Tag Archives: chipotle


We have been eating all of the produce we brought back from our Louisiana trip, and everything is nearly gone except for the sweet potatoes we bought in Texas. What luck! Sara Moulton, the current doyenne of American television cooks and noted cook book author, has a syndicated column in our local paper. This week her recipe was for sweet potato salad with a vinegar-based dressing instead of the usual white potato/mayonnaise mix that is so popular around the Fourth of July. I have made a few tweaks to her published recipe. She called for only a half of a chipotle, but my Southwestern background determined that I needed more pep, either with more chipotle or with hot sauce. The original was also a little monochromatic, so I added pimentos for color.  Either her way or my way, I think you will find this a refreshing salad for hot summer days and evenings.


Sweet Potato, Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad with Spicy Cilantro Dressing

Sweet potato, grilled corn and black bean salad

Sweet potato, grilled corn and black bean salad


  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 chipotle in adobo
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 small), peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 3 ears fresh corn, husked and silk removed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 scallions, whites and green tops, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces diced pimentos
  • (optional Chalula or other hot sauce to taste)


  1. In a blender, combine the garlic, shallot, chipotle, cilantro, and rice vinegar. Puree until smooth.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer to a covered jar and set aside.
  2. In a large covered pot with a steamer basket, bring about 2 inches of water to the boil. Add the sweet potatoes, and steam, covered, until fork tender, about 8 minutes
  3. Transfer the steamed sweet potatoes to a large bowl. Pour half of the pureed dressing over the potatoes and mix well, being careful not to break up the potatoes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Brush the ears of corn lightly with the melted butter and then place on a hot grill. You can use your Santa Fe chile roasting grill for this operation. Roast the corn, turning frequently, until it is lightly charred on all sides. Transfer to a plate and cool until it can be handled easily.
  5. Hold each ear on its thick end on a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, cut the roasted corn kernels off the cobs. There will be 3 cups or more of corn kernels.
  6. When the sweet potatoes and corn have cooled, combine the dressed potatoes, corn, black beans, and pimentos. Add the remaining dressing and mix gently until everything is well combined. Adjust seasoning with additional salt, pepper and optional hot sauce.
  7. Serve warm or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and ready to serve.



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We just returned from a week in the San Francisco Bay area. Our trip was primarily a baby-sitting junket, but we wound up experiencing a non-stop rush of food events. The main reason for our trip was so that our daughter and son-in-law could go to New York City to cook in a charity event in Rockefeller Center for CityMeals on Wheels, but we wound up baby-sitting while they cooked at their restaurant, Rich Table, for visiting chefs attending the Chipotle Cultivate Festival in Golden Gate Park. Then there was the NYC event itself, and while the offspring were out of town, we helped my son and his family with their annual crawfish boil in Silicon Valley, and then cooked a birthday dinner for my son.  In between all of this we had a spectacular all-holds-barred dinner at Rich Table and a late lunch at the Presidio Social Club, a lovely little place on the Presidio grounds. Finally we attended the awards ceremony for San Francisco’s Rising Star Chefs held in the Giants’ AT&T Park. Sarah and Evan cooked again, and the reception was a real food blowout.

Now we have to work on losing the weight we gained during this food extravaganza.

My first report from the week is about the Chipotle Cultivate Festival, sponsored by the Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant chain. This started out as an event in Chicago’s Lincoln Park three years ago, spread to Denver’s City Park last year, and now this year moved to include San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The event was held in Hellman Hollow with nearby Lloyd Lake. The festival was free with lots of live music, so there were big crowds. Chipotle had food stands around the grounds with some of their specialties for sale. There were lots of other food vendors, but one of the highlights was a series of cooking demonstrations by well-known chefs. Amanda Freitag, perhaps best known as one of the judges on the Food Network’s Chopped, travelled from New York City. So did Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff, co-owners of Big Gay Ice Cream Trucks, wildly popular in NYC. Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook, and Vinny Dotolo came up from Los Angeles. Michael Charello of Bottega in Napa Valley, Richard Blais from Atlanta, corporate chefs from Chipotle, and San Francisco chefs Minh Tsai, Evan Bloom, Led Beckerman, and Sarah and Evan rounded out the list of chefs who did cooking demonstrations throughout the day.

Sarah and Evan chose to prepare Sarah’s popular dessert, caramelized olive oil cake with fresh strawberry sauce and cream cheese ice cream. Oil cakes have been around for years, but recipes in cookbooks are often hard to find. Oil is used as a substitute for butter or shortening. Its liquid state at room temperature makes a moist cake, but that also means it will not support cake loft as much as solid fats. For that reason, the cake is more dependent upon incorporated air in other ingredients so it is important to beat those ingredients enough to give the cake lightness. Olive oil has only recently become a popular ingredient. The 1975 edition of the Joy of Cooking has three recipes for oil cakes but also strong advice to avoid olive oil because of its strong flavor. These days, that strong flavor has made olive oil cakes popular.

An additional step that makes Sarah’s cake special is caramelization. As she says, you can caramelize the top, the top and bottom,or all sides, depending how much time you want to spend. One way to caramelize the cake is to sprinkle it with sugar and use a salamander or torch as you might for a crême brulée, but that may be too tricky, so you can accomplish the same thing in a very hot skillet or griddle. The caramelization step can only be done when you are ready to serve the cake.

The second part of the demonstration dish was a strawberry sauce made from fresh strawberries. California strawberries fresh from the farm are totally unlike the flavorless, cardboardy kinds you get in the supermarket. The farm varieties are red, juicy, sweet, tender, and filled with the strawberry flavor of long ago. Adriana Silva, the owner of   Tomatero Farms near Watsonville and the strawberry purveyor, also participated in the demonstration. She has gone from 2 to 200 acres under cultivation in just a few years, and she raises six different varieties of strawberries which come in at different times during the season. The variety used for the demonstration was “Seascape”, a red, sweet beauty.

