Here in the Southwest, autumn sets in with a peculiar scent. It’s smoky but not unpleasant and if you’ve experienced it before, it’s certain to bring a smile. This is the smell of roasting chiles – stronger as you approach the New Mexican border but lingering in the parking lots of every Latino grocery and festival. The roaster stands hard at work, sweat on his brow as he throws back an iced horchata. One gallon ziploc bags are sold out everywhere.
We have odd mix of autumn vegetables in our CSA this time of year. There are a few eggplant, black eyed peas, onions, sweet potatoes, arugula, melon and chiles. Chiles are a part of my family heritage. My grandfather often carried a small pepper grinder (un molino) in his shirt pocket where he housed the hot ones. My mother and my grandmother rolled hundreds of roasted chiles up in egg roll wrappers together with Monterrey Jack cheese creating the perfect after school snack. And that is just the way we purchased them, by the 100 lbs!
The fact is that I’ve been so spoiled by this family legacy that I absolutely cannot eat green chiles from a can. In restaurants, I always inquire, “do you roast your own?’. And if you don’t think there is a difference, I challenge you to a taste-off, knowing that you’ll come away convinced.
While it’s easiest to buy from the roaster in the parking lot, when my CSA contains fresh chiles, it’s not worth the gas or the time to go there and it’s so simple to fire up the outside grill. Even though it’s autumn, our daily temperatures are still in the 80s so it’s nice not to use the oven.
We wait until the peppers blister and pop and then transfer them to the bag they arrived in to set and to cool. This makes the peeling and the seeding easier. One word of caution on working with chiles: unless you know for certain that they are mild, it is best to wear surgical gloves when working with them. I know all too well about the burns and blisters that hot chiles can leave on unprotected fingers and hands.
The chiles can be frozen before peeling and used throughout the year. In my case, I’m going to use these up right away to try the stew recipe below. If you do save them for use throughout the year, they bring that distinct autumn in the Southwest feel to any dish. And while in the Southwest we have more golden sunshine than golden leaves, the fragrant haze reminds us that cooler