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!

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. 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Chile Almond Brittle

Sweet is good. Sweet & salty is better. Sweet, salty & spicy is a taste of heaven.

Everyone thinks that spicy is for savory not for sweet treats but man-oh-man are they wrong. A hit of chile is just the ticket for a dessert that makes you beg for seconds.

And whipping up something that hits the sweet, salty and spicy buttons in one go is easy-peasy. This chile almond brittle is a case in point. Melt some sugar to make a caramel and then jazz it up with some chile, almonds and a generous pinch of sea salt. Super simple but also super delicious.

Now that you’ve got your brittle, what to do with it? Well eat it while no one is watching, for one. Then when you’ve been caught red handed, mumble an excuse about needing to ‘test’ it for seasoning and pretend you hear their cell phone ringing.

This little ditty would be great on top of ice cream or chocolate mousse or – and here’s how we like at Chile HQ – on top of some COYO coconut milk yogurt. It’s creamy and rich and good for you too. And you know what health nuts we are at The Chile Trail. OK, maybe you didn’t, but body is a temple and all that jazz. We also used organic chile for the brittle – our own chile flakes. It’s big, it’s bold and man is it sweet.

Chile Almond Brittle

Folks have different ways of making a caramel and this is mine but if you prefer starting with a mixture of water and sugar, go for it. The important thing is to make sure it turns a deep, rich color – that’s when it’s got loads of toasted flavour. For added umph, toast the almonds before adding to the caramel.

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup sliced almonds

½ tsp organic chile flakes

Generous pinch sea salt

Place the sugar in a small saucepan. Melt it over medium heat and cook until it becomes a rich nutty brown caramel. Remove and stir in the almonds, chile flakes and salt. Quickly pour onto a silicone baking mat and spread out. Let cool then break into shards.

Serve with COYO coconut milk yoghurt and enjoy.

Caviar and blinis with a chile lime crème fraiche

Caviar serving shotThey’re gone. Close the door, draw the curtains and unplug the phone. Find a comfortable chair/couch/bed and collapse. You did it: you survived the holidays. Let’s admit it – it wasn’t always easy. Tensions flared. Family annoyed. Perhaps the odd bit of food burned (clever how you scraped that off and tossed it to the dog). But you did it. You’re still standing although a shadow of your former self.

Of course New Year’s looms ahead but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.  New Year’s is all about possibilities and choices. Want to party like it’s 1999? Then by all means do so. Want to be a hermit? Feel free to wrap yourself in a goose down duvet and binge watch Nick and Nora Thin Man films.

Dress up to the nines or down to your favorite onesie. Okay, on second thought skip the onesie. It’s never a good sartorial choice unless you’re a baby sleeping in a bassinet.

But whatever you do, you’ll need sustenance. Here is where we can help at Chile Trail HQ. Forget the excesses of the Christmas season. Forget stuffing and potatoes and cranberries. Forget the pies and cakes and by all means forget that horrid mulled wine that the neighbors plied you with.

Caviar ingredientsNew Year’s is about fresh beginnings and bright new starts. It’s about things that wake up your taste buds and get you ready for the new year. Our recommendation? Blinis served with a dollop of chile crème with an even bigger dollop of caviar or salmon. If you can splurge for the good stuff then by all means do but to be honest, the jars of salmon roe you find at the grocery store will do nicely.

And might we suggest a sneaky glass of champagne or desert-dry martini to accompany? So cheers, here’s to you m’dear. May your 2017 be nice and spicy.

limeprepBlinis with caviar and chile crème

We make these with salmon roe but you could substitute smoked salmon instead or a combination of the two.

12 blinis

3 1/2 oz salmon roe caviar

1/2 cup crème fraiche

1/2 tsp New Mexico Green Chile Powder 

Chile pequin flakes to garnish

Zest and juice from half a lime

Place the blinis on a pan and warm is a low oven for a few minutes. While they’re heating up, place the crème fraiche in a bowl and add the New Mexico green chile powder, lime juice and zest.

Remove the blinis from the oven and place on a serving plate. Top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a spoonful of caviar. Garnish with a few chile flakes.

Caviar serving shot

 

Spicy Chicken Fingers with Salsa Santa Fe

fullsizerender-3It’s official. Autumn is here. Gone are the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Heck, they’re barely a distant memory. Stretching before us are shorter days, longer nights and a definite nip in the air.

But that’s not bad – in the world of food, that’s pretty darn good. Now we can break out the slow cooker, select a sassy bottle of red (or two) and gather round the imitation-log-effect-gas-fire with friends and loved ones. On second thought, forget the friends and loved ones – snuggle up with your dog instead.

