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Tortillas de Quelites

January 4, 2016

 

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I hope everyone of you is having a great holiday season and a good New Year!  I wish you all profound peace for the upcoming year.  I think we can always use a bit more of it.

I should  go over the nomenclature of the main extra ingredient for these tortillas.  I saw them in Diana Kennedy’s beautiful and massive “Oaxaca al Gusto, an Infinite Gastronomy”,  a cookbook dedicated to 11 distinct regions of that southern state in Mexico.  This is not the post to get into the book but I’ll just mention it is  gorgeous,  with many beautiful photos of foods and dishes which can only be found in that region’s remote corners.  “Tortillas de Quintonil” which she translates as “Tortillas of Wild Greens” is the recipe I found in the book.  In another one of hers,  “From My Mexican Kitchen”,  she writes that quintoniles include several species from the amaranth family and fall under the umbrella of quelites or wild greens.  For Rick Bayless,  quelites are more specifically what is known as lamb’s quarters.  Marilyn Tausend in “Cocina De La Familia”, also refers to quelites as lamb’s quarters.  So you dear readers who are  forager’s and/or gardener’s, I include a photo of the green so that you can comment on the identification of it.  I appreciate any clarification. In Mexican cooking they are primarily used as a light stew with perhaps onion and garlic, as taco filling, or as an ingredient added to pinto beans.  This is the only time I’ve seen them as an ingredient in the masa for corn tortillas.  These greens are readily available year round in one of our supermarkets alongside verdolagas, huauzontles, epazote, yerbabueana,  berro, other greens or herbs used in Mexican cuisine.  We are fortunate to have them.  I’m also keeping a good eye out for wild quelites, since they seem to grow wild in many parts of the U.S and Mexico.

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According to Kennedy,  quelites are used especially during the rainy season to help in times when corn is running low, thus stretching the stock of maize for a longer time.  They add a green earthiness to the tortillas which I enjoy.  My cilantro flour tortillas came to mind when I made them,  but these have a different flavor altogether.  They are very tasty and unusual,  good for making tacos,  quesadillas,  or just eaten alone with salsa.  They will surely attract curiosity if you present them on your next Mexican buffet.

Kennedy uses fresh corn masa but I opted for masa harina, which means an addition of water is necessary.  The quelites provide some moisture so I watched carefully as I added the water.  Cooking the greens with a bit of onion and garlic before adding them to the masa makes them more flavorful.

This recipe is an adaptation of hers.   She also suggests using other types of edible greens or spinach.

This will make 9 to 10 tortillas:

3 good bunches of quelites ( it will render about 1 cup after cooking down)( each of the bunches weighed about 1/4 #)

about 1 heaping tablespoon  chopped onion

2 medium garlic cloves chopped

2 tablespoon oil

1 cup masa harina

1/2 cup water

3/4 teaspoon salt

To be more specific,  you need about 6-8 ounces of leaves only. The stems are too tough to use.   Remove the leaves from the stems and thoroughy wash them to remove the dirt.  Drain them. Get about 2 quarts of slightly salted water to boil in a pot.  Add the greens and cook until just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Drain them and run cool water over them.  When cool enough to handle,  squeeze as much water as you can from them.

Heat a frying or saute pan to medium heat and add the oil, I used grapeseed, but olive oil, vegetable, or other kinds of mild flavored should do ok.  Saute the onion for a minute, then add the garlic.  Don’t let them burn.  Finally add the quelites and fry just lightly for a minute or two.  Add more oil if necessary. Remove from the heat and let them cool down.  Next,  finely chop the green mixture.

In a mixing bowl,  put the masa harina, salt,  and chopped quelites mixture and blend well together.  Add most of the 1/2 cup of water and incorporate.  Add more water as needed to make a moist dough. It should be neither too moist or too dry.  One way I check is by squeezing a small portion between my thumb and index finger.  It should not be too dry that it cracks at the edges.

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Divide the masa into 9 or 10 portions and form each into a ball.   I let them rest for a few minutes. Keep them covered with a moist towel.  They tend to quickly dry out. Get your trusty tortilla press and a piece of plastic wrap.  Cut the plastic into two pieces that are each just big enough to cover the plate of your tortilla press.

