove the stem and seeds and chop roughly. Mix together the chile, lemon juice & zest, garlic, cumin seeds, smoked paprika and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Blitz in a blender, taste and add salt as needed.

Slice the zucchini into rings and set aside. Heat up a frying pan and toast the pine nuts until golden. Watch them like a hawk as they’ll burn before you’ve had a chance to check out your Instagram feed. Remove the toasted nuts and place in a bowl. Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and the sliced zucchini. Cook over medium high heat until nicely browned on both side. Add the toasted pine nuts, stir and remove from the heat.

Place the zucchini and pine nuts on a serving platter. Tear the basil into pieces and garnish the zucchini with it. Drizzle the chile sauce over and serve any remaining sauce in a bowl on the side.

Chile rubbed chicken thighs with double chile barbecue sauce

It’s here. It’s time. No excuses. Feel the burn. Yep, it’s barbecue season. The thought of lighting up the barbecue fills people with either 1) joy or 2) abject fear. Now don’t get me wrong – the joyful folk aren’t necessarily the best at the grill. They may like the stuff of a bbq – the smoke, the super-sized tongs, the apron which says something marginally inappropriate on it, the requisite adult beverage.

But these same souls may be the ones who get started telling a story only to find that their T-bone (which cost more than a mid-sized car) has turned to ash. The abject fear folk either shy away from barbecuing altogether (they tend to stay inside and microwave during the summer months) or they feel the fear and do it anyway.

Sometimes, these are the best at the barbecue. They approach it with reverence, with respect and with a healthy dose of fear. Because, let’s face it folks, you’re cooking with fire. Literally. If you feel a tad cautious then hats off to you. You’re cooking food over flames and if you think about it that’s got more than a hint of danger to it.

So for both you joyful and fearful folk we salute you. Get yourselves sorted before you light up and you’ll be one, two, maybe three steps ahead of the game. For this recipe, we marinated chicken thighs with Chipotle rub & mix but our Firecracker rub or Jamaican jerk mix would be ace too. For the barbecue sauce, we’ve used two dried chiles – a chipotle and a cascabel. As they say double the pleasure, double the fun. Enjoy!

Serves 2

Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 Tbsp chipotle rub & mix

Barbecue sauce

½ red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 dried Chile Cascabel

1 dried Chile Chipotle

Juice of 1 lime

1-2 Tbsp cider vinegar

8oz ketchup

Brown sugar (optional)

If using wooden skewers, place in a bowl and cover with water so they won’t burn on the barbecue.

Cut the chicken thighs into cubes. Mix together the lime juice, oil and Chipotle rub & mix in a bowl. Add the cubed chicken and stir to coat. Refrigerate for several hours.

To make the barbecue sauce, place the two chillies in a bowl and cover with hot but not boiling water. Allow to sit for 15 minutes or so until they are rehydrated and soft. While they’re rehydrating, heat up the vegetable oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion, cover and cook over medium-low heat until soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Take the chillies out of the water, deseed them and remove the stem. Place the chillies in the saucepan with the onion and garlic, add the ketchup, lime juice and one tablespoon of the cider vinegar. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Taste and add more vinegar if it needs more sharpness. You can add a pinch of brown sugar as well if the ketchup isn’t very sweet.

Remove from the heat and either remove the chillies or if you like more heat, puree the whole mixture.

Skewer the chicken, and place them on a hot grill. Spoon some of the barbecue sauce into a separate bowl. Turn the chicken and brush with the barbecue sauce. Wait for a few minutes then turn again and brush the other side. Remove from the grill when cooked through and a nice golden brown and serve with the rest of the barbecue sauce on the side.

Vegetarian posole stew

We’d like to be the first to say Feliz Cinco de Mayo. It’s always a red-letter day here at Chile Trail HQ but even more so this year because – drumroll please – it falls on a Saturday. Can you believe it? No, we can’t either. Let’s just say that it’s Cinco & Seis de Mayo. Heck, let’s throw in Friday too and call it Cuatro, Cinco, Seis de Mayo. Ok, maybe a bit too long but you get the point.

So you know what’s on our minds. Yep, food. Everyone has a favourite but we’ve got a couple of thoughts (naturally).

Number one: make sure there’s a lot of it. There is nothing worse that running out of food and drink. People, your guests are hungry. They’re thirsty. Stock up.

Number two: variety. You’ve got your mole, you’ve got your guacamole, you’ve got your tres leche cake. This is a time to test the architectural endurance of your dining room table. We’re talking heaving folks.

Number three: delegate. You didn’t actually think we expected you to cook all that food, did you? Of course not. When someone asks what they can bring, tell ‘em. And when you ask us – and we know you will, right? – we’ll be bringing a pot of posole.

Now you know posole, but this one is vegetarian and vegan, all in one lip smacking tasty bowl of happiness. It’s so good that even the most committed carnivores will be pushing over old ladies to get a bowlful. But please don’t. There’s plenty to go around.

