Red chile apple tart with pistachios & honey

Ah summer, you elusive temptress…you’re here and then in a blink you’re gone. You bat your eyes and shoot us a sunny smile and we think — silly mortals that we are — that you’ll stay forever. Was it the Hawaiian shirt we wore at the last barbecue? The zinc oxide we slathered on our noses at the beach? What did we do to send you off in a huff, leaving us with untold months of greyness before you deign to make your return?

Now hold on just a darn minute. Before we go too far down that rabbit hole, let’s remember that it’s not over yet. We have 24 hours before it’s officially Autumn. And if we’re lucky, we’ll tuck in a few more warm days before we have to dig out the snow shovels. And be honest — is summer really that wonderful? Sure there’s ice cream but there’s no law against eating frozen treats 365 days of the year (just think how much slower a scoop melts when it’s below freezing outside). Summer means flies and other insects and weeds growing like — well, like weeds.

Keep the pastry chilled until you’re ready to fill it! Got that?

Let’s face it, summer is not all it’s cracked up to be. Autumn is elegant. It’s golden leaves turning umber and orange. It’s restrained and glamorous. Think of it as the Julianne Moore of the seasons. And in the world of food it’s a bonanza, a veritable cornucopia of fresh fruit and vegetables. So stop whining. Buck up. Get a grip. And for heavens sake, get cooking.

Gently fold the pastry the pastry over the filling and you’re ready to go.

1-8 oz. puff pastry round

1 lb. hard, crisp apples (about 6 small-ish ones)

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 1/2 Tbsp honey (a bit more if you like things sweeter)

1/2 tsp Chimayo Blend New Mexico Chile

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Squeeze of lemon in a bowl of water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Cut the apples in quarters, remove the core and slice each quarter in half or thirds. Place the slices in the water with the lemon juice (this will prevent them from turning brown). When you’ve sliced all the apples, drain and place in a frying pan with the butter. Cook over medium heat for about four minutes before adding the honey and chile. Continue cooking for about another four minutes. The apples should be tender but firm. Place the apple mixure in a bowl and allow to cool.

Place the pastry in an oven-proof round pan with an 8″ base, preferably a cast iron pan. The pastry will go up the sides of the pan a bit. When the apples are cool, spread them out onto the pastry. Sprinkle all over with the pistachios and gently fold the edges of the pastry over the fruit mixture to form an open-faced tart.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the pastry is cooked and nicely browned. Serve warm out of the oven or at room temperature.

Habanero Peanut Noodles

Smooth and creamy thanks to the peanut butter with a kick courtesy of your friend and mine, the habanero.

I won’t keep you long. You’re probably busy burning burgers and fighting off smoke inhalation due to an overly aggressive use of charcoal briquets. The beer is warm and the potato salad has been sitting out far longer than recommended by food hygeine experts. You’re surrounded by guests and you wonder who invited them over and then remember that you did.

Congratulations: it’s the Fourth of July. The good news is that tomorrow is the Fifth of July and things go back to normal. In the meantime, smile and wave, as we say. Your guests will leave (eventually) and you can slink back to your lair and watch a boxed set.

And if you’re feeling a bit hungry later today (ever notice how you’re the only one who never gets anything to eat at these shindigs?), then might I suggest a bowl of habanero peanut noodles? It’s spicy, crunchy, and addictive. Heck, you could even serve some at your Fourth of July party. On second thought, forget that. No reason to encourage folks to stay longer than necessary.

The habanero (lower left hand corner) may be small but it is mighty (hot)!

Habanero Peanut Noodles

serves 2-3

1 package — about 7 oz. — udon noodles (or use another noodle)

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 Tbsp white miso (if you can’t be bothered, you could add another tablespoon of peanut butter and I won’t tell)

1 tsp coarsely chopped fresh ginger

1 small clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 dried habanero chile

To garnish: Your choice of chopped green onions, julienned carrots and cucumber, sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, lime wedges, bean sprouts and cilantro.

