A while ago I had a bowl of pumpkin curry at one of my favorite cafes. I’ve been entranced ever since. I became obsessed with making my own. After making pumpkin pies for the Pie Social, I had left over pumpkin. Sure I could have made cookies or cake, but I really wanted to try this curry.
Chocolate and chilies, as we’ve discovered, go together. I’ve played with this dessert aspect in a chili chocolate mousse and there are several chocolate bars on the market that celebrate the marriage of these two foods, but what about the savory realm? There isn’t much documentation that states the Aztecs combined chocolate in their main dishes. Chocolate was a drink not an ingredient to be added to food.
In the world of professional cooking being able to make a good polenta is just as important as mastering the art of risotto. The careful watching of the pan. The constant stirring. Adding the fat and the liquid at just the right time. Turning out the polenta. Setting it. Then there’s the second stage, after the maize concoction has cooled, when it is cut into squares or rounds and seared. Served with some sort of rich stew, polenta offers the diner food of substance, food that will “stick” to your ribs.
There are many, many veggie burger recipes and books with recipes for meatless burgers, so why the motivation to hunker down and make my own? Determination. Every time I attempted making a veggie burger it did not have the right consistency. It fell apart. It was too wet or not the right flavor. Armed with Southwestern cuisine flavors, I created this veggie patty that pleased both the Spouse and my inner chef. The Spouse advised, “Make the patties smaller, but don’t change the flavor!”
Jackfruit only came onto my radar last year. It’s been touted as the darling of the vegan world because it has the consistency and texture of shredded meat. For someone who has recently converted to a plant based diet, this can be more comforting, then say looking at a block of tofu. Eating is about the visual, as well as scent and taste. I’m not sure why as vegans we need to simulate meat anything, except that it brings comfort to those who are leaving the carnivore life behind.
As a chef, I usually am on the hunt for culinary perfection. While working in professional kitchens this meant perfecting the executive chef’s vision. Since I made the transition out of professional kitchens and into my own business, I drive myself even harder to find that flavor, that process, that technique that works. Each one of my recipes goes through a rigorous process: test, re-test, taste, have the spouse eat it more than once. Make sure the amounts, times, temperatures, and ingredients work. Strive for flavor perfection.
Today, we continue talking about poblano chilies, mainly because I’m trying to find things to do with the sole survivors of my garden: poblano and jalapeno chilies. With so many chilies to harvest, I have to come up with uses for them. Sure, I could roast them, chop them up and throw them in the freezer for later use. This is a perfectly acceptable method for the preservation of garden abundance. But there’s this other thing you can do with chilies. You can stuff them. As a matter of fact, I made a little video that shows you how to do just that, roast, peel, and stuff a poblano chili.
This is the time of year when the tamale cookers come out and you can find street vendors in parking lots selling homemade tamales and food trucks loaded with both sweet and savory tamales. But for me, living here in the Southwest, it is as much about the enchiladas as the tamales.
Nothing reminds me of Fall more than mushrooms: Wood Ears, Chanterelles, Criminis, Enoki, Hedgehog, Oyster, Maitaki, or Hen of the Woods. All of these, and the more wild varieties, can make me salivate. Mushrooms, when cooked properly, evoke an earthy sense, a delectable reminder of the forest, and being told as a child not to eat “those.”