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.

 

 

Caramelized chile pears & pecans

Well it’s official. And we knew it was coming. It’s like your mother-in-law who comes around every Christmas whether you invite her or not. It’s Autumn. Or Fall. Call it what you will. It’s officially here and it’s not going anywhere for awhile.

Come to think of it, you ask, why do we call it Fall? Well our good friend, the world wide web has a thing or two to say about this. Apparently, Fall comes from the Old English feallan which means “to fall or to die”. Well isn’t that cheery? Eventually, some smart so-and-so shortened feallan to fall. The Brits stick with Autumn while we say Fall.

And there you have it. Death. Fall means death. Summer is done and dusted and Fall is here with lots of dead things. Like leaves that fall faster than you can shake a rake at. Or that tomato plant that’s on its last hurrah. It’s over folks. Hunker down like a hibernating bear because this is it until Spring.

But hold on. It’s not that depressing, is it? Fall is pumpkins. And fires in the fireplace. And that cold nip in the air that makes you breath in deeper. It’s Halloween and that obnoxious kid from down the street who always tries to grab all the candy but you get there first and yank the bowl away. C’mon, you love. You know you do.

And finally we can cover up the BBQ and quit pretending we like to blacken everything, including our eye brows. We can go inside and turn on the oven without passing out from the heat. We can eye the box of Christmas decorations and wonder if it’s really naughty if we put the Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving this year.

And there are pears and caramel and red chile. And heck, if that’s not enough to get you smiling, then I don’t know what is.

Carmelized chile pears & pecans

4 pears

¼ cup brown sugar

2 oz. unsalted butter

¼ cup pecans

½ tsp Chile Molido Powder Hot

Pinch of salt

squeeze of lemon

COYO Coconut Milk Yogurt

Place the butter and sugar in a frying pan over medium heat. Stir in the chile, salt and pecans.  Slice the pears in quarters or sixths (depending on the size) and add to the mixture. Stir gently to coat. Continue to cook until the pears are tender but still retain their shape. Add a generous squeeze of lemon, taste and add more chile if you so desire.

Place a healthy serving of COYO into four bowls and divide the pears equally (well not equally, give yourself more) along with the caramel sauce. Devour and go to bed, it’s Fall for heaven’s sake.

Corn on the cob with basil butter, parmesan cheese and chipotle chile

Basil is growing like a weed in the palatial gardens of Los Chileros Manor. Our head gardener can barely keep up with it, but of course, the rest of the staff chip in to help. Needs must.

What? You don’t believe we have a head gardener let alone a staff of hundreds? Perhaps we exaggerate just a tad…But the point is that basil is going great guns, so water it, snip it, and get cooking. We like to look ahead to those basil-less days of Autumn and winter and make some pesto (freezes like a dream) and basil butter.

Basil butter couldn’t be simpler to make and it too freezes like a pro. It’s just the thing to pull out of the freezer on a cold winter’s day. Defrost, then spread on a crusty baguette and you’ll feel like you’re in the south of France, without the hassle of airport security.

But don’t freeze it all because summer isn’t gone yet. It’s perfect slathered on an ear of corn, then topped with some grated parmesan cheese and a healthy sprinkle of chipotle chile powder. Couldn’t be easier and everyone will think you’re a Michelin starred chef. Well, maybe not that crab apple of a neighbor but you’re never going to please her, are you?

 Corn on the cob with basil butter, parmesan cheese and chipotle chile

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks

heaping cup of basil leaves

salt

Corn

To garnish:

Parmesan cheese

Chipotle chile powder

In the small bowl of food processor, place the basil leaves and butter. Blitz until the basil is chopped and nicely mixed with the butter. Taste and add salt as needed. Place in a bowl and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Boil or microwave your corn. Microwaving is super easy – simply place an unshucked ear in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes. To serve, peel the corn, spread on some of the basil butter, sprinkle with the grated parmesan cheese and a healthy sprinkle of the chipotle chile powder.

Chile salmon with baby kale and chile lime sauce

At the Chile Trail, we’re not into fads or trends when it comes to clothes or cooking. And don’t even get us started on hairstyles…So go ahead and talk about super food this and super food that but all you’ll get from us is a big ole eye roll. And once you’ve finished singing the praises of Acai berries and spirulina and chia seeds (are they related to Chia pets?), we’ll ask you the only question that really matters: does it taste good?

Because, let’s face it, if it doesn’t taste good then why bother? Why be a martyr when it comes to what you eat? Why call some foods ‘good’ and some ‘bad’? So when folks started talking about how great kale is for you we let out a collected groan. Poor kale – as soon as it was saddled with super food status, it sounded about as appetizing as a piece of dry cardboard.

And that’s the problem, because kale is mighty tasty – especially those adorable baby leaves. So yes, it might be ‘good’ for us but we like it because it tastes nice, especially when you top it with a piece of salmon and some chile lime sauce. The sauce is made with COYO – that happy-go-lucky coconut yogurt alternative. Spike it with some lime and some ancho and chile molido and you’ve got something that will make you smile.

And isn’t that what food should make you do? Enough said.

Serves 2

2 salmon fillets, about 3/4lb total

Olive oil

½ tsp Ancho chile powder

Salt

2 handfuls of baby kale, arugula or baby spinach

2 flour tortillas

Pumpkin seeds (optional)

6oz COYO natural

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 tsp Ancho chile powder

½ tsp Chile molido hot (or more to suit your taste)

Wrap the tortillas in foil and place in a low oven to warm.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the flesh side of both salmon fillets. Dust with the Ancho chile powder and a generous sprinkle of salt and gently rub in so evenly distributed. Heat a frying pan to medium and place the fillets flesh side down. Cook for several minutes then flip and cook until done. Take the fillets out of the pan, remove the skin and set aside.

While the salmon is cooking, make the chile lime sauce. Mix together the COYO, lime juice and zest and the chile powders. Taste and add more chile if you desire.

When ready to serve, place a handful of baby kale on top of a warm tortilla. Top with a piece of salmon and a dollop of the chile lime sauce. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, if using.

 

 

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.