Snap off the stem of the chile, remove the seeds and place in a small bowl. I strongly encourage you to wear gloves when you do this so you don’t do what I do and rub your eye. Pour boiling water over the chile and allow to rehydrate for 5-10 minutes.

Place the peanut butter, miso (if using it), chopped ginger and garlic, lime juice, soy sauce and the habanero chile (ditch the water it was soaking in) in the small bowl of a food processor. Blitz. You’ll probably need to add a tablespoon or two of hot water if it’s too thick.

Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Scoop the noodles out of the pan, place into a serving bowl and add several spoonfuls of the sauce. If it’s a bit claggy, add a bit of the noodle cooking water. Serve in bowls with your choice of garnishes.

Slurp the noodles up making an unwarranted amount of noise. Sigh and repeat.

Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with a chile, lime, pecan butter

Hey fellows, did you dodge the bullet? C’mon, you know what I’m talking about. Valentine’s Day. Yesterday. I saw you at the gas station buying a slightly — scratch that, very — suspect bunch of carnations that looked like they’d seen better days. It was the panicked look in your face that said it all: ‘Yep, I totally forgot it was Valentine’s Day.’

Or you, the fellow standing in the frozen food section, wondering to yourself if a pepperoni pizza says ‘I love you’. In case you’re still wondering, it doesn’t.

But let’s face it, Valentine’s Day is a ruse, a ploy to strike fear in your heart and empty your wallet. Love — or even mild affection — doesn’t need a day. It doesn’t need a smaltzy card or roses and baby’s breath. You don’t need February 15th to say I-think-I-sort-of-perhaps-might-somewhat-like-you-only-not-during-a-major-league-baseball-game.

Jazz up your sweet potato with an easy chile, lime, pecan butter

If you really want to win someone’s heart, then cook for them. Make them a plate of food and you’ve got them wrapped around your little finger. This isn’t Valentine’s Day, it’s every day. It doesn’t have to be complicated or cost a lot — it just has to taste good.

And our baked stuffed sweet potatoes tick all the boxes. They’re quick, easy and taste delicious. You can’t ask for more than that.

A quick rub of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt adds extra flavor

4 small sweet potatoes, about 5-7 ounces each

1 stick, 4oz butter (softened)

1/2 Tbsp New Mexico Red Chile (mild or hot)

2 Tbsp chopped pecans

Zest of 1 lime

Salt

Olive oil

Optional extras:

Crumbled goat’s cheese

Chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash the sweet potatoes, dry them and give them a light rub of olive oil. Sprinkle them with sea salt and place them in a casserole dish. Bake them for 45 minutes to an hour, until you can easily insert a knife or skewer into them.

While the sweet potatoes are doing their thing, make the chile, lime, pecan butter. Place the softened butter in a small bowl, add the pecans, chile, lime zest and about 1/2 tsp of salt. Mash it around like you’re a toddler playing with your food. Taste and add more chile or salt.

Slice the baked sweet potatoes down the middle and add a generous dollop of the butter mixture. Top with goat’s cheese and cilantro, if using and get eating. No one’s extending any invitations around here.

Dinner, my friends, is served!

Spiced Butternut Squash & Bean Soup

‘Tis the season for multi-tasking madness! Yes, it’s the time of year to over extend yourself and your credit card. Commit to far too much. Eat and drink yourself silly. Send holiday greetings to friends you haven’t seen or spoken to since you sent them a card last year. Ask yourself why stores insist on playing Christmas music months in advance. Buy your nearest and dearest something they’ll dislike and discard. Then collapse and promise you’ll never do this again.

Or you could turn your phone onto silent. Channel your inner Scrooge. No Christmas cards. No Christmas sweaters. Scowl at those cute carollers who come to your door. Then slip into the kitchen and make yourself a restorative pot of soup.