Autumn also means football and if ever a sport cried out for food, that’s the one. I mean, why were chip ‘n dip trays invented, if not for football? Don’t like football? Who cares? Turn down the sound and focus on the food instead. Plates full of cheesy nachos, bowls of salted nuts and a go bag of Tums for your guests.

fullsizerender-4 Of course at Chile HQ, we prefer to serve something more refined to our guests, game on or not. Something that whispers elegance, sophistication and drop-that-last-one-cuz-it’s-mine. Voila! Our Spicy Chicken Fingers. Now as anyone knows, chicken don’t have fingers. Thank heavens as the idea of chickens with ten digits and a pinky ring is simply too weird for words.

When we say fingers we mean strips. Basically they are slices of white chicken breast meat. Now you could slice these yourself and save a bit of money and feel smug and virtuous. Or you could whip a package already sliced off the shelves and get over it. Your choice. We’ve added a kick of green chile to a mix of cornmeal and flour. If you have the time (and you would, if you weren’t so busy slicing up those chicken breasts), then fry one up to sample. If it’s not spicy enough you can always add in a bit more chile. Too hot already? Nah, of course not.

We serve these up with our Salsa Santa Fe mix (Red & Green). Frighteningly easy to make and dazzling in its results. Close the curtains (it’s already dark outside anyway), throw another imaginary log onto the gas fire, give Fido a tickle behind the ear, and hunker down. Summer’s over but who cares. Bring Autumn on.

fullsizerender-2 Spicy Chicken Fingers with Salsa Santa Fe

Serves 2 hungry people or 3 who just ate lunch an hour or so ago

Salsa

1 ½ Tbsp Salsa Santa Fe mix (Red & Green)

1 green onion, finely chopped green part only

Juice of half a lemon

14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

 

Spicy chicken

12 oz. Chicken breast strips

1 egg

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

1 Tbsp New Mexico green chile powder

1 tsp sea salt

Olive or vegetable oil.

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Set aside about half of the green onions and chopped cilantro to use as a garnish when you’re ready to serve the chicken. Place all of the rest of the salsa ingredients into a bowl and mix together thoroughly. Allow this to sit for about a half an hour before serving in order to allow the flavors to marry.

In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon or two of oil on medium high heat. While it’s heating, whisk the egg in a shallow bowl and add a pinch of salt. Mix the flour, cornmeal, green chile powder and sea salt in a separate bowl. Dip the chicken in the egg then the flour/cornmeal mixture. Place in the pan and fry until golden brown on one side then flip and cook on the other. Don’t crowd the pan – fry in batches if you need to and top up with additional oil as necessary. Place the cooked chicken on a serving platter and garnish the salsa and the chicken with the remaining green onions and cilantro. Serve with wedges of lemon.fullsizerender-5

Here’s a Quick Update from us!

You probably think that we lead an incredibly glamorous life…the private jets, the Michelin starred restaurants, the black–tie galas with A-list movie stars. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating slightly but we do know our way around an airport lounge and a hotel mini bar.

But while we travel a lot spreading the chile love there’s nothing I love better than coming home. I unpack the Louis Vuitton steamer trunks (aka the Samonsite hard case), greet the faithful butler (aka the dogs) and survey my domain (aka the backyard).

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I’m a picture of domesticity. Don’t believe me? Well get this – I’m the proud own of chickens. Yes, you heard me right. Lots and lots of chickens. I’ve got Cochins, Frizzles, Polish, Barred Red Rock, Bare Neck, Silver Wing Phoenix as well as good ole farmyard chickens. Not to mention the odd runner duck or four.

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While other people bring flowers or wine to a party I bring a dozen eggs – no wonder folks invite me over so much. I get a good haul each day from my feathered friends so I’m a dab hand at whipping up some tasty eggy treats, like my El Diablo Deviled Eggs.

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You know I’m modest but I’ve got to say they’re good. Mighty good. It’s the Los Chileros chile – natch – that makes them so tasty. I use El Molido Hot but choose your poison and add more or less to taste. I think they improve from a visit to the fridge after you’ve made them.

Enjoy and don’t forget to invite me over to your next party. You know what I’ll be bringing.

El Diablo Devilled Eggs

Makes 12 Halves

6 hard cooked eggs

3 Tbsp Mayonnaise

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Chile powder

Squeeze of lemon juice

Salt

Chives chopped (optional)

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Shell the eggs. Halve them and remove the yolks. Set the yolks aside. Place the yolks in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mash with a fork till smooth. Taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the mixture into the whites or if you’re feeling fancy-smancy you can pipe it in using an icing bag. Dust with a bit of chile powder and chopped chives (if using). Refrigerate until ready to serve.