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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve warm or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and ready to serve.
As summer nears its end with Labor Day, there is a spectacular bounty at our local farmers’ market. Less so in our neighborhood. We have already run out of recipes for zucchini from our neighbors while our little vegetable garden is limited to herbs and chard. The chard, however, is luxuriant with succulent green leaves and bright red stalks.
A few days ago I harvested some of the chard, and then my wife made a recipe out of Deborah Madison’s excellent and encyclopedic Tenth Anniversary Edition of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Broadway Books, New York, 2007. The preparation is easy, and the cilantro provides a novel balance to the flavor of the chard. Of course, summer is the perfect time for fresh corn on the cob as well. That plus a slice of ham makes a real East Texas mid-day dinner. The only thing missing is the dinner bell.
My thought about chard is that like many greens, it can be bitter. You can overcome that shortcoming and brighten the flavor with the addition of fresh lemon juice and a little sugar. Whether or not you make these additions, long slow cooking is important, and you should plan to use both the leaves and the stems in any preparation.
Chard in the garden is almost an ornamental
Green leaves and red stems – beautiful
Colorful even in the pot with onions
A tasty summer accompaniment to ham and corn on the cob
Braised Chard with Cilantro
- 2 pounds chard leaves
- 1½ cups chard stems, diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 clove garlic, made into paste with 1 teaspoon salt
- juice of ½ lemon
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup water
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large heavy pot with tight lid, combine all ingredients.
- Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and cook over low heat for 45 minutes.
- Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
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
Fresh poblano chiles
Poblanos roasted and charred over open flame
Shrimp, mushroom, tomato, onion, and cilantro mixture
Shrimp-stuffed poblano with crema, tomatillo-chipotle salsa, and fresh avocado
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Tomatillos with their husks still on
Tomatillos husked and ready for broiling
Chipotles in adobo sauce
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.
- In a small skillet, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Do not brown.
- 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.
- Serve as a dip with tortilla chips or as a condiment with a main course.
I am sure that my UK blogger friends are looking at this thinking, “What in the hell does he know about shepherd’s pie?” They are probably right even though this is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Detractors should be aware that the US Southwest is sheep country, and we eat a lot of lamb. It is also true that we have a hard time resisting putting green chile in just about everything. I suspect that someone has even made green chile ice cream.
Cooked lamb ready for the pie
Canned chopped green chiles
I have tried to be true to the basic recipe while making it a uniquely Southwestern (USA, that is) by using local ingredients. That means roasted Hatch green chiles, asadero cheese ( a cheese that is made with a method similar to that used for mozzarella. Curds are cooked gently in hot water and then stretched. It is popular in Mexico and the southwestern United States, but if you can’t find it you can use mozzarella or even Monterrey jack.) You could also use the Mexican cheese, queso fresco, and if you can’t find that, fresh farmer’s cheese will do. As with real shepherd’s pie, the main ingredient is lamb.
Ready for the oven
Americans often like to douse their shepherd’s pie with ketchup (I hear another UK shudder), but this version seems to cry out for pico de gallo. This is a salsa made with fresh ingredients. The name means “rooster’s beak” in Spanish. There are several explanations for how the name came to be, but none sound very likely.
Baked and ready to eat
Southwestern Style Shepherd’s Pie
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 8 ounces, green chiles, chopped (fresh, frozen, or canned) Heat according to your preference
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, shredded between your palms
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ cup water or vegetable stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup asadero cheese, chopped or grated
- ¼ teaspoon Cholula hot sauce (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted, for top
- Heat the oil in a medium frying pan until it shimmers. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, stirring frequently to prevent browning.
- Add the ground lamb and continue to stir until the lamb is lightly browned
- Stir in the green chiles, cumin, oregano, and garlic. Continue to cook for a few minutes until the ingredients are well combined. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Stir in the flour and stir until everything is well coated. Cook long enough (5 minutes or so) so that the flour loses its raw taste.
- Add the water or stock and stir until the gravy thickens. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add more water if you want a thinner gravy. Set aside for final assembly
- In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes. Put them in a medium pot with salted water. Bring to the boil and boil for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
- Drain the potatoes and pass them through a potato ricer. Stir in the butter, cream, and grated cheese. Add a dash of hot sauce if you wish and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper
- Butter the insides of an oven-proof casserole. Pour the meat mixture into the prepared dish, top with the mashed potatoes, and paint with melted butter
- Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 325° for about 60 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo
- 1 large, ripe tomato
- ½ yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 green onions, cleaned and coarsely chopped, including the green tops
- 2 fresh Anaheim chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped (optional)
- juice of 1 lime
- A generous handful of cilantro leaves, chopped coarsely
- salt and pepper to taste
- Blanch the tomato for 10 seconds in boiling water. Then peel, seed, and chop coarsely
- Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Adjust the seasoning, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Serve like any other salsa. Use generously on the Southwestern Style Shepherd’s Pie.
Southwestern style shepherd’s pie with pico de gallo on the side