Accompany said soup with a hefty wedge of bread, some really good butter and a good book. The book, I might add is to read, not eat. Although if you enjoy reading you’re a voracious reader who devours books so maybe you do ‘eat’ them up. I digress…Perhaps something to listen to (not Mariah Carey singing ‘All I Want for Christmas’ for heavens sake). Something classy like Elvis.

Breathe deep and sigh. Do feel smug if this feels appropriate. For soup, you’re spoiled for choice. At our Scrooge Grotto this year, we’ll be serving a Spiced Butternut Squash & Bean Soup. It’s packed full of health-giving goodness (yawn) and is easy to make. Do share with someone if you must or store the rest in the freezer for a cold winter’s day.

Spiced Butternut Squash & Bean Soup

Serves 4

1 butternut Squash, around 1.5-2 lbs.

14 oz. can of beans (garbanzo, black eyed peas, you get the idea)

A hefty handful of cavolo nero (black cabbage), kale or spinach

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 New Mexico red chile pod

1 1/2 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. ancho chile powder

1/2 tsp. cumin

Heat the oil in a medium-large saucepan over low heat. Saute the onion slowly until soft and translucent. Don’t rush this step folks. While the onion is cooking, peel the squash, slice in half, remove the seeds (you can save them to roast if you’re feeling energetic) and chop into 1/2″ dice.

Add the garlic to the softened onion, saute for another minute then add the spices, including the chile pod. Stir to coat and cook for a minute or two to bring out the flavours of the spices. Add the diced butternut squash and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes then add the stock. Increase the heat to medium (it should be at a low simmer). Cook until the squash is tender — this won’t take long, perhaps 15 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, wash your greens. If using kale or cavolo nero, strip the leaves from the woody stems and chop. If using spinach, take a break, check your Instagram ‘likes’ and then get back to work.

When the squash is cooked, drain and rinse the beans, add them to the soup along with the greens. Stir, taste and add salt and more chile if desired. Remove the chile pod and serve.

Tomato Salad with Cilantro Pesto

I never met a tomato I didn’t like. Scratch that. I never met a vine-ripened tomato I didn’t like. Now don’t start rolling your eyes and muttering under your breath. I can hear you, you know and no, I’m not being an elitist snob.

Okay, maybe I am, but so what? Sometimes in life there is a right way to do something and a wrong way. And trust me folks, picking a tomato when it’s green, transporting it halfway around the world and then popping it in the refrigerator is wrong. W-R-O-N-G.

Whoever thought that tomatoes need to be refrigerated anyway? The refrigerator is for bottles of strange chutneys and sauces that you use once and then forget about for 2-3 years. It’s for leftovers that find their way to the very back of the shelf where they gestate until they’re so covered with fuzzy mould that you can’t tell if they were animal, vegetable or mineral. The fridge is not, however, for tomatoes.

Refrigerating tomatoes kills the flavor so don’t do it. Got it?

Tomatoes should smell of sun (yes, I know that technically you can’t smell sun, but bear with me). They should be warm to the touch, firm yet yielding and above all, juicy. Place thick slices between two pieces of white bread that have been liberally slathered with mayonnaise. And don’t forget to generously season them with salt and pepper. Eat and enjoy life as the tomato juices run down you chin.

Yes, it’s messy. Yes, you look like a slob. Yes, you trash that brand new white shirt you bought (what were you thinking of buying a white shirt for heaven’s sake?). But it’s worth it. Just don’t let those precious tomatoes anywhere near the fridge. Promise?

Toasting nuts is not the time to check your emails or put a load of laundry in. Focus, people, focus.

And if you’d like something a smidge more sophisticated, then try our tomato salad recipe.

