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.

Chile-spiced black eyed peas with sweet potatoes

Well, this is it. Another year is gone (good riddance 2020) and a long winter stretches ahead of us. While January is technically only 31 days, we figure those are dog days so it’s actually 217 days in total. Makes sense doesn’t it?

If your birthday is in January, apologies for disrespecting your month but be honest – wouldn’t you rather a summer birthday? But survive we will, each in our own way. Perhaps you’ve dusted off the backgammon set or taken up stamp collecting or knitting. Some of you may make like a bear and try to sleep your way through the month (just don’t forget your zoom call with the boss on Thursday morning…). 

Needs must, as my Granny used to say. But then again, no one ever really listened to her, did they? Basically, do what you need to do to make it through the month. By all means, take up a new language or simply try to remember your first one – we’re flexible.

And cook something…something warm and spicy and simple to fix. Take a bowl with you to you man/bear cave for a well-deserved nap and a long winter snooze.  

Serves 6

2 cups dried black eyed peas, rinsed

1 dried New Mexico red chile

1 red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. ancho chile powder

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

Salt

1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil

Juice of one lime

To garnish (optional):

Chile pequin

Chopped cilantro

Additional lime wedges

Place the beans in a pot and cover with water by several inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add in the dried red chile, cover and let sit for one hour. Place back on the heat and return to the boil. Reduce and simmer until tender. 

While the beans are cooking, heat 1 ½ tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook slowly until soft and translucent. Add in the garlic and the ancho chile powder and cook for another minute before adding in the diced sweet potato. Cook for another 10-15 minutes until the sweet potato is cooked but still firm. Drain the beans, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Add the beans to the sautéed vegetables, plus a ladleful of the cooking liquid. Taste and add salt as needed. Cook gently until the liquid is absorbed.

Remove from the heat and stir in lime juice, chopped cilantro, a generous sprinkle of the chile pequin and lime wedges (if using). Any leftovers make the start of a smashing soup.

All that jazz chile cornbread

You’ve got to love a minimalist – that individual who honestly thinks that less is more. They love paring down their possessions to one set of underwear, some black pants and a white t-shirt. They talk about ‘freedom’ from possessions and how liberating it all is.

Yawn. 

And then there are the rest of us who feel that more is well, more. We like a Christmas tree that’s heaving with decorations. Stacks of books that double as side tables. Kitchen drawers crammed full of obscure but potentially useful gadgets. And disco balls. We really love disco balls. 

And when it comes to cooking we’re not shy of an ingredient or ten. Take our green chile blue cornbread mix. It is the bee’s knees on its own. It’s so good that all you need to add is water or milk and some eggs and you’re done. But, if you’re in a OTT mood, it’s just the ticket too. We like to add corn, semi-dried tomatoes, and crumbled goat’s cheese. You could toss in some chopped green onions, toasted pecans or pine nuts, and chopped cilantro too. 

The minimalist might roll their eyes but who cares. Go big or go home. 

1 x 9.84 oz package of Green chile blue cornbread mix

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¾ cup of buttermilk or milk

6 oz. corn kernels, about 1 cup

1 oz., scant ½ cup semi-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 oz. soft goat’s cheese, crumbled

Butter

Preheat the oven to 425°F

Heat a 9.5” cast iron frying pan in the preheated oven for 5 or 10 minutes. While it’s heating, combine the cornbread mix with the eggs, corn, semi-dried tomatoes and cheese in a mixing bowl. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or so to let the flavors marry.

Add a tablespoon or two of butter to the hot pan, return to the oven to melt the butter – this will only take a minute or two. Remove the pan from the oven, pour in the cornbread mixture – the butter will spit and sputter (this is a good thing). Return to the oven and bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean – about 15-25 minutes. 

Serve warm with butter. Any leftovers make a dandy stuffing. 

Charred Chile-Nut Brussels Sprouts

Spare a thought for Linus Urbanec, who holds the coveted title of most Brussels sprouts eaten in one minute. How many, you ask? Thirty-one sprouts. And before you say, ‘I could do that’, don’t. Just don’t. Urbanec had to spear each sprout with a toothpick, eat and swallow before moving swiftly on to the next. Can you imagine the internal reverb after eating over 30 sprouts in a minute? Ouch. On second thought, forget Urbanec – spare a kind thought for his friends and family.

(Word has it that a truck driver named Wayne Sherlock, topped this record in 2019, by two more sprouts for a total of 33. That might seem like a narrow victory but in life, every sprout counts.) 

