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August 2012

July 2012

Roasting Fresh Green Chiles

Roasting chiles is a very typical part of cooking Mexican food. A lot of recipes will call for chiles roasted and peeled, assuming this is part of your repertoire. If you have a gas range, you can char them directly on a burner. I'm a somewhat forgetful cook and the results can be nasty if you're not paying attention.


Cristina at Mexico Cooks! likes to use a preheated cast iron skillet. I think this is a fine idea but pre-heating adds to the time so I prefer to use a plain old comal.


I turn the chiles as they char, not worrying too much about all the missed nooks and crannies.


After the chiles has been roasted on all sides, it's time to bring out the Big Guns. The Bernzamatic torch was cheap and the bottles of gas are easy to find. Using tongs, I place each chile in the path of the fire and really go to town, leaving each inch of pepper skin charred and black. It's fun, I have to admit.

Most recipes will tell you to put the charred chiles in a plastic bag to "sweat" them and make the peels slide off but I have a weird feeling about hot chiles in plastic bags so I prefer to sweat them in a paper bag or in a large bowl with a plate covering it. Remember, this is a feeling, not a fact, so so as you like.


After letting the chiles rest for about 20 minutes, you can take them out and the skins should just slide off. Sometimes they're a little stubborn and you can use a knife to scrape them. A few bits of charred skin are nice so you don't have to be obsessive about it.


The chiles are juicy so I like to hold them over a bowl and squeeze a bit and let all that chile love ooze out. I've seen some chefs rinse the chile under the tap but it strikes me that some of the flavor is going right down the sink.

So pull out the insides, scrape the outsides and you have a beautiful roasted chile.


Discard the seeds and skins.

Now you can fry strips of the chile in oil with garlic and onion rings. If you are careful and leave the chile whole, you can cut a slit in the side and clean it out as best you can and then fill it with gorgeous things like cheese or shrimp. You can also make a fine soup by blending the chiles with chicken stock.

Please note that many of Rick Bayless' recipes have you broil them in an oven and Mexican chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita deep-fries his when he has hundreds to do. I find the very best chiles come from the grill when the coals are on their last legs.


Lazy Breakfast at Rancho Gordo

I posted this photo on our Facebook page and it got a huge response so I think I'll add it here as well. This was making breakfast on Sunday morning for me and my 14 year old son.


Left to right, it's a pot of previously cooked beans and nopales, straight from the henhouse fresg eggs (mine with Oregano Indio, thank you!), heirloom corn tortillas (Rancho Gordo brand, natch), a pot of espresso and hot milk for the espresso, with a piece of canela infusing it's goodness, along with a few spoonfuls of piloncillo.

The 1950s Wedgewood stove is a thing of beauty and there's a whole network of fanatics so finding parts is relatively easy.


The night before I had roasted a manzano pepper (also known as Peron), a large tomato, some thick onion slices, and three cloves of garlic on a clay comal, but you could also use a metal comal or cast iron skillet. I blended these with a little salt and 1/2 a cup of water and then fried the sauce in a few spoonfuls of olive oil. It was finished off with some Oregano Indio. It was incredibly hot.

Remember if you're using one of these peppers, the black seeds aren't edible and you should either plant a pepper bush or throw them out.


Beans (brown teparies), nopales and some of the searingly hot but delicious salsa.

Sweet Corn and Fresh Oregano Fritters

We had a great little party here at the Rancho Gordo store in celebration of the new book by Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M Evans, The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook. The women made fritters from fresh corn and it was only moments before they were devoured.

Along with Georgeanne and Ann, we had tastes from St Supery winery. Their 2011 Estate Savignon Blanc seemed made to be served with the fritters. They also sampled their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon which I seemed to enjoy just a little too much, if you know what I mean.


Here's the recipe for the fritters, followed by the winemaker's notes on the sauvignon blanc.

Sweet Corn and Fresh Oregano Fritters.

Makes 12 to 16 fritters; serves 4 to 6.