Tomato Salad with Cilantro Pesto

Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs tomatoes

Small bunch of cilantro, leaves and stems washed and roughly chopped

2 heaping Tbsp pine nuts, plus more for garnishing

1 small clove of garlic, minced

3 oz olive oil

1/8-1/4 tsp Hatch green chile powder

Salt

Chile pequin, to garnish

Place the pine nuts in a small saucepan and toast them for a few minutes over medium heat until nicely browned (Browned people, not burnt. There is a difference). Remove from the pan and allow the pine nuts to cool. Place the cilantro in the bowl of a small food processor along with the minced garlic, Hatch green chile powder, pine nuts and two tablespoons of the olive oil. Blitz until it forms a rough paste. Season with salt and add more chile powder if it needs more heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil if the mixture feels too thick — you should be able to drizzle it over your tomatoes.

Slice your non-refrigerated tomatoes and place them on a plate. Drizzle over the pesto and garnish with more pine nuts and some Chile pequin. Serve and enjoy.

Even better? Add a baguette so you can soak up all those juices!

Green chile potato salad

Whoever said the potato is humble? There is nothing humble about the noble spud. Yes, it grows quietly underground, doing it’s tuber-thing. It doesn’t call attention to itself but does that make it humble? Nay, gentle reader. On the contrary. Picture a tiny new potato, boiled gently, sliced in half, a bit of the flesh spooned out and replaced with a dollop of black caviar and a lick of sour cream. Call that humble?

Or try vichyssoise. That’s vihsh–ee–SWAHZ, darling. The rich, creamy, potato and leek soup that’s served cold, and garnished with a fluttering of chopped chives. You say a bowl of pureed onions and potatoes? I say you’re a philistine.

The beauty of potatoes is that they can go all ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ one moment and down home comfort food the next. They are culinary chameleons. As it’s the Fourth of July (cue fireworks, burned burgers and dodgy hotdogs), we thought a green chile potato salad was in order. We’ve used small, new red potatoes, celery including the leaves, if you can find them, and shallots instead of onions.

Yes, slightly pretentious but we can live with that. What we can’t abide is anything humble, except for home of course.

If you can find celery with the leaves, don’t toss them. Finely chop the leaves and add to your potato salad.

Serves 5-6 as a side dish

1.25 lbs. potatoes, preferably new red potatoes but we won’t quibble

1 stalk of celery, diced, plus chopped celery leaves if you’ve got them

1 small banana shallot, finely minced

2 Tbsp mayonnaise

1/2 – 1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp Hatch green chile powder, or more to taste

Salt

Rinse the potatoes, slice them in half and put them in a pan with water. Generously salt the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the potatoes are just tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, place the diced celery, celery leaves if you have them, minced shallot, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, olive oil and the Hatch green chile powder — basically the rest of the ingredient list Einstein — in a bowl. Combine. Drain the potatoes and while hot, add to the bowl. Give a firm but gentle stir (like you’re dealing with a slightly over excited five year old). Serve as is or at room temperature.

Call that humble?

Habanero berries with lime & mint

A siesta is a mighty fine thing. Some might think it’s a luxury but here at Chile Trail HQ, we think it’s a necessity, especially in the summer. Think about it — you’ve had lunch and it’s now the hottest part of the day. What are you going to do — run a 10k? Of course not. Any sensible person would put their feet up and take a nap.

A super speedy summer dessert or post-nap snack

It doesn’t have to be long but no peaking at your phone or computer. No quick notes on your ever lengthening to-do list. Feet up and eyes closed. That’s an order. Then when you wake up (it doesn’t have to be long — 15 or 20 minutes can do the trick), you’re rested and rejuvenated. Some people might even say you look 10 years younger, but that’s pushing it.

You stretch, smile and feel like a light snack is in order. Might we suggest berries macerated in a sugar syrup with lime, mint and habanero chile? Of course we can. Make it ahead of time, pop it in the fridge and serve it with a large spoonful of COYO, coconut yogurt. Suddenly you’re feeling super human, able to leap tall buildings in a singe bound.

Is it the nap or the berries? We’ll leave you to decide.

