Slow cooked chile tomatoes with burrata & basil

In life, there are classics. Think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Or Bert and Ernie, if you’re more of a Sesame Street kind of person. Or peanut butter & jelly, for those of you who don’t get out of the house much.

The point is, there are certain combinations – pairings– that just sing. They work. They’re tried and tested. Are you with me?

Mozzarella and tomato salad is one such classic. It takes the very best mozzarella cheese, pairs it with the finest tomatoes and tucks in some fresh basil for good measure. A lick of extra virgin olive oil and you’re done. End of story, culinary happiness and everyone rides off into the sunset.

But we like to mess around with classics, here at the ranch. Not too much, but enough to give it the kiss of life. And no, I don’t mean mouth-to-mouth resuscitation – I’m talking about the kiss of chile. For this one, we top tomatoes with a mix of chile, a bit of brown sugar and some salt. Slow cook them in the oven until the flavor is intense and lip smackin’ good. Then plate them up with some burrata – kind of like mozzarella on steroids – basil leaves and you’re in business.

Any extra tomatoes can be placed in a glass jar, topped up with oil and popped in the fridge – ready for the next time you feel a classic coming on.

Preheat oven to 250°

3 lbs plum tomatoes

1 Tbsp mild chile molido

½ Tbsp hot chile molido

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp sea salt

3 Tbsp olive oil

Slice the tomatoes in half lengthways. Make a small v-shaped incision to remove any core. Place the tomatoes snugly together cut side up on a large baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over them.

Mix together the chile powders, brown sugar and salt and sprinkle over the tomato halves. You’ll probably have more chile powder mix then you’ll need but stop complaining – you can dust it on pasta, mix some with mayonnaise for a sandwich or keep it in a jar for your next batch of tomatoes.

Cook the tomatoes for a couple of hours, then gently flip the halves so they’re now cut side down. Cook for a couple hours more – we’re talking 4-6 hours in total. They should have lost most of their moisture.

Serve with burrata (or plain old mozzarella), some basil leaves, and a healthy glug of olive oil and a few flakes of chile pequin, if you’re so inclined.

 

Baked Sweet Potato with all the fillings

Dinner for two sounds awfully romantic doesn’t it? I know what you’re thinking – candlelight, some soft jazz and a glass/two/bottle of Merlot. It’s a night to remember as you gaze at that someone special/mildly memorable and wonder if it would blow the mood to suggest binge watching Game of Thrones.

But folks, dinner for two can be something a lot more down to earth. Ditch the candles and bin the George Benson cd – dinner for two can be survival on a week night. If you’ve got children (I feel your pain) then it’s homework and tantrums and trying to prise a phone out of their sharp, beady talons. It’s laundry and work emails that don’t care what time it is.

Then suddenly 9:00 p.m. and you realize – hey, guess what? – you haven’t eaten anything since that highly suspect tuna fish sandwich at noon. It’s at times like this – and we’ve all had them – that you need something you can get on the table ASAP. Before you can press speed dial for pizza delivery, you can have a baked sweet potato done and on the table. (That is if you use our very good friend the microwave.)

And if you’re really tired, feel free to eat dinner in bed. We won’t tell. Honest.

Serves 2

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (about 1 lb total weight)

1 oz goat’s cheese or feta cheese, a nice size chunk

3-4 radishes, sliced thinly

1 or 2 spring onions, sliced

pumpkin seeds, to garnish

 

Green chile butter

1 stick/4 oz. butter, softened

1 tbsp cilantro, chopped plus extra for garnish

1 tsp green jalapeño powder

zest of 1 lime

Salt

Wash and dry the sweet potatoes and prick them all over with a sharp knife. Microwave at high heat for 5 minutes, check and microwave in 2 minute intervals until tender all the way through.

To make the green chile butter, mix the softened butter with the chopped cilantro, green jalapeño powder and lime zest. Taste and add salt as needed and place in a ramekin.

When the sweet potatoes are done, slice down the middle, add a healthy spoonful of the butter. Divide the cheese between the servings, add the sliced radishes and spring onions and garnish with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and the extra cilantro. Eat it up while it’s hot and then in bed – it’s a school night.

Dark Chocolate Chile Brownies

I think that the world would be a better place if we only ate more chocolate. You laugh, but I’ve got science on my side. Chocolate contains things with long names that do things to our brains that make us happy. Hope that wasn’t too technical? And yes, I could go into more detail but I’ve got a chile business to run, so just trust me, okay?

And everyone knows that chiles are good for you (natch) so if you combine the two, then you basically have world peace on a plate. I’d best get a tux and my acceptance speech ready for my Nobel Peace Prize. I’m so excited.

