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.

Baked Sweet Potato with all the fillings

Dinner for two sounds awfully romantic doesn’t it? I know what you’re thinking – candlelight, some soft jazz and a glass/two/bottle of Merlot. It’s a night to remember as you gaze at that someone special/mildly memorable and wonder if it would blow the mood to suggest binge watching Game of Thrones.

But folks, dinner for two can be something a lot more down to earth. Ditch the candles and bin the George Benson cd – dinner for two can be survival on a week night. If you’ve got children (I feel your pain) then it’s homework and tantrums and trying to prise a phone out of their sharp, beady talons. It’s laundry and work emails that don’t care what time it is.

Then suddenly 9:00 p.m. and you realize – hey, guess what? – you haven’t eaten anything since that highly suspect tuna fish sandwich at noon. It’s at times like this – and we’ve all had them – that you need something you can get on the table ASAP. Before you can press speed dial for pizza delivery, you can have a baked sweet potato done and on the table. (That is if you use our very good friend the microwave.)

And if you’re really tired, feel free to eat dinner in bed. We won’t tell. Honest.

Serves 2

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (about 1 lb total weight)

1 oz goat’s cheese or feta cheese, a nice size chunk

3-4 radishes, sliced thinly

1 or 2 spring onions, sliced

pumpkin seeds, to garnish

 

Green chile butter

1 stick/4 oz. butter, softened

1 tbsp cilantro, chopped plus extra for garnish

1 tsp green jalapeño powder

zest of 1 lime

Salt

Wash and dry the sweet potatoes and prick them all over with a sharp knife. Microwave at high heat for 5 minutes, check and microwave in 2 minute intervals until tender all the way through.

To make the green chile butter, mix the softened butter with the chopped cilantro, green jalapeño powder and lime zest. Taste and add salt as needed and place in a ramekin.

When the sweet potatoes are done, slice down the middle, add a healthy spoonful of the butter. Divide the cheese between the servings, add the sliced radishes and spring onions and garnish with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and the extra cilantro. Eat it up while it’s hot and then in bed – it’s a school night.

Chile Roasted Vegetables

Winter is like a dinner party guest who won’t go home. You know the one – he (or is Winter a she?) hangs around after everyone else has gone home, has another glass of wine, and drones on about his kid’s recent tuba recital. It’s not that you don’t like him, you just wish he’d go away. Now.

Let’s face it, we’re ready for Spring and something flashy and fresh. It doesn’t help that we’re told to ‘eat seasonally’ which right about now feels like a diet of acorns and tree bark.

CAUL SWEET COLLAGE

But it’s not all doom and gloom. It simply takes a bit of culinary ingenuity and a lot of chile to snap our taste buds out of the winter doldrums.

So this week we’re sharing two recipes: one with sweet potatoes and another with cauliflower. I can hear the collective groan before I’ve even finished typing ‘flower’. Poor cauliflower suffers from a horrible image, not helped by my grandmother who boiled it to smithereens, slopped it on my plate and lurked over me as I forced down each bite. But it’s not the vegetable’s fault. All it takes is a bit of kindness, a little thought and a really hot oven.

Roasting cauliflower and sweet potatoes– and lots of other winter and root vegetables – brings out a lovely caramelized flavor that wakens the taste buds and puts a spring – excuse the pun – in your step. Both recipes use Chile Molido which is a real work horse in the Chile Trail kitchen. Choose mild or hot and feel free to up the amount of chile.

And relax. Spring is coming. It’s official.

Roasted Cauliflower with a Chile, Honey & Citrus Dressing

4 to 6 servings as a side dish

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt

Dressing
Juice of one orange, approximately 5 Tbsp
5 Tbsp olive oil (or equivalent to the amount to the juice)
1-2 tsp. Chile Molido (hot or mild, depending on your taste)
1 Tbsp honey
Salt
Chile pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Place the cauliflower onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, season with salt and toss to mix. Roast in the oven until cooked through and slightly browned.

CAULIFLOWER 1.BIGCAULIFLOWER PAN.BIG

While the cauliflower is roasting, make the dressing. Zest the orange and set the zest aside. Slice the orange in half and squeeze out the juice. Mix the juice with the olive oil, chile and honey. Season with salt.

CAULIFLOWER DISH CU.BIG

Drizzle several tablespoons of the dressing over the cauliflower during the last ten minutes or so of cooking. This allows the cauliflower to absorb some of the dressing. Remove from the oven, plate and garnish with chile pepper flakes and the orange zest. Serve with the remaining dressing.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with a Green Tahini Sauce

4 to 6 servings as a side dish

Tahini is a sesame seed paste and is popular in Middle Eastern cooking. You’ll find it in many grocery stores or at health food shops.

1 ¼ lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into rounds
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp. Chile Molido (hot or mild, depending on your taste)
Sea salt

Green tahini sauce
1 small clove garlic
½ cup parsley leaves
1 Tbsp tahini
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Place the sliced sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the sweet potatoes, season with salt and toss to mix. Roast in the oven until cooked through and slightly browned. During the last ten minutes or so, toss with the chile powder, this gives the chile a slightly toasted flavor without the risk of it burning.

SWEET POTATOES PANSWEET POTATOES CU

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, make the sauce. In the small bowl of a food processor, mix the parsley and garlic together. Add in the remaining ingredients and pulse until well blended. Season with salt and place in a serving dish. Serve alongside the roasted sweet potatoes.

GREEN DIP CU
SWEET POTATOES DIP