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You might have one of these or the metal type of tortilladora.  If not, you can get away with using a rolling pin to shape your tortillas. If you can do it by using your two hands, I’ll be quite impressed.

Get your comal or heavy skillet pre-heated over your stove to medium hotness.

Place one of the pieces of plastic on the plate of the press and put one of the masa balls on top.

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Put the other piece of plastic on top. Then press. You may have to rotate the dough once to get a nice circle.

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Remove the top plastic

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Place the dough and bottom plastic on your weak hand.

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Carefully flip it over onto your strong hand and remove the remaining plastic.

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It’s ready to flip over onto your hot comal.

The tortilla should give a slight sizzle when you place it on the comal. Cook the tortilla for about a minute to 90 seconds,  then flip it over.  After another minute or two turn it over again and let it cook maybe another minute.  If your tortillas are sticking, they are too moist.  If they crack and harden,  they are either too dry, or the comal is too hot.  You’ll get the hang of getting the dough the right consistency and the skillet to just the right hotness with practice.

When they are done, they may have a few nice brown spots.  They should be nice and flexible and not crack when rolled or folded. Keep them covered with a kitchen cloth.  So far they’ve kept well after a day when kept in the refrigerator.  They just need to be heated up to get their flexibility back.

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They tend to be a little thicker than regular corn tortillas, but they are still quite soft and flexible.  Just keep them covered.

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I made some mouthwatering quesadillas with some of the dough.

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Pureed butternut squash flavored with ancho chile powder and epazote for one,  and refried beans and epazote for another.

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Or the butternut squash and ancho powder puree with cilantro and mild red pepper.

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That’s a stripe of New Mexican chile tomato salsa there.  Many different types of salsa go well with these.

 

I know I’m very late but I’m sending these tortillas over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday to help celebrate the 100th edition of her fabulous party where you’ll find insanely talented cooks, gardeners, storytellers, and more presenting their incredible creations.  It is quite a feat to have kept it going strong for so long.  She also has her many friends who have assisted with the work it takes to keep such a labor of love going.  Congratulations Angie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Tomato Salsa w/3 Chiles

November 22, 2015

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What kind of salsas do you more often make at home?  There are many types to choose from for different uses aren’t there?  Within each type there are many variations to try out or create.  Much depends on what is available to you in your stores and markets though I guess just about anything is available online these days. A wider variety have become more readily available in recent years in my area. Do you make salsa as dips for tostadas or are they used for topping your main or side dishes? The kind I seem to be making the most of lately are the roasted tomato or tomatillo variety.  It’s for the simple fact that I have all these dried chiles that need to be used up.  Chipotle,  guajillo,  arbol,  Anchos,  New Mexican  are very often the key chile ingredient.  They seem to make for the more classic roasted tomato/tomatillo salsas.  Because of their particular flavor and/or heat level they can stand alone to suit individual tastes as the sole chile in the recipe.  Some dried chiles are not as popular as a stand alone chile in salsas.  Which brings me to the mulato chile.  It is used indispensibly in many mole recipes for its deep dark color and sweet, almost chocolaty  flavor.   How does it hold up in a salsa?  I started by pureeing roasted tomatoes, onion, and garlic, then began adding the toasted mulato chiles.  Although it gave an interesting flavor, it was too muted and needed some balancing out.  I added arbol chiles for a brightness, a bit of nuttiness,  and heat.  Something was still missing so I reached for pasillas, which have  fruity notes to them.  My next choice would have been guajillos for their lighter flavor but I was completely out of them. The result in any case,  was a much more balanced flavor with each chile adding its own qualities.  It still needed some brightening up so I added apple cider vinegar.  A mere teaspoon really enhanced the flavor.   This turned out to be a very tasty salsa with a unique flavor profile.   I dipped fried tortilla chips, topped some lentils,  tried it on some tacos, and also dabbed it on quesadillas.  It was hard to ignore this one.

There are many possibilities to play with in making this type of salsa.  We also have the choice of using tomato or tomatillo, or both.   Do I want to roast the garlic or leave it raw?  Do I roast or saute the onions?  Does it need the acidity of lime juice or vinegar.  How about adding oregano, cilantro, or thyme.  Some combinations don’t work, but many will.  Why always settle for the tried and true when you can come up with something uniquely yours.