Serves 4

1 lb. mixed berries (rasp, black, straw)

1/4 tsp habanero chile powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Zest & juice of one lime

A sprig of mint plus more leaves to garnish

COYO coconut milk yogurt

Wash the berries and slice the strawberries in halves or quarters, depending on their size. Put the chile, sugar, water, lime juice and zest, and the sprig of mint in a small saucepan. Place on the stove and heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Strain and pour over the berries. Allow to macerate for half an hour or so before serving with a large dollop of COYO and some chopped mint leaves.

The creaminess of COYO coconut yogurt helps to temper the fieriness of the habanero. Trust us.

Grilled asparagus with mozzarella and red chile-honey dressing

Sharing is seriously overrated. Sure, it looks good on paper. It’s the ‘right’ thing to do. And be honest, how many times have you told your kids to share the toys/computer game/remote control and ‘play nicely’? 

But sometimes it’s a whole lot more fun to have a party where only three invitations go out: me, myself, and I. No sharing that stellar bottle of wine. No fear that when you offer a guest first dibs from your box of chocolates that they’ll end up with your favorite dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt, while you get stuck with the weird one with the pink filling that tastes like the perfume your Granny used to wear. 

There is no better argument for not sharing than a bunch of asparagus, especially if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some thick, fat stalks. Sure, you could divide them in half and give your dining companion three or even four, if you’re feeling like a martyr. But how much better to hog them for yourself. Add a ball of fresh mozzarella, a chile-honey dressing and go for it.

No sharing. No ‘Honestly, you have the last one. I couldn’t eat another bite.’ No holier than thou moment. And when you’re done, crack open that box of chocolates. Go on – you know you want to. 

Serves one (or two if you’re feeling friendly)

One bunch of asparagus – about 6 fat spears

One ball of mozzarella – buffalo or burrata if you won the lottery

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil + extra for grilling the asparagus

1 – 1 ½ Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp runny honey

¼ – ½ tsp Chile de arbol – Cayenne powder

¼ tsp sea salt

Chile caribe to garnish 

Note: some folks like to snap off the end of their asparagus but we think you lose too much. Instead, trim the end and then take a vegetable peeler and shave off some of the outer woody bit. It will be nice and tender. Promise. 

Add a couple of inches of water to a frying pan that is large enough to hold the asparagus in a single layer. Bring the water to a boil, add a generous spoonful of salt and the asparagus. Cover and steam for 2 to 3 minutes or until you can insert a knife easily into the base of the stalk. Gently place the asparagus into a wide colander and rinse with ice cold water to cool them down. Set the asparagus on some paper towels to dry them off.

Heat your grill to medium-hot. (You can also do this inside on a grill pan if the weather isn’t cooperating.) While the grill is heating up, make the dressing. Whisk together the oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, chile and salt. Taste and add more chile and/or salt as needed. 

Brush the asparagus with some oil and place on the hot grill. Turn the spears about every thirty seconds to get nice grill marks all around the spears. Remove from the grill. Place the mozzarella on a plate, place the spears around it, and drizzle over the dressing. Sprinkle with some chile caribe. 

Christmas Caesar Salad

In New Mexico, we don’t care where you live. We don’t care what you do for a living. And we definitely don’t care what you got up to last weekend when you said you were ‘cleaning the garage’. 

What do we care about? It’s simple. One question and one question only is on the lips of any self-respecting New Mexican: red or green? All we care about is chile. We eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Folks round here are divided into two camps – those who favor red chile and those who swear by green. 

Scratch that – three camps. There are some chile lovers who simply can’t make up their minds. They love them both so that’s what we give them – red and green, or as we like to call it, Christmas.

For the Christmas lovers out there, we’ve got a Christmas Caesar salad. There is green chile in the salad dressing and red chile on the crispy croutons. And as if that’s not enough, we use two different red chiles. Over the top? Yep, so sue us. Cayenne or chile de arbol, gives heat, while New Mexico or chile molido adds a kinder, gentler warmth. 

