One useful thing about choosing a menu theme and then playing around for a week is that you assemble a base collection of flavors that can go together into lots of different applications. For example, this week in Tex Mex and New Mexican food, I had a kitchen full of jalapenos (fresh, roasted, and pickled too), cilantro, salt (okay, I always have salt), chipotle chile, corn, tomato, and citrus. Those go well on meat, in beans, in rice, and also I could toss them into side relishes like my pickled fruit and the guacamole for fried dough at Thursday’s sit down dinner. It worked well.
This introduction is also my way of saying that although I had requests for including Thursday’s guacamole in the end of week recipe highlights, I don’t have a recipe. It involved avocados, fresh tomatoes (peeled), corn, roasted jalapeno, basil (the cilantro went into the fruit relish), fresh lime juice, chipotle chile powder, and salt. Mooshed together. I can’t imagine accuracy is necessary.
The guacamole disappeared so quickly I don’t even have a picture.
The moral of the story here is that you may never have the same guacamole twice; live in the moment.
Another point in favor of taking time immersed in one are of cooking: The Chili Cookbook by Robb Walsh.
I don’t buy many single subject cookbooks because I’m extremely restless. However, I receive reviewers copies of these books and often love them, especially because the subjects are random ones I wouldn’t have picked on my own (I’m getting this as a bookstore employee, not a known chili afficionado).
The chili cookbook makes a good case for geeking out over chili, at least long enough to cook through a brief book. There’s a long history here, with cowboys, there are major chili competitions, there are Major Controversies – like including beans, or ground meat versus finely diced, and the book also includes modern twists on classic chilis, like a variety of lamb chilis and a chapter of vegetarian options. This past week the Chili con Carne and Fideo con Carne came from Walsh’s book. The Pork and Whiskey chili is next on my to-make list, right after I finish the fairly complicated $25,000 chili cook off winner in which you add suites of spices in specific phases of cooking over the course of many hours.
The Chili Cookbook comes out on September 29th.
Amaranth is a grain that’s found all over the world – particularly well suited for dry climates (pictured below from National Geographic). It has a lot of different culinary uses, including popped and eaten plain as a snack. To make amaranth polenta for Thursday night dinner I cooked it slowly along with corn flour in vegetable stock (the amaranth grains don’t break down on their own so the corn held it together into “polenta” like consistency), with a little salt, butter, and cream. I’m not going to write a lot on amaranth because the Whole Grains Council has already done so, with links to recipes, here. Amaranth is available in the bulk section at Hunger Mountain Coop.
Biscochitos or Bizcochitos
The obvious question raised by the Biscochito – the anise scented state cookie of New Mexico – is: how many states have official cookies?
The answer is, not many. Intrepid Slate reporter L.V. Anderson investigated the issue when creating a United Sweets of America Map (a map to which I refer more often than I care to admit). I can track down Connecticut laying claim to Snickerdoodles, and Massachusetts formally claiming Chocolate Chip Cookies, and then we have New Mexico.
In case you’re wondering, Vermont has an official state pie:
For New Mexican Bizcochitos, there are a lot of recipes out there with slight variations. Here is one round up of recipes from Food Explorer. I used this Martha Stewart recipe because, while perhaps not the most authentic, it called for triple sec as the alcohol and that seemed wise to me. The amount of sugar for sprinkling is waaaay off in this version – use 1/4 cup of sugar with 3/4 tsp cinnamon. To keep things vegetarian, I used shortening instead of lard, but I know in my heart that lard would have been better.
P.S. After exploring this New York Times published recipe for Cola Syrup, I’ve got a renewed enthusiasm for interesting homemade soda options. Any ideas, send them to helskitchenvt @ gmail.com.