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Left to right are pasilla,  arbol,  and mulato peppers.

 

This recipe makes about 1 quart

12 Roma tomatoes

1/2 medium onion

5 unpeeled garlic cloves

2 mulato chiles

7 arbol chiles

2 pasilla chiles

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Water as needed to adjust consistency

salt to taste

 

First I broiled the tomatoes until they began to char a bit. I turned them over to slightly char the skin on both sides.  I was carefull not to broil them to a mushy state. As they were going I put my comal (iron skillet) on low-medium heat. The onion was sliced and pan roasted on a heavy skillet until softened and slightly blackened.  The garlic was also added to the pan and cooked until softened.  In another heavy pan, the chiles were toasted.  Set the pan to medium-high heat.  Remove the seeds from the chiles and one by one press them on both sides on the hot skillet with a metal spatula for a few seconds.  You may notice a slight change in color.  It will release a nice aroma. Do not burn or it will turn bitter.  Immediately remove the chile and continue with the rest.  I left many of the chile de arbol seeds in the chile to give more spiciness to the salsa.

 

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When the tomatoes, onions and garlic had cooled down, I peeled the garlic and put everything in the blender to puree.  I then added 2 mulato chiles to the blender and after tasting the result, decided that was good on that kind of chile.  Next in were the arbol peppers.  That would give enough heat and a subtle nuttiness.  The pasillas were then added to give more balance.  I tasted it after one, then added another.  The apple cider vinegar did its trick next.  I added a bit of water to adjust the consistency.  Roma tomatoes have less juice in them than most other kinds of tomatoes.  I finally seasoned with salt to taste.

 

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The salsa paired well with refried lentil quesadillas (vegan).  The tortilla is home made with corn masa.

 

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This is one I’ll make again.  I’d also like to try substituting guajillos for the pasillas or mulatos.

Mesquite flour sourdough bread w/raisins

October 25, 2015

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Be sure to visit Angie’s fabuloso Fiesta Friday where I’ll be taking this bread. There you can find out about Selma’s posthumous award she received from U.K.’s “Observer Food Monthly” at their annual ceremony. Prestigious indeed! Way to go Selma, you continue to touch our hearts!

Before I begin I also wanted to mention an update with an added introduction to my “Hatch Chile Salsa Verde”. Emily, the author of the wonderful blog  “Cooking For Kishore”  suggested to me to submit it to her fun series, “Food ‘n Film”.  The October 2015 edition is still open. Do give her a visit!

I had a hard time trying to think of a good name for my blog when I started.   I would have been very happy with “The Cosmic Tortilla”,  my first choice, but a  French band had already taken that up.  “Bread and Tortillas” sounds so unimaginative but there was a simple reason behind the name.   The idea was that   those two meal accompaniments could be found on our table depending on what was being served.  Tortillas for Mexican food,  bread for about everything else. This was a time when tortillas were considered way too ethnic for mainstream U.S. of A.  I don’t remember how long ago it was, maybe 20 or 25 years ago when I saw a TV commercial for “Mission Flour Tortillas”. The setting was a dining room of a middle to upper class white family.  “What!?” I said to myself.  “The tortilla has arrived!”, or maybe Mission was pushing it along.  We don’t think twice anymore about the diversity of foods that are available to us.  On the flip side, the bread we were eating as kids was not very ethnic at all.  I could not imagine a TV commercial for say pumpernickel or sourdough or any kind of artisan bread.  That would have also been too ethnic for the mainstream.  Not including  “pan de dulce” which we ate every Sunday at our table, our family had 2 kinds of bread on our shopping list.  One was the plain old white sandwich bread, which was our multi-purpose accompaniment for all things “American” like sandwiches or toast.  (Special occasions called for “Pan Frances”, which is found in Mexican bakeries.) Oh, and we used white sandwich bread to make “capirotada” (Mexican bread pudding). The second kind of “American”  bread we enjoyed was raisin bread.  Back in those days,  those were the only types of non-Mexican bread available for us to buy in the little towns of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.   What kind of breads or tortillas did you eat growing up?