It’s salad so it’s good for you so go ahead and look smug, we don’t mind. Add some whole anchovies and halved hard boiled egg if you like and here’s a secret – we pick up the leaves and eat them with our fingers. Forget cutlery. We’re heathens but you know you love us. 

Bon appetit!

Serves 2 as a lunch salad

For the dressing:

½ tsp Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 ½ tsp whipping cream

¼- ½ tsp Green Jalapeño Chile Powder

For the salad:

1 large head of baby Romaine, about 8 oz., washed and dried

8-large shavings of parmesan (you can do this with a vegetable peeler)

Anchovy fillets in oil, optional

Hard boiled eggs, optional

For the croutons:

6 slices of baguette

2-2 ½ Tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced to a pulp

New Mexico Red Chile/Chile Molido powder

Chile de Arbol/Cayenne chile powder

Combine all of the ingredients for the salad dressing. Whisk them like your life depended on it. Taste, season with salt, add some more chile – you know the drill. Set the dressing aside.

To make the croutons, mix the bashed garlic with the olive oil and brush over the baguette slices. Sprinkle each slice with a bit of chile de arbol and chile molido. Place the slices on a baking pan and broil for a minute or two until crisp. 

While the bread is in the oven, make haste. Divide the leaves between two plates and do the same with the shaved parmesan. Add the halved hard boiled eggs and whole anchovies, if using. 

Remove the pan from the oven, divide the slices between the two plates and drizzle over the dressing. Eat and be careful not to drip any dressing on that new linen shirt. Honestly, you can dress ‘em up but you can’t take ‘em out.

Zucchini ribbons with chile, pine nuts & ricotta

At the Chile Trail, we live for danger. Don’t believe us? Try this on for size. We’ve been known to let the gas tank get down to a quarter full before filling it up again. Yep, we know – madness. Once we waited to pack for holiday a whole week before we left. Crazy? You got it. 

So when someone gave us a mandoline for Christmas we saw danger written all over it. For the uninitiated, a mandoline is a kitchen utensil with a flat frame and adjustable blades for slicing vegetables. The danger? Use it without the hand guard and you’ll find that it’s good for creating wafer thin slices of finger too.  

Zucchini ribbons sliced on the mandoline.

How could we resist? Soon we were slicing everything that didn’t move from carrots to fennel to apples and pears. We thought about it using it on butter but realized that was just silly. This I’m-a-fancy-pants-chef-like-person-dish is the result of our borderline obsession with the mandoline.

If you don’t have a mandoline, you could use a super sharp knife or even try a vegetable peeler. Or you could stop being such a cheap so-and-so and buy one. They’re – as they say in England – cheap as chips. And then you too can take a walk on the wild side.   

Ricotta is optional but you know you love it.

Serves 4

1.5 lb. zucchini – green, yellow, whatever

¼- ½ tsp. chile pequin

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

3 Tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted

2-3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lemon

Ricotta cheese (optional)

Wash the zucchini and give the stem end a light trim. Slice on the mandoline to create long ribbons. Or use a super sharp knife or vegetable peeler.

Place a deep frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. When it’s warmed, add the chile pequin. The chile should sizzle and spit. Don’t be deterred – remember, we live for danger. Add the garlic, give it a quick stir and then immediately add the zucchini (if you’re busy texting your buddy you’ll find that you’ve burned your garlic). 

Season with salt and stir fry for a few minutes. The zucchini should relax but you don’t want it limp. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the pine nuts. Place the zucchini on a platter. Finely grate the lemon over the zucchini. Slice the lemon in half and give the veg a few generous squeezes of lemon juice. Sprinkle the remaining pine nuts over the top and add another hit of chile pequin and generous dollops of ricotta cheese, if you’re using.

Sit down and eat. You deserve it. You’ve faced danger and come out the other side.  

Don’t forget to add more chile. Always more chile.