Vegetarian posole stew

1-12oz package of white corn posole

1-1oz package of posole spice blend

3 small zucchini, about 10-12 oz, sliced into discs (diced if larger)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 small clove garlic, minced

1-14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

Garnish (optional)

Chopped green onions

Chopped cilantro

Lime wedges

Sliced avocado

Place the posole in a non-reactive bowl or pan and cover with water and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse well. Put the posole in a large pot, cover with water and simmer for one hour.

Drain and add the posole mix and enough fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 3 hours or until the posole has ‘popped’ and is tender. Check the water levels periodically and top up as needed.

Just before serving, warm the oil and sauté the zucchini over medium-high heat, just until tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the drained and rinsed black beans and the zucchini into the posole. Taste and season with salt and more chile if you desire.

Serve in bowls with your choice of garnishes.

Pink grapefruit, avocado & feta salad with a chile vinaigrette

Do remind me what you give for a first anniversary? Ah yes, of course paper – the ultimate romantic gift. To keep it practical, why not give a roll of paper towels or an old newspaper? The ‘modern’ option is a clock. Wow. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a clock.

Why all this chat about first anniversary gifts? Because reader, next month is the anniversary of the announcement of Mike Smith’s ‘discovery’. Yes, Mike Smith from Denbighshire in England. You remember Mike, don’t you?

You don’t? Oh dear…Well let me refresh your memory. Mike from Denbighshire created the hottest chile ever recorded. It’s all coming back to you now, isn’t it?

Mike wasn’t out to create something super hot – he was after a pretty plant for his Chelsea Flower Show display. But his ‘Dragon’s Breath’ chile scores 2.48 million on the Scoville heat index – beating the Carolina Reaper, that clocks in at a cool – pardon the pun – 2.2 million.

Scientist figure that Dragon’s Breath is so hot that if you ate one you could go into anaphylactic shock. I’m going to trust them on this one. Here’s the thing – more heat isn’t always better. At the Chile Trail we’re all about heat but we’re also all about the food. If it’s too hot and you can’t taste anything then what’s the point?

Take this cute as a bug salad we whipped up. It’s got mild chile molido in the dressing and a sprinkle of chile pequin on top. Is it hot? Yes. Can you make it hotter? Darn straight you can – just add some more or use our hot chile molido instead. But it’s not so hot that you lose the flavor of the pink grapefruit, avocado and feta cheese. So congrats Mike from Denbighshire. We’ll be sending over a congratulatory paper plate to celebrate.

But the Dragon’s Breath chile? We’ll pass, but thanks anyway.

Serves 3-4 as a side salad

4 large handfuls of lettuce, washed

1 pink grapefruit

3 oz feta cheese, crumbled

½ avocado, sliced thinly

3 Tbsp lime juice

½ tsp mild chile molido

4+ Tbsp vegetable oil

chile pequin, to garnish

To segment the grapefruit, take a thin slice off the top and bottom, so the grapefruit can sit on a chopping board. Take a sharp knife and slice off the skin and white pith by cutting along the curve of the grapefruit. Next, make v-shaped cuts to release the grapefruit segments. When you’re cutting the segments out, hold over a bowl so you can capture any juice.

To make the dressing, mix the lime juice, chile molido and vegetable oil together, along with any grapefruit juice. Taste, add salt and a bit more oil if the dressing is too sour.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter. Top with the grapefruit segments, feta cheese and avocado. Garnish generously with the chile pequin and drizzle the dressing over the salad. Serve any extra vinaigrette on the side.

 

 

 

 

Chile lime drizzle cake

There are may things we fear in life at Chile HQ: running out of box sets on a long weekend; unexpected visits from the in-laws; and any mail addressed from the IRS. But one thing we don’t fear is scurvy – that disease that was the plight of pirates and sailors in days of yore (I’ve always wanted to say ‘days of yore’ and now I have). Swollen gums, loose teeth, bulging eyes – hardly going to win any beauty contests.

Of course we now know what they didn’t. Scurvy is caused by a lack of Vitamin C, that cheery guy found in citrus fruit. It’s the reason we tend to drink a lot of margaritas early in the morning. Of course we tend to drink them early in the afternoon and evening as well, but that’s another story.

This time of year, we all hanker for an extra blast of the ole Vitmain C, don’t we? It’s cold, dark and even if our teeth aren’t falling out it feels like everything else is falling apart.

Of course, drinking on an empty stomach is a no-no, so we whipped up this Chile lime drizzle cake. It’s just the ticket to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. It uses both New Mexico green chile powder as well as green chile Caribe for that one-two chile punch that we know you love. It won’t bring world peace but it’s pretty darn close, and that’s as much as you can ask for, right?

Chile lime drizzle cake

7oz sugar

3 ½oz vegetable oil

zest of two limes

2oz lime juice

1-1 ½ Tbsp New Mexico green chile powder

6oz COYO Natural, milk yogurt alternative

2 large eggs, beaten

1 ½ tsp salt

1 Tbsp baking powder

10 ½oz all purpose flour

Drizzle glaze

2oz lime juice

2oz sugar

New Mexico green chile caribe

Preheat oven to 175°

One 2lb loaf pan (9 x 5 inches) or 3 mini loaf pans (6 x 3 ½)

For the cake, mix together the sugar, oil, lime zest, lime juice and green chile powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the COYO and the eggs. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder, and all purpose flour. Pour half the sugar & oil mixture into the dry ingredients, and fold in gently. Repeat with half the COYO & egg mixture. Then finish off by folding in the rest of the sugar & oil mixture and lastly the Coyo and egg.

