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.

Roasted butternut squash with a chile, lime yogurt sauce

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Halloween – like youth – is wasted on the young. We send out a bunch of adrenalin-fuelled kids to terrorize the neighbours with thinly veiled threats of ‘trick or treat’. Meanwhile, their older hormonally-challenged siblings pelt eggs and strew toilet paper on the homes and yards of long-suffering teachers.

The young ones arrive back home with enough candy to feed a small island state and proceed to eat themselves into a sugar frenzy that ends in tears and tantrums. You get little Susy into bed (finally) just as the phone rings to alert you that her older brother is down at the station, caught red-handed with half a dozen eggs and a can of shaving cream.

Sometime around midnight you collapse into an armchair, clutching a large whiskey like it’s a life jacket on a sinking ship.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we left the kids at home and the adults went out instead? Forget the trick or treating, I’m thinking glam Halloween parties instead. Imagine costumes, but nothing made of rayon or other ghastly fabrics –Swarovski crystals and vintage Dior will do nicely, I think. Music – of course – but ‘70’s disco or classic Motown. Food – natch – will be a more refined offering and candy will be nothing less than 70% dark chocolate.

No eggs, no shaving cream, no toilet paper except in the bathrooms (Diptyque scented candles shimmering seductively, please). This is a kinder, gentler Halloween where order is restored and kids are where they should be – at home doing a rather lengthy and laborious project on the Louisiana Purchase with a babysitter who resembles Mary Poppins in look and attitude.

It’s an idea, right?

Roasted butternut squash with a chile, lime yogurt sauce   

img_0873This recipe looks long but only because I’ve given rather lengthy instructions on cutting up the butternut squash. The basic idea is that you want the squash pieces roughly the same size so they’re done at the same time. I peel butternut squash but you don’t need to – the outer skin is edible or you can remove after cooking. The choice is yours.

Serves 4

1 butternut squash, roughly 2 lbs

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt

½ tsp Ancho chile powder

Sauce

4 Tbsp CO YO coconut milk yogurt

Zest and juice of one lime

1/2 tsp New Mexico green chile powder

1 tsp honey

Garnish

1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

1 tsp New Mexico green chile caribe flakes

Preheat oven to 425°F

I peel my butternut squash as I think it looks nicer but by all means leave the outer skin on if you like. Regardless, slice off a bit from the top and bottom to remove any stem and tail. Then slice the butternut squash into two pieces. Make the cut at the end of the slender neck, right before it bulges out into the round bottom section.

Take the tall ‘neck’ portion and cut it in half creating two short columns the same size. Take one of these and slice it down the middle. Cut one half into four wedges. Repeat with the other half and then again with the other column. You’ll end up with sixteen wedges that are about the same size.

Now take the round bottom section. Slice it down the middle so you have two bowl-shaped pieces. Scoop out the seeds and remove any fibrous bits. Slice each half into six wedges, for a total of twelve wedges.

img_0875Place all the squash onto a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and a generous sprinkle of sea salt.

Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes or so until they’re nicely browned on the outside. If a knife slips in the squash easily, it’s cooked. Give the vegetables a turn every ten minutes or so to ensure they brown evenly. For the last turn, sprinkle with the Ancho chile powder and give a toss.

While the squash is cooking, make the sauce. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, lime juice, Green chile powder and honey. Give a good stir and add salt to season.
img_0878Place the roasted butternut squash on a serving platter. Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, Green chile caribe and the grated lime zest. Serve hot or at room temperature with any remaining sauce on the side.

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Summer Sizzles

Summer is a good thing. A summer barbecue is a great thing. But (you knew there was going to be one, didn’t you?) that doesn’t mean you can throw an old pair of boots on the grill and it’s going to taste good. Nice weather and lots of beer and wine will only get you so far.

Illustration from Better Homes & Gardens "Barbecue Book," 1956, with spicy addition

Illustration from Better Homes & Gardens “Barbecue Book,” 1956, with spicy addition

Spice – that’s what the average BBQ is missing. Too many people slap a burger in a bun and call it a day. Take a bit of time, make a simple spice rub and you suddenly look like a culinary genius. It’s not hard – for heaven’s sake we’ve even given you a recipe. And if you don’t like a certain spice then skip it, change it around so it’s your own. To make it even easier, use one of our spice rubs and marinades. Lie. Tell your friends you made it yourself – we don’t care.

A word about chicken…We know folks love their chicken breasts but give a thigh a try. It’s dark meat so it stays juicier and it’s cheaper too. We promise one bite and you’ll love us more than you already do (which is a heck of a lot, isn’t it?).

And don’t forget to use sunscreen – on you, not the chicken.

Spicy Chicken Thighs

Serves 5 to 6

This marinade makes plenty for 3 pounds of chicken thighs – that’s about 12 or 13 thighs. Figure 2 to 3 thighs person.

Spice mixture:
½ tsp fennel seed
½ tsp cumin seed
¼ tsp coriander seed
¾ tsp pimenton
1 tsp Los Chileros ancho powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped in half

1 cup Greek/plain yogurt
A healthy glug of olive oil
3 lbs chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

Cilantro, chopped for garnish (optional)
Lime or lemon wedges (optional)

With a mortar and pestle, crush together the ingredients for the spice mixture. You’re aiming for a rough paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle (shame on you!) you could grind the spices in a coffee grinder, finely chop the garlic separately then mix the two together in a bowl.

photo 1photo 2Place the spice mixture in a large bowl, add the yogurt and a healthy glug of olive oil. Taste the mixture and adjust the intensity with more chile if you desire and additional salt if needed. Add the chicken thighs and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to marinade. A couple of hours if okay but longer is better.

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Remove the thighs from the marinade, wiping off any excess. Place on a hot barbecue and cook on both sides until done (this will depend on the heat of your BBQ and the size of the thighs but figure around 10+ minutes).

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Remove and place on a serving platter. Garnish with chopped cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil and lime or lemon wedges if you desire. Serve hot or at room temperature.