4 ears white or yellow corn, husks and silk removed

1/4 yellow onion

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Coarse sea or kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1 egg, lightly beaten

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

Crème fraîche for serving (optional)

Hold an ear of corn, tip down, in a large, wide bowl and, using a sharp knife, cut straight down between the kernels and the cob, cutting as close to the cob as possible without including the fibrous base of the kernels, rotating the ear about a quarter turn after each cut. Repeat with the remaining ears.

Using the coarse holes on a box grater, grate the onion. Using your hand, squeeze the onion as dry as you can and then add it to the corn.

Sprinkle the flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the oregano over the corn and onion and mix well. Add the egg and again mix well.

Pour the olive oil to a depth of a scant 1/4 inch into a frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, form each fritter by dropping the corn mixture by the heaping teaspoon into the hot oil, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Press down gently with the back of a spatula and fry until golden brown on the first side, about 2 minutes. Turn and fry the second side, about 1 minute.

Using a slotted spatula or slotted spoon, transfer the fritters to paper towels to drain. Cook the remaining fritters the same way, adding more oil if needed and reducing the heat if necessary to avoid scorching.

Arrange the fritters on a warmed platter and sprinkle with salt and the remaining 1 tablespoon oregano. Top each fritter with a small dollop of crème fraîche, if desired. Serve immediately.

Winemaker's Notes on the St Supery Savignon Blanc:

This Sauvignon Blanc presents a brilliant shade of pale yellow
speared by youthful streaks of green. The vintage of 2011
provided generous grapefruit aromas coupled with green lime,
kiwi and a subtle zest of caper. Flavors are rich with
grapefruit, guava and a lemon zest citrus combination. The
wine is rich, vibrant and generous, yet elegant with a terrific
crisp finish. Enjoy!

Growing Season:
The year started with very cold conditions and high rainfall.
It is said to be the 4th highest rainfall winter in 40 years.
Spring moved temperatures up into the 70’s, with late May
bringing more rain. June commenced with significant
rainfall during flowering, reducing crops a little. The summer
provided good sunshine, yet was cooler than most. Late
August and September were warm and encouraged good
ripening. While the Sauvignon Blanc harvest commenced
late, it was short and compact, finishing by the end of
September. Overall, a cool season that provided intense rich
Sauvignon Blanc.

After achieving the desired flavors on the vine, the Sauvignon
Blanc was harvested in the cool morning hours to preserve
delicate flavors. The fruit was received in the cellar, where
grapes were pressed to tank and immediately chilled and
settled prior to fermentation. All fermentation was completed
in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures to maintain and
enhance the natural flavors. The final blend was completed
soon after to capture the lovely fresh qualities and intensity
of flavor of the Sauvignon Blanc.

More information on the cookbook.
More information on St Supery wines.

Epazote in the Bay Area

I've known Dan Lehrer for almost 10 years. First at the Marin County Farmers Market on Sundays and later at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays. Do you have friends you really like that you don't know well? Dan is one of my favorite people and in addition to growing great apples, he has some beautiful, reasonably-priced plants he brings to the markets.



In addition to having great taste in obscure R&B music, Dan is interested in what we're doing at Rancho Gordo. I asked him about growing epazote and this year he has lots of plants for sale. The dried variety is petty nasty if you ask me, but the fresh is versatile and essential to any New World garden. It makes beans tastier and I still dream about an octopus dish I had at El Cardenal in Mexico City, simply grilled and then washed in olive oil and chopped epazote.


I'm told it can be invasive so best to start it out in a pot. I have an old plant that does die back each winter and comes back each spring. I suspect the plant bolted and the seeds are what's coming back but I'm not sure. It is a weed so it needs very little care from you.

Occasionally you see bunches of it in Mexican grocery stores but if you're serious about Mexican food, you'll want a plant of your own.

Be sure and experiment with wild mushrooms and epazote and a simple quesadilla is made into something grand with a little chopped stinkweed. A little goes a long way but that little is pretty swell.

Here's a previous post on epazote from the blog.

You can visit Dan on Saturdays at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Check his Facebook page for other markets and options.