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I can’t help but be reminded of the good old commercial raisin bread we were so fond of as kids when I bite into this mesquite sourdough.  The small amount of mesquite flour gives it a different flavor,  but the raisins and cinnamon are a natural fit for it.  And voila, NO PERSERVATIVES, ADDITIVES, CONDITIONERS or anything else.  It tastes much better than the stuff you find on your supermarket shelf.  The soft crumb has a great chew though  I think the dough could stand a little more water for an even moister crumb. It’s been many years since eating commercial raisin bread but I am willing to bet that in comparison to my loaf, it would now seem to  crumble and almost dissipate in your mouth, rather than let you enjoy flavor to the fullest.  Not that the flavor is all that great!

I made a version of this bread a couple of weeks ago and decided to add more cinnamon and a little less sugar this time around.  It got eaten so fast though that I didn’t have a chance to take any photos. I take a lot of the blame for that.  I better take my camera out before it’s too late.

I used a bread loaf pan and also made a boule from this recipe.  I didn’t bother trying to make a swirl of raisins like you see with sandwich style loaves.  I think it would have disturbed the tiny pockets of air that I carefully tried to nurture during the fermentation phase.

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For 2 medium size loaves:

Levain:

1 tablespoon sourdough starter refreshed 8 hours before

200 grams water at 70 degrees F.

100 grams bread flour

100 grams whole wheat flour

Final dough:

All the levain

475 grams water at 78 degrees F.

525 grams bread flour

125 grams whole wheat flour

150 grams mesquite flour

50 grams granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

12 grams table salt + 30 grams water

1 1/2 heaping cups raisins

 

Make the levain the night before:

I make this about 8 to 9 hours before I mix the final dough.  Dissolve the starter in the 200 grams of water in a small bowl.  Mix together the 2 flours and add it to the sourdough mixture.  Blend everything well to make sure all the flour is moistened.  Cover with plastic and let it ferment overnight at room temperature.

On the day of baking:

The next morning take a spoonful of the levain and drop it into a small bowl of water. It’s ready if it floats. It should be ok as long as it doesn’t smell vinegary.

Dissolve the levain in the 450 grams of water in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the flours, sugar, and cinnamon. Add this to the levain/water solution and mix well to moisten all the flour. Cover with a wet plastic or a wet cloth and let it autolyze for 30 minutes or so.  Next, dissolve the salt in the 30 grams water and then squelch this solution into the dough.  Now add the raisins. It took me only a minute or two with the help of my 6 quart mixer but you can also do it by hand. Put the dough in a container for the bulk fermentation.  I gave it a stretch and fold every 30 minutes for 3 hours.  The dough became soft and supple with a slight increase of volume. It also tended to stick less and less to the container throughout the 3 hours.

Divide the dough into two portions and form them into rounds.  Let them rest for about 10 minutes.  Shape them to your desire. This dough is not so wet that it requires baskets or bannetons to proof but I liked using the loaf pan for one of the portions. Place the free standing loaf on parchment paper if not using a proofing basket.  Lightly spray with baking spray oil and cover with plastic.  I let these proof for about 4 1/2 hours.  They had risen about 50%.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. about 45 minutes before baking.  If using loaf pans,  place them in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 425 degrees. Bake until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200 degrees F.  I scored the bread with a simple slash though I’m not sure it was necessary.  If you shaped the dough into free standing boules, score them as desired and place in the hot oven.  Do use your baking stone if you have one.I misted the oven with water 3 times within 10 minutes and then lowered the temperature to 425 degrees.  I found that I had to cover the bread with foil about 15 minutes into baking to prevent the crust from getting too dark.  Make sure you are rotating the bread every now and them to insure even baking.  Remove when it reaches 200 degrees.

Put the bread on a rack and let them cool completely before slicing.  It’s a test of patience to resist the temptation of cutting a warm slice of it right away.

Notes:

This bread has a higher ratio of levain than I usually use.  I wanted to go for a quicker ferment and tighter crumb to mimic a loaf of raisin bread.

Mesquite flour has no gluten. That’s why I think it takes longer to rise despite the relatively high amount of levain in the dough.

