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.

Vegetarian posole stew

We’d like to be the first to say Feliz Cinco de Mayo. It’s always a red-letter day here at Chile Trail HQ but even more so this year because – drumroll please – it falls on a Saturday. Can you believe it? No, we can’t either. Let’s just say that it’s Cinco & Seis de Mayo. Heck, let’s throw in Friday too and call it Cuatro, Cinco, Seis de Mayo. Ok, maybe a bit too long but you get the point.

So you know what’s on our minds. Yep, food. Everyone has a favourite but we’ve got a couple of thoughts (naturally).

Number one: make sure there’s a lot of it. There is nothing worse that running out of food and drink. People, your guests are hungry. They’re thirsty. Stock up.

Number two: variety. You’ve got your mole, you’ve got your guacamole, you’ve got your tres leche cake. This is a time to test the architectural endurance of your dining room table. We’re talking heaving folks.

Number three: delegate. You didn’t actually think we expected you to cook all that food, did you? Of course not. When someone asks what they can bring, tell ‘em. And when you ask us – and we know you will, right? – we’ll be bringing a pot of posole.

Now you know posole, but this one is vegetarian and vegan, all in one lip smacking tasty bowl of happiness. It’s so good that even the most committed carnivores will be pushing over old ladies to get a bowlful. But please don’t. There’s plenty to go around.

Vegetarian posole stew

1-12oz package of white corn posole

1-1oz package of posole spice blend

3 small zucchini, about 10-12 oz, sliced into discs (diced if larger)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 small clove garlic, minced

1-14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

Garnish (optional)

Chopped green onions

Chopped cilantro

Lime wedges

Sliced avocado

Place the posole in a non-reactive bowl or pan and cover with water and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse well. Put the posole in a large pot, cover with water and simmer for one hour.

Drain and add the posole mix and enough fresh water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 3 hours or until the posole has ‘popped’ and is tender. Check the water levels periodically and top up as needed.

Just before serving, warm the oil and sauté the zucchini over medium-high heat, just until tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the drained and rinsed black beans and the zucchini into the posole. Taste and season with salt and more chile if you desire.

Serve in bowls with your choice of garnishes.