Why our collective obsession with eating contest of any sort, where we watch and wonder if the contestant will swallow or spew? And why Brussels sprouts in particular? It’s pretty simple: when it comes sprouts, we hate them, so it’s fun to see someone suffer. Brussels sprouts are reviled, loathed, shunned, demonized and detested. And that’s just by folks who tolerate them once a year at Thanksgiving.

But it’s not fair. It’s criminal. Brussels sprouts are low in calories, a source of protein, and contain loads of Vitamin K and C plus Vitamin A, folate and manganese.  We’re talking super food here folks. And if they sometimes taste like boiled tennis shoes dressed with a jot of eau-de-sulphur, it’s hardly their fault. Far too often they’re overcooked into slimy submission. 

Toasting the seeds, nuts and chile brings out the flavor!

But give them a quick blanch in boiling water, then roast them and you’re golden. Top with some nuts, seeds and chile and you’re in love. And suddenly, you find yourself googling ‘Brussels sprout eating competition’. I mean, how difficult can it be to each 34 sprouts in a minute? Hold on, don’t answer that.

Blanch the Brussels sprouts for a few minutes then finish them off in a hot oven.

Serves 4 or 1 if you happen to be Linus Urbanec or Wayne Sherlock

1 lb. Brussels sprouts

2 Tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup hazelnuts

New Mexico Red chile pod

½ tsp ground turmeric

Zest of half a lime

Salt

To garnish (optional)

Cilantro leaves

Sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425°F

Place the pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts in a small frying pan. Break up the dried chile, discard the stem and add to the seeds and nuts. Place over medium heat and toast the mixture for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool. When cool, place in a blender with the turmeric and half a teaspoon of salt and the lime zest. Blitz until the mixture is the consistency of rough breadcrumbs.  

Trim the Brussels sprouts and slice them in half. Blanch them in salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Pat them dry with a paper towel, place in a roasting pan, coat with the olive oil and season generously with salt. Place in the pre-heated oven and roast for around 15-20 minutes or until nicely charred on all sides.

Place the charred Brussels sprouts in a serving dish, generously top with some of the chile-nut mixture and top with an extra drizzle of olive oil, if you like. Add the cilantro leaves and sesame seeds, if using, and serve warm. 

Slow roasted garlic & chile cherry tomatoes

There are people who don’t like garlic. Of course, many of them are vampires, sleeping during the day and on a strictly no-garlic diet. If you’re a vampire or simply not a fan, then look away now. Go do a load of laundry, the crossword puzzle or call you mother – you know she worries about you.

But if you like garlic – nay, love it – then this is for you. There are lots of good reasons to eat garlic or Allium sativum, for you Latin lovers. It’s been used as a medicine for centuries and fans say it’s good for everything from a healthy heart to warding off the common cold (I bet vampires get a lot of those).

But let’s be honest, the main reason is that it makes food taste great. I dare you to walk into a home (preferably of someone you know), smell the aroma of garlic gently sautéing in olive oil and not salivate like crazy. 

For today’s ditty, we slow cooked garlic with cherry tomatoes, olive oil and chile (naturally). The garlic softens and the tomatoes become jammy and outrageously delicious. And what to do with it? Top a slice of sourdough toast. Toss with some pasta or serve with creamy, fresh mozzarella.

Serve to friends and loved ones and that slightly suspect guy from the office. It’s a sure fire way to find out if you’ve got a vampire on your hands. 

1 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved

6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

½ tsp Chimayo blend chile powder

½ tsp Chile Molido powder hot

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp. olive oil 

Preheat oven to 250º F

Place the tomatoes and garlic halves in a large baking pan. Sprinkle with the chile powders and salt and drizzle over the olive oil. Gently toss to coat. Turn the tomatoes so they’re cut side up. 

Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 2 hours then take out and flip the garlic cloves (you can leave the tomatoes as they are). Cook for another hour or two until the tomatoes have lost much of their liquid and the garlic is tender. Serve warm or place in a clean glass jar and cover with oil until ready to use. 

Honey & Chile Chicken Skewers

Summer is racing by at a gallop, as if chased by a slightly/very aggressive Autumn, eager to take its place. But let’s put the brakes on, folks. Let’s wring every last drop out of summer because when it’s gone, it’s gone. Well, at least for another year. Before you know it, you’ll be sitting around the fire, knitting long underwear and searching the web for yet another root vegetable recipe.

Summer is like being a teenager. It’s silly and fun and I bet you dollars to donuts you’ll get your heart broken. But who cares? You’ll love every minute of it. Sure summer is hot. Sure it’s hazy. Sure it’s humid. So deal with it. Embrace it.