The final part of the dish for the demonstration was a generous topping of cream cheese ice cream, churned at Rich Table that morning. It is like eating a bite of cold New York cheesecake except that it melts in your mouth.


Olive Oil Cake


  • 8 large eggs
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ lemons, zested
  • 1 1/8 cups whole milk
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/3 cups almond flour
  • ¼ cup baking powder
  • 1½ cups extra virgin olive oil + more to grease the cake pan
  • granulated sugar to caramelize the top


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixture, combine the eggs and sugar. With the mixer set on medium speed, cream the eggs and sugar together for at least five minutes to incorporate as much air into the mixture as possible. It should form a smooth, shining ribbon.
  2. Turn the mixer to low and add the salt and lemon zest
  3. Slowly drizzle in the mil with the mixer still running.
  4. While the eggs and sugar are mixing, sift together the flours and baking powder.
  5. Add the sifted flours to the mixture, continuing to beat on low.
  6. Drizzle in the olive oil very slowly as you would making mayonnaise.
  7. Prepare a half sheet cake pan ( 16 x 12 x 3 inches) by oiling liberally with the extra olive oil
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Use a spatula to make sure the batter fills the corners of the pan.
  9. Bake in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 325°F for 25 minutes or until the cake springs back to the touch and/or tests clean with a toothpick
  10. Remove from the oven. Cool on a baking rack for five minutes. Then invert onto a flat surface. Gently transfer the cake. You may need to use your fingers or a thin spatula get the cake out in one piece.
  11. When ready to serve, cut the cake into serving-size pieces, sprinkle with sugar, and place sugared-side down on a clean hot griddle or skillet. When the sugar is caramelized (2-3 minutes) serve caramelized side up with sauce, whipped cream, or ice cream.


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One of the classic dishes of Mexico is chiles en nogada: poblano chiles stuffed with shredded pork (picadillo) and topped with walnut sauce (nogada), and pomegranate seeds. Supposedly the dish was invented in the city of Puebla in 1821. The green poblano chiles, white  walnut sauce, and red pomegranate seeds symbolize the colors of the Mexican flag. In season, chiles en nogada is a popular dish throughout Mexico , especially on September 16, Mexican Independence Day.

This is not the season. Fresh walnuts are not available and pomegranates don’t appear until late summer. Still, I thought about making the dish when I located some walnut halves in the freezer I am under instructions to clear out. I also saw some nice looking poblanos in the supermarket. As well, the walnut sauce sounded too complicated, so I decided to stuff the chiles with some pre-cooked, pre-shelled shrimp from the meat counter and cremini mushrooms from the refrigerator drawer. Then I topped it all with crema, the Mexican version of sour cream. The final dish still turned out green, white, and red because I used some tomatoes in the stuffing.

As a side dish, I made a tomatillo salsa with chipotle. That took only a few minutes and gave a little extra kick for those who wanted it. Avocado slices finished things off for a festive and surprisingly light dinner.


Shrimp-Stuffed Poblano Chiles


  • 4 fresh poblano chiles
  • ¼ cup walnut halves or pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 crimini mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and quartered
  • ½ pound pre-cooked, shelled shrimp (31/40 per pound)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup scallions including green tops, sliced
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • juice of ½ lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (optional, see recipe below)
  • Mexican crema


  1. Roast poblanos over an open flame until the skin is evenly charred. Place in a zipper bag, seal, and let rest until cooled. Then remove the charred skin under running water, slit one side, remove seeds and core, dry, and set aside.
  2. In a small sauté pan over medium heat dry roast the walnuts until lightly browned and the oils have begun to be released. Stir frequently. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat, cool, chop coarsely, and set aside.
  3. In the same sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the quartered mushrooms and sauté until they are soft and lightly browned. Drain, cool, and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp,  walnuts, mushrooms, shrimp, tomatoes, scallions,  cilantro, and lime juice. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in the optional adobo to suit your taste.
  5. Fill the prepared poblano chiles and arrange on individual plates. Drizzle with crema, and serve.

Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa

Years ago, the first time I made this for my chef son-in-law, he liked it so much that he copied the recipe to the collection he keeps in his laptop. The salsa is refreshing and quite different from the usual bottled kinds. You can make it as hot as you like by varying the number of chipotles and the amount of the adobo sauce. Tomatillos, along with tomatoes, belong to the nightshade family, but they are more tart than tomatoes, stay green when ripe, and are covered with a papery husk that needs to be removed before eating or cooking. They can be eaten raw, but the tart flavor is not very good, in my opinion. Roasting them mellows the flavor. Tomatillos  used to be hard to find except in Mexican grocery stores, but now they are in nearly every supermarket. Chipotles are actually smoked jalapeños. You can find them canned in a spicy adobo sauce.


  • 5-6 fresh tomatillos (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped fine
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, stemmed and chopped coarsely
  • 2 chipotles (canned in adobo sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Remove the husks of the tomatillos. Then broil them for 15 to 20 minutes on a baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil. Turn occasionally. Remove from the broiler when the skin has dark brown spots all over and the flesh is soft and somewhat watery.
  2. In a small skillet, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Do not brown.
  3. Transfer the onion to a medium bowl. Chop the tomatillos finely and add them to the onion. Add more adobo sauce if you want the salsa to be more piquant. Stir in the vinegar and cilantro. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or as a condiment with a main course.

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