Now, chocolate and chile isn’t a new combination. Montezuma drank his hot chocolate with chile in it and mole is a splendid concoction of yumminess featuring – yep, you guessed it – chile and chocolate. So it only made sense to bring these two star-crossed lovers together in a chocolate brownie.

It’s got habanero for heat, chipotle for smokiness and our Chimayo blend because I never can leave well enough alone.

Makes 1-8×8” pan

4 oz (½ cup) unsalted butter + extra to grease the pan

2 oz. dark chocolate

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 – ¼ tsp Chile Habanero powder (depending how hot you like it)

½ tsp Chile Chipotle powder

½ tsp Chile Chimayo blend chile powder

¾ cup sifted flour

½ cup walnuts or pecans, toasted (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°

Grease an 8×8” pan.

Place the butter and chocolate in a bowl and set over a pan of simmering water to melt. Remove and stir in the sugar – it will look like grainy chocolate sand, but don’t worry. Slowly mix in the eggs. Then add the vanilla and the three chile powders. Gently fold in the flour and finally the nuts.

Gently fold in the flour — you’re not trying to beat it to death

Spread into the prepared pan. Place in the oven and check after 15 minutes, turning the pan if need be. The brownies are done, when they start to pull away from the pan slightly and a metal skewer inserted in the center of the pan is hot to the touch. Total cooking time should be about 20 minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack. Slice and serve.

Ready to go into the oven.

 

 

 

 

Spice rubbed pork stew with orange, beans & onions

It ain’t over folks. So don’t break out your linen pants or sundresses, because old man/woman winter hasn’t exited stage left. There is more to come, dollars to donuts. Don’t put away your sweaters or your snow tires and for heaven’s sake would you stop looking at that seed catalog.

When will we learn that we rush winter at our peril? Winter will leave when it’s good and ready. And before you think that a few daffodils blooming, mean that spring has sprung – well think again. You’ll be draping wee daffodil-sized coats on those daffy flowers when the cold snap comes back with a vengeance.

Besides, winter is an excuse to savor comfort food. Something cooked nice and slow. Lots of spice and not a lettuce leaf in sight. Because all too soon, spring will show up for its day in the sun, and then summer will be here with all its heat and humidity and suddenly winter won’t look so bad after all.

Serves 4

1 ¾ lb pork, cut into large chunks

1 Tbsp chile molido powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 whole ancho chile

1 large red onion

1 orange

¾ pint chicken stock

1-14 oz can of butter beans, drained

Olive or vegetable oil

Salt

Chopped pistachios & cilantro to garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 250°F

Mix the chile power, turmeric and cumin seeds together and rub over the pieces of pork. Place the pork in a bowl or re-sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for several hours or over night.

Slice the onion into thick rings. Heat a frying pan, add a drizzle of oil and cook the onions on both sides until gently browned. Remove and set aside. Sprinkle the pork generously with salt, add more oil to the pan if needed, and cook the pork in batches, browning on all sides. Add the onions back into the pan. Peel the zest off the orange using a vegetable peeler and add to the pork and onion mixture. Juice the orange and add along with the chicken stock and the dried ancho chile, making sure the stem is removed. The liquid should almost cover the pork and onions.

Cover and place in the oven and cook at low heat for around 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender and flakes easily. Alternatively, you can cook in a slow cooker. Remove the meat and onions from the cooking liquid and keep warm. Remove the grease from the liquid. (A handy way, is to pour the liquid into a measuring cup and pop it in the fridge. The oil will gather at the top and you can scoop it off.)

Place the liquid back in the pan, reduce until thickened slightly and add the pork and onions back in, along with the beans. Serve hot and garnish with chopped pistachios and cilantro, if you desire.

 

 

Slow cooker ham and chile lentil soup

This is a warning. I’m not in a good mood. And no, it has nothing to do with politics, the upcoming ‘big football game’ or even January which I’m sure has lingered longer than it’s allowed by law. Nope, I’m ticked off at people who talk about cooking ‘cheats’ – short cuts to make cooking 1) faster, 2) easier, or just 3) better.

Folks, this isn’t cheating. Cheating was when you copied answers from another kid’s history test in 5th grade. (Cheated was how you felt when you still got a C.) It’s not cooking. Because bottom line, if it tastes good when you tuck in, then it’s good cooking.

Cascabel chiles get their name from the rattling sound they make.

We’ve got enough guilt floating around in the world as it is. If I needed more, I’d call my Mother. So this recipe isn’t a cheat, it’s just tasty. Normally, at Chile HQ, we’d sweat the onions, then add in the celery and carrots – taking our time to extract every morsel of sweet loveliness.