Spend every minute you can outdoors. Crank up the BBQ, open up that cheeky rosé you’ve been saving for a rainy day and breath deep. Because Summer won’t last forever. (Cue: Beach Boys song.) And if worse comes to worse, remind yourself that Christmas is only a few months away.

Sorry, scratch that.

Serves 2-3

1 lb. boneless-skinless chicken thighs

2 Tbsp. runny honey

2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. tomato puree

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 tsp. Chimayo blend chile powder

½ tsp. New Mexico green chile powder

½ tsp. salt

Note: if you’re using bamboo or wooden skewers don’t forget to soak them in water for a half an hour or so before grilling. You’ll thank me, I promise.

Cut each thigh into about 4 chunks. Place the chicken in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients. Pour over the chicken and stir to coat. Refrigerate for several hours.

Heat up your barbecue to medium high. Place the chicken chunks on the skewers and cook on one side until you get some nice grill marks – a few minutes – then turn and cook the other side.

That’s it. You’re done. Eat up. And don’t forget to do the dishes.

 

Peach salad with goat’s cheese, pecans and chile pequin

Anyone need a stove? Please, take mine and put me out of my misery. Even looking at it makes me break out in a sweat. These days, you’ll find me standing in front of an open freezer, eating ice cream out of the container. Classy, right?

We’re well and truly in the dog days of summer. It’s hot and steamy – the kind of days when it takes all the energy you can muster just to pop another ice cube into your gin & tonic. The idea of actually cooking something is absurd, laughable and down right sadistic.

And even if you could stomach a pot of boiling water, who wants a plate of hot pasta? Or how about a nice hot stew? No. Way.

Nope, what we want is something cool with no muss and no fuss. A slice of watermelon with a pinch of chile de arbol and flakes of sea salt. Gazpacho with a sneaky dash of habanero to jazz it up. Or how about slices of peach – sliced razor thin and perfectly ripe – with some crumbled goat’s cheese, pecans and an acidy vinaigrette and a generous sprinkle of chile pequin?

So please – take my stove. Just remember to return it in the Fall.

Serves 2-3

2 peaches, halved & sliced thinly

1-2 oz. goat’s cheese, crumbled

1 ½ Tbsp. chopped pecans

Chile pequin

Vinaigrette

2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt

Pick a plate. A pretty plate. Arrange the peach slices with an artistic flourish. Remember, your eyes eat before your mouth does. Whisk together the vinegar and oil, taste and season with salt. Drizzle some over the peaches. Dot the goat’s cheese and pecans on top then wet them with a bit more vinaigrette. Sprinkle the chile pequin and serve, preferably in a cool place with a generous glass of rosé wine.

Chile Monkfish Skewers

Hope you’re ready to stoke up the barbecue because it’s only a box of sparklers away from the Fourth of July. And we all know a barbecue is a legal requirement on the 4th. Okay, maybe not a law that’s actually written down or something mentioned in the Constitution but it might as well be. So let’s get your shopping list sorted: warm beer, burned burgers and some dodgy potato salad with sun-kissed (aka food-poisoned) mayo. Top it off with ice cream that some numb-nut forgot to put in the freezer and you’re sorted.

Gonna be fun, right?

Or you could try – just try – and be classy for once in your life. Skip the beef and barbecue fish instead. Radical? Mad? Totally bonkers? Hear me out: monkfish is a dream to grill – full of flavour and firm enough to hold its own. Or you could use swordfish or splash out on tuna. Not feeling fishy? Go for chicken thighs. Put some rosé on ice to chill, crank the tunes and dazzle your guests.

Better yet, don’t invite any guests. Channel your inner curmudgeon. Just because you’ve got to barbecue doesn’t mean you have to share.

Serves 2-3

1 monkfish tail, skinned & boned, about 1 lb.

small knob of ginger, about ½ oz., peeled and finely grated

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp chile molido powder hot

½ tsp Chimayo blend New Mexico chile

½ tsp salt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

zest and juice of 1 lime

To garnish (optional):

Chopped dill and/or cilantro

Lime wedges

Chile pequin

Mix the ginger, garlic, spices and salt together in a bowl, large enough to hold the fish. Add the olive oil, lime juice and zest and give it a good stir. Slice the monkfish into hefty chunks – about 1½” cubes, add to the marinade and place in the refrigerator for about an hour – no longer or the acid from the lime starts to ‘cook’ the fish.

Insert the chunks onto several skewers – if using wooden ones, make sure and soak them in water before hand. Grill over a medium hot fire, turning occasionally until all the sides are nicely charred. In total, about 8 minutes.

Serve with your choice of garnishes – you decide! Eat, enjoy and revel in summer.