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Gorditas

September 14, 2015

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Gorditas (“little fat ones”) are an absolutely delicious snack or meal which I enjoy making on a semi-regular basis.   In case you’re not familiar with them, tortilla masa is the base of the dough,  very much  like corn tortillas, huaraches, sopes, etc.  As the name suggests they are thicker and smaller in size.  They are then stuffed with a wide variety of fillings, much as you would a taco.  Gorditas are easier to shape and cook than tortillas so I wonder why they are not seen more often in restaurants.   There are various recipes and methods of cooking which give slightly different textures and flavors.  Some use masa alone, others may include all- purpose flour, shortening, or lard in the dough,  others mix in cheese or mashed potato.  I’ve also seen recipes with mashed black beans in the mix.  I’ve got to try those out.  Today I’m doing the masa and mashed potato version.  I have come to especially like these since they remind me much of the gorditas I’ve eaten at the many street festivals that you find in San Antonio.  I wish I could tell you what recipe the street vendors use,  I ought to ask next time I get a chance.   The gordita itself has a nice thin crispy exterior and tender inside which results from deep frying.  Those made without potato tend to be a little denser in texture but it’s really just a matter of preference.  Though they are made to be stuffed, I enjoy them as an accompaniment to meals as I would corn or flour tortillas.

 

For 8-10 gorditas:

2 cups masa harina

3/4 cup mashed potato (less than 1 medium size Russet)

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups water

 

Peel a medium size potato, cut it into 3 or 4  chunks and then boil until just tender.  Remove from the water, put it in a small bowl and mash it. Use a ricer if you prefer, but the potato doesn’t have to be perfectly mashed.  Let the potato cool.

Mix the masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Add 3/4 cup mashed potato and mix in well.  Add most of the water to make a soft pliable dough.  It shouldn’t be too wet or sticky.  Cover the masa with plastic or a wet cloth and let it rest at least 30 minutes.

Heat a heavy skillet on medium and add enough oil to reach a depth of about 1/2 inch.

Take enough of your prepared dough to shape into a ball perhaps a little smaller than a golf ball.   Using your hands,  shape it into a disc about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. If the dough cracks  too much on the edge, it is too dry.  Add water as needed to adjust.

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The oil should not be at the smoking point. Lower it if it is.  Carefully put the gordita into the hot oil (tongs are recommended) and fry for approximately  1 1/2 minutes. You can put in 2 or 3 at a time depending on how big your skillet is. Carefully turn it over and fry an additional 1 1/2 minutes.  Cook the gordita enough so that is a light golden brown.  If it darkens quickly, lower the heat. The gordita should be crispy on the outside, but soft inside.  Put them on paper or old kitchen towels to remove oil.  Let them cool enough to handle and then use a knife to open your gordita as if opening pita bread. Stuff them with your desired filling.  Add shredded lettuce, tomato, and salsa if you want.  They should be served at once. It’s been suggested that gorditas can be kept warm covered in a very low heated oven though I haven’t tried that. Gorditas are usually eaten up pretty quickly.

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The usual suspects as far as traditional options go are mostly meats as used in tacos.  Sour cream and cheese are almost obligatory. If you are a vegan or even vegetarian, traditional choices are limited.  Avocado, guacamole, refried pinto or black beans, potatoes, lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeno, salsa, and nopalitos are the most obvious ingredients.  It’s probably time to try some non-traditional ideas.  How about including stuff like kale,  pickled cabbage, steamed swiss chard, corn relish, or cucumber.

Smaller ones would make a great appetizer.  Or you can serve them opened faced like a pizza. Just be sure to serve them hot.

I find gorditas to be a great option to keep in your Mexican/Tex-Mex food repertoire.  They are a memorable treat for your family or guests.

I know it’s getting late, but I think I’ll head out to Angie’s Fiesta Friday and share these.

 

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These are made simply of refried beans, lettuce, tomato. They are great dressed up with avocado, cilantro, onion, and pickled jalapeno or homemade salsa.

