Roasted leeks with smoky romesco sauce

But is it authentic? How many times have you heard this toe-curling, gut-wrenching, nail-scratching-down-a-chalkboard question? You know what I mean…you’re at a restaurant, perusing the menu, wondering if eating two desserts is really such a bad thing when someone at the neighboring table or – heaven forbid – at your own, asks the dreaded question: Is it authentic?

Is it the way they really cook it in Paris, Morocco, New Orleans, Rome, Mexico City, ‘insert world city here’. It’s typically said with a smug, worldly-wise sneer, leaving the poor waiter longing for the customer who orders their Wagyu beef well done with ketchup on the side.

The whole authenticity thing wasn’t so bad in the beginning. We’d frankly had our fair share of ‘fusion’ cooking that was so confused it was an identity crisis on a dinner plate. We were tired of chefs throwing everything at the menu, leaving us confused, grumpy and often hungry at the end of the meal.

So we went the other way – we looked for dishes that were stripped down and purer and harkened back to their culinary roots. Not a bad thing but somewhere along the line we forgot that the world is one big culinary melting pot today. Neither people nor foods are only one thing – we’re an amalgam of places and tastes and flavors that come together into something special.

So when we whip up a batch of romesco sauce – that quintessentially Catalan dish from Spain we give it our own Chile Trail spin. Instead of pimenton, we use chipotle chile. Is it authentic? It is for us. And more importantly, it’s mighty tasty. And isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day?

Roasted leeks with smoky romesco sauce

Serves 2-3

¾ lb leeks, untrimmed weight

Olive oil

Salt

Romesco sauce

6oz roasted red peppers

1 slice of sour dough bread, about 1oz

1 garlic clove, peeled

¼ tsp Los Chileros Chipotle chile powder

¼ tsp Los Chileros Cayenne powder

1oz almonds

2oz olive oil

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425º

Trim the top green section from the leeks and the roots at the stem end. Slice them in half lengthwise and place them in a roasting tin. Drizzle generously with olive oil and salt. Place them in the oven and roast until nicely browned. Turn and continue cooking until softened and browned all over.

To make the romesco sauce, toast the almonds in a frying pan over medium heat for a minute or too until they release a nutty aroma. Remove the almonds and drizzle some of the oil in the pan. Add the garlic clove and the slice of bread. Sauté for a minute or two until the bread is nicely toasted on both sides and the garlic clove is golden.

Tear the bread into pieces and place the bread, garlic, nuts, roasted red peppers and chile powders in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse, drizzling in the oil until you have a smooth sauce.

Place the leeks on a serving plate and dress generously with the romesco sauce. Serve the rest of the romesco sauce on the side.

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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