But here, we’re letting the slow cooker do the work for us. A lot of time makes this a super rich dish but all you have to do is a bit of chopping, and you can do that, can’t you? This is a January soup and if you’re clever you’ll freeze the leftovers and have it in February. Because let’s be honest, February may be short but it sure feels long.

Serves 4

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 cascabel chile, stem removed

1 tsp chipotle powder (or more to taste)

1 cup cooked ham, chopped into chunks

1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

32oz vegetable or chicken stock

Place the lentils, celery, carrots and onion in the slow cooker. Pour in the stock, add the cascabel chile and chipotle chile powder. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, until the lentils are almost cooked. Add the ham and the canned tomatoes, taste and add more chipotle chile powder and salt, if needed. Cook for another hour and serve warm. Note: Don’t worry about removing the casabel from the finished dish– it will have lovingly melted into the soup.

Slow cooker posole with lamb & chile

Winter has arrived in the Land of Enchantment and at the Chile Trail we’re hunkering down. Supplies are in, the fire is lit, and we’re settling in for a long winter’s nap.

Some folks fight winter – shovelling and obsessively checking weather.com but we figure why bother. Mother Nature is going to do exactly what she likes so don’t fight it.

Instead, take advantage of winter. Binge watch that trashy series. Stop shaving. Wear a lot of flannel. Go ahead – who’s going to notice? Winter isn’t the time for beauty contests or wimps. Make like a bear and hibernate.

And there’s nothing that fits winter weather like some slow cooker posole. It’s hearty fare and with a hit of chile so you’re sure to keep warm and toasty.

1-12 oz package of white corn posole

1 ½ lbs diced lamb

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1-1oz package of posole spice blend

 

To garnish:

Cilantro, chopped

Radishes, sliced

Serves 4-6

Empty the posole into a non-reactive bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight. Drain and place the posole into the slow cooker and cover with 4 cups of water. Cook on high for 1 hour.

While the posole is cooking, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil in a frying pan. Remove and set aside. Lightly season the lamb with salt and pepper and brown the lamb in batches. Add more olive oil if needed. Add the onion and garlic back in and stir the mixture with the posole spice blend for a few minutes.

Add the meat, onion and spice mixture to the posole and cook for another 2-3 hours on high heat then reduce to low and cook until the posole is tender – about another 5 hours. Add more water if needed.

Serve hot with the chopped cilantro and sliced radishes.

Sun-dried tomato, walnut and chipotle chile paste

Congratulations. You did it. You survived Thanksgiving and aunt Vera’s creamed onions. You sat through endless bowl games and bowls of food. No one died of food poisoning and no blood was spilt over the scrabble board. All in all, I’d call that a success.

Now you’ve only got Christmas and New Year’s before you can crawl off into your man/woman/person cave and hibernate until Spring. Imagine all those seconds of stuffing and turkey and gravy providing you with the perfect padding to keep you going until the daffodils are in bloom. Go ahead, eat that extra slice of pie because you’re going to need it.

Oh, if only we were more bears. Wouldn’t hibernation be a great solution for short days and long nights? But alas, you’ve got the day job. And the kids and the bowling team (whose idea was that?). So snap out of it. At best, you can sneak in some mini weekend hibernations – aka naps. Close the doors, ignore your phone and be a solitary curmudgeon for half an hour.

Of course you must keep your strength up, so whip up a batch of sun-dried tomato, walnut and chipotle chile paste. Slather it on a slice of bread or spoon it onto a baked potato. Heck, eat it out of the jar as far as we’re concerned. Before you know it, spring will be here. You’ll search for your sunglasses and put the snow shovel away. You’ll stretch, smile and realize there’s suddenly more than 2 hours of daylight. You’ll look in the mirror and your smile will fade, as you ask yourself why you ate those last five slices of pie.

Sun-dried tomato, walnut & chipotle chile paste

3 oz sun-dried tomatoes

2 oz walnuts (or other nut)

1 lemon, finely zested

1 whole chipotle chile

½ clove garlic.

4 oz olive oil

Place the chipotle chile in a small bowl and cover with almost boiling water. Allow it to sit and hydrate for 10-15 minutes. When it’s softened, remove it from the water, slice it open and remove the seeds. Coarsely chop.

Toast the nuts in a frying pan or in the oven until lightly golden. Watch them like a hawk though, as they’ll quickly burn if you’re not alert.

Coarsely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts. Place them in the small bowl of a food processor or mini blender. Add the lemon zest, garlic, chopped chipotle chile and about 1/3 of the oil. Blitz. Stop and stir and then add the remaining oil so you have a thick, spoonable paste.

Store in a jar and cover with olive oil.