Hatch Chile Salsa Verde

August 23, 2015

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Update:  If you haven’t been over to Emily’s “Cooking For Kishore” you should really go give her a visit.  Her very tasty looking, interesting recipes and the stories behind are always well presented and her food, whether traditional or fusion in style, reflects her multi-cultural life experience.  I feel we kind of have the same general outlook since I post recipes that are based on my Mexican-American upbringing.  Even though we come from different cultural backgrounds,  we share a desire to make food that satisfies and adapts to a particular time and place without losing the sense of tradition.  When she suggested that I participate in her series “Food ‘n Film”,  I could not resist.  Go here to see the October 2015 edition.  Perhaps you’d like to join the fun.  Now, you won’t find a salsa in “The War of the Worlds”, but this one will go well on the mentioned “…tamales, enchiladas, and hot dogs.”  Of course, if I had a food truck out there, I’d be offering strictly vegan food. My black bean nachos with the Hatch green chile salsa would be a good seasonal special on the imagined menu. Why did I write about this particular movie,  well,  read on to find out.  I’ll add that I’m a big fan of the old science fiction movies,  not caring a bit if they are considered a B-picture or lower in rating.  They take me back to the Saturday afternoon or late night TV presentations of giant creature movies like “Them!” “Tarantula” or “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”.  Sometimes they were about invaders from outer space like “The War of the Worlds”.   It was like a weekly special event watching those old movies.  Many of them were weird and wonderful back then,  and many of those seem even weirder and more wonderful now.

Thank you Emily for sharing this post!

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Below is the post as was originally presented.

Have you seen “The War of the Worlds”,   the original 1953 “Golden Era” of sci-fi movies version?  It’s a big budget, Technicolor film that was quite a hit during it’s day.  In my view,  it’s very much an entertaining movie even for today’s era of special effects extravaganzas.   While watching a dvd of it recently,  I could imagine the blockbuster impact it had on audiences at the time.  It’s a great movie all around.  There is a scene early in the movie where the townspeople,  officials, and journalists are gathered around a smoky crater where what they think is a meteor has crashed.   The curious onlookers are discussing what do with the site.  Someone suggests turning the area into a tourist attraction.  A Mexican bystander(played by Canadian Jewish  actor Jack Kruschen)  exclaims enthusiastically that  ”…tamales,  enchiladas, and hot dogs” can be sold to visitors.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal today, but this was 1953 Hollywood,  decades before food channels and the internet.  What’s also interesting to me is that he wants to sell Mexican and American food.  He looked, spoke  and ate like he could be one of our neighbors.  Hotdogs are one of those foods that easily crosses cultural lines.  We might have put salsa on ours, or taken a jalapeno with the yellow mustard or relish, but it’s still a hotdog.  Fast forward 60 years,  you can be sure traditional and non-traditional food trucks would be vying for space around that meteor,  and if they’re selling Mexican food and hot dogs, imagine the fusion menu that might be offered.  The food world has come a long way in the past 10-20 years don’t you think?

Now on to the salsa.  The Hatch green chile buying season is winding down for us.   As I mentioned in my “Hatch Green Chile and Roasted Garlic Sourdough Bread” post, we  get them in our stores only 2 or 3 weeks out of the year.  These chiles, which are imported from New Mexico, are very flavorful and versatile.  I have been enjoying incorporating them into just about everything except my coffee.   For example I’ve been adding them to a quick vegan rice pilaf/stir fry type of dish I like to make. (There’s fusion for you.) I’ve also been topping my potato tacos as well as my lentils or beans with some of the roasted diced chiles.   Today I’m making  a salsa verde with the help of a molcajete once again.  See my previous post, “Salsa de Chile Pequin” for more photos.  You may use the similar looking Anaheim chiles as a substitute,  but it won’t be quite the same.  Jalapeno or serrano peppers are other options. Our stores had a mild variety as well as a hot variety of Hatch pepper.  I used hot chiles for this recipe.

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To roast or not to roast.   The Hatch chiles should be broiled or roasted.  Tomatillos are either broiled, oven roasted or pan roasted.  It’s nice to get the black blotches if possible.  The cooking brings out flavor and sweetness from them.   As far as the garlic and onion, you can do the same to whatever degree you want.  I did them both ways and prefered to keep them raw this time.

 

Ingredients:

4 medium garlic cloves

3-4 tablespoons roughly chopped onion

3 Hatch green chiles for a hot salsa (2 for mild)

7-8 small tomatillos

leaves from 4-5 sprigs fresh cilantro

salt to taste

a pinch or two sugar (optional)

fresh lime juice to taste (optional)

 

Broil the Hatch chiles and tomatillos until they have softened a bit and you have some darkened spots.  Turn them over from time to time to cook evenly.  The tomatillos will probably take longer. It may take about 15 to 20 minutes for them to be done. Don’t let anything turn to mush as you want substance to work with in the molcajete.  After the chiles cool, peel them and remove the seeds.