Grease the loaf tin(s) with butter and dust with flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin(s) and bake in the oven until a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Approximately 50 minutes for a large tin and 30 minutes for the mini tins.

Remove the pan(s) and place on a cooling rack and let sit for five minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is melted and the glaze warm. Alternatively, you can heat the sugar and juice in a bowl in the microwave for about 50 seconds.

Remove the cake(s) from the pan(s). Take a wooden or metal skewer and make holes in the cake(s). Drizzle the glaze and sprinkle with some chile caribe. Top slices with a dollop of COYO if you desire.

 

Broccoli, sugar snap peas & green beans with a kefir green chile sauce


At the Chile Trail, you know we’re all about clean living. In fact, I wrote a book on it. Ok, maybe I didn’t actually write a book, but I thought about it. Very seriously, thought about it. And exercise? I live for it. Only last week, I parked the car in the driveway instead of the garage and walked all the way to the front door.

For a moment I knew what it was like to be an Olympic athlete.

So I don’t mess around when it comes to eating my vegetables. I’m all over them. Can’t get enough of them. Pile my plate full of them. Except for Brussel sprouts, but we all have our limits. Maybe at Christmas but that’s it. And Thanksgiving. But then I draw the line.

The key with veg is not to boil the living daylights out of them. They’re vegetables for heaven’s sake, not your sworn enemy. It’s a kitchen, not the Spanish inquisition. Treat them gently. Blanch them – fancy talk for cooking quickly in boiling water, or roast them or stir fry. But don’t do what my Granny did and boil them until they’re limp and grey. Nobody likes a grey vegetable. Not even me.

Note: Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is pretty easy to find in supermarkets or health food shop. If you can’t, you could substitute buttermilk.

Makes 4 servings

1 head of broccoli, florets only

4 oz sugar snap peas

4 oz green beans

1 cup/8 oz kefir

1-2 tsp green chile sauce

1 lime, zest only

Salt

To make the kefir green chile sauce, mix together the kefir, one teaspoon of the green chile sauce and the lime zest. Set aside and taste in 10 minutes. Add another teaspoon if you’d like some more heat and season with salt. Set aside until you’re ready to serve.

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Salt the water generously. Blanch the sugar snap peas until just cooked but still crispy. Remove them from the pan, place in a colander and rinse under very cold water. Repeat with the green beans and then finally the broccoli. Place on a plate lined with a dish towel or paper towel and gently pat them dry.

Place the vegetables on a serving platter, drizzle with the kefir green chile sauce and serve any extra sauce on the side.

 

 

 

Chile rubbed beef ribs

Do you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s go with the good news first, shall we? The shortest day of the year is done and dusted. That was on December 21st, in case you were stuck at the office Christmas party and didn’t notice. Spare a thought for Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland which has a whopping 4:07 hours of sunlight on the shortest day of the year. But I checked, and it rained there that day so the 4+ hours is probably a bit on the optimistic side.

The bad news? Winter isn’t done yet. Officially it’s not over until March 20th. It feels like Winter might be overstaying its welcome, don’t you think? What if we asked Spring to arrive sooner and ‘encouraged’ Winter to take a well deserved early retirement? And face it, just because the calendar says Spring doesn’t mean Winter won’t be holding on to us with his/her grubby little mittens.

Winter is sleet, snow tires, colds, flu, Christmas credit card bills and down coats so large they make you feel like the Michelin man. But – and there’s always a but – it’s also slow cooked food that simmers so long in the oven that it makes you want to weep when you take your first bite. This isn’t food for a Spring or Summer day – this is hearty, stick to your ribs, “I ain’t going out in that” weather food.

So buck up. Winter isn’t for wimps but these chile rubbed beef ribs are.

2-3 Servings

3 lbs beef ribs

1 clove garlic

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp Chile de Arbol powder (Cayenne pepper)

1 tsp Chile Chipotle powder

1 Tbsp brown sugar

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 250°F

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and cumin seeds together until the seeds are crushed and the garlic is a paste. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can finely chop the garlic and blitz the cumin seeds in a spice mill) Add in the ginger, chile de arbol, chipotle chile and brown sugar and mix.

Rub the marinade into the beef ribs, coating all the surfaces. Wrap each rib snugly in plastic wrap or place in a container with a cover. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator, unwrap and sprinkle each rib with some sea salt. Heat an oven proof pan on the stove to medium high heat. Sear each rib on all sides so it is nicely browned. Cover and place in a low oven or you can cook these in a slow cooker. Cook until the meat is tender and falling off the bone –at least three hours.

Serve warm with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta. It’s even better – if that’s possible – the next day.