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Begin by grinding the peeled garlic cloves into a paste with the tejolote(pestle). Add the onion and continue working to a paste.  Next go in the chiles.  Give them a rough chop beforehand if you want.  No need to make a complete paste.  Leave a bit of chunkiness if you like.   Now work the tomatillos in one by one.  You can peel them before,  but the molcajete will take care of the peels if you keep at it.  I like to at least keep the darkened blotches in the salsa.  Careful not to squirt juice out while smashing!   The salsa should be somewhat chunky.   Add chopped cilantro and season with salt.  Sugar and lime juice are optional.  It’s really an easy salsa to make and the texture and flavor is distinct from those made with a blender.  This simple but tasty sauce will brighten up your taco.

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It went pretty good with the black bean nachos.

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Salsa de Chile Pequin

August 19, 2015

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I have these dried chile pequins that have been  around in my kitchen for awhile now.  They are usually a cook’s third choice after the more popular and accessible serrano or jalapeno peppers when making a salsa ranchera or salsa verde for example.  But I very often pick several from my pequin bush to accompany a meal.  The bush yields much more than I can eat  so I either give some away or pickle them.  That’s why I seem to always have a lot of dried ones to make use of. As you may know,  they are extremely fiery.  I love the burst of flavor and heat of the fresh pequins.  If you’re not careful, they can hurt,  especially if you chew slowly and deliberately or if you catch some in your throat.  Toasting  dried chile pequins bring out a wonderful nutty flavor which can best be appreciated by biting one on it’s own.  Because they are so hot,  a little to go a long way.  They  will not contribute as much flavor as other chiles like Anchos or Pasillas which need much more to get the same amount of heat.   Many times though, I want a less complex tasting salsa to top my taco or to dip my tostadas.

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I’m using a molcajete today to make “salsa molcajeteada”.  Before blenders were available to the public (1937 according to sources), this was the only way to make this type of salsa.  They lend your sauce a touch more of authenticity.  The texture that results from “molcajeteando la salsa” adds an enjoyment that’s a little hard to explain.  It’s a bit chunky,  maybe a little bit juicy, depending on how you roast the tomatoes and how long you grind down the ingredients. It looks and feels more natural.  A blender cannot duplicate a salsa made in a molcajete no matter how carefully you pulse.

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I was honored to have my grandmother’s molcajete passed down to me.  I remember years ago she told me it belonged to her grandmother’s grandmother.  I don’t have any reason to doubt her but that would mean it’s been in the family for 6 generations?!  That’s a little bit hard to imagine. I’m sure nobody has ever had to send it in for broken parts either.

I didn’t have to worry about curing the molcajete since it has long been prepared for use. (Well more than a century ago?)  I’ll only mention today that if you decide to get one, it needs to be seasoned before use to remove tiny lava particles.   Another important point is to never use soap to clean your molcajete.  Read up on types, care and maintenence before buying one.  There is a lot of info and video on the internet.

Dried chile pequins can be bought in many well stocked supermarkets nowadays.  If they are not available,  substitute with some fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper.

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Ingredients:

4 medium cloves garlic

3-4 tablespoons roughly diced onions

10-12 chile pequins (for moderate heat)

4 ripe tomatoes

5-6 sprigs fresh cilantro

freshly squeezed lime juice optional to taste

salt to taste

 

Begin by pan roasting or broiling your tomatoes.  To pan roast,  heat  a heavy skillet on medium and let the tomatoes roast until they have cooked and softened somewhat.  Avoid overcooking to a mush.  You can also broil the tomatoes for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning them over from time to time.  In a separate dry pan,  toast the chile pequins until they release their aroma and are lightly browned.  Try one if you like.

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Smash or grind the peeled garlic to a paste consistency with the tejolote(pestle).  Add the toasted chile pequins and grind well.  Next add the onions and grind everything into a paste.  You’re ready to add the tomatoes one by one, grinding or smashing well after each additions.  You can choose to remove the peel,  but I find that the molcajete helps pulverize them. The charred bits add flavor.  Add the chopped cilantro and optional lime juice and season well with salt.   Many cooks add some of the salt in the beginning to help smash the ingredients.

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The molcajete and tejolote will extract more flavor from your ingredients than a blender.  You can work the ingredients as much as you like,  making it chunkier or more blended to your liking.

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The simplest of salsas can be the most memorable.

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Hatch Green Chile and Roasted Garlic Sourdough Bread

August 14, 2015

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If you want sourdough bread bursting with a southwestern flair, you have it right here.  Packed with flavor,  ingredients include the Hatch green chiles,  freshly toasted and ground pasilla chiles and cumin, and of course the roasted garlic.   The overall flavor turned out nicely balanced.  The cumin is roughly ground so that every now and then you catch a  little burst of its flavor.  The pasilla chile, paprika and oregano are just barely in the background. Not one of the ingredients overpowers any of the others.  Many times I’ll  make a regular bread version first to get a rough idea of how much of each ingredient to use.   Sourdoughs take at least 2 days while the simpler breads only take a few hours.  Since I can only make sourdough bread on weekends, it saves me from going  weekend to weekend  coming up with a good recipe.  For instance,  I knew I had to make changes on the amount of green chiles and comino after I tried the tester.

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Hatch green chiles make their way to Austin during August for a couple of weeks.  Roasters that look like giant bingo cages are brought in to roast hundreds, probably thousands of pounds of chiles. The green peppers are grandly promoted in some of our supermarkets with all kinds of products featuring the chiles.  You’ll find tortilla chips,  all kinds of salsas,  breads,  dips,  beverages, and much more proudly displayed for sale.  What’s the big deal about these chiles?  Because of the unique growing conditions, authentic Hatch green chiles are distinct in flavor and quality and must come from a certain area around Hatch, New Mexico.  The small town in New Mexico has a festival devoted to the famed chile every year around Labor day.  I’ve never been to it,  but a friend co-worker who lived in New Mexico talks enthusiastically about it and the chiles.   Do you see fresh Hatch green chiles in your town during this time as well?  I wonder how far they travel in the U.S.

 

Instead of presenting a detailed step by step recipe,  I’ll just list the ingredients and give a general description of the procedure.  I’ll be happy to go over it in more detail if someone is curious.

 

This will make 2 medium size loaves

Levain:

1 1/2 teaspoons starter refreshed 8 hours before

100 grams bread flour

100 grams water (70 degrees F.)

Final Dough:

All of the levain

600 grams bread flour

200 grams whole wheat flour

400 grams water (78 degrees)

2 garlic bulbs

5 Hatch green chiles

1 tablespoon pasilla chile powder

1 teaspoon comino powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

18 grams salt

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The night before I baked,  I made the levain.  I also roasted the green chiles  and garlic bulbs to have ready the next morning.

On the morning of the baking,  I peeled the green chiles and removed the seeds.  I also toasted a pasilla pepper and some whole comino to grind. This could be done the night before as well.

I prepared the dough adding all the ingredients except salt. The levain is dissolved in water, the flours are mixed, then the rest of the ingredients are added except salt.  The dough is left to autolyse for 30 minutes.  I then added the salt and let it ferment for about 4 hours in a plastic container, giving it turns every half hour for 3 hours.  For some reason this dough took longer to smooth out and become airy. It might have to do with all the diced green chiles that were in it.

I divided the dough into 2 portions and shaped them.  I placed them in bannetons and gave them about a 4 hour final proof.  They are placed on parchment paper and scored.

I baked them at 475 degrees in a convection oven for 10 minutes, misting them with water 3 or 4 times during this period.  I then lowered the oven to 405 degrees and continued to bake them for about 20 minutes.

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Notes: I took cloves from 1 1/2 of the 2 roasted garlic bulbs and mashed them before adding them to the dough.  I added the remaining cloves whole.

You can substitute all the spices in the recipe with your favorite chile powder.

You can substitute the Hatch green chile with Anaheim peppers though it probably won’t taste the same. Poblano peppers are another option.

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Besides croutons, this loaf makes great sandwich bread.

I’m going to take this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday and share this.  I’m very sure I’ll find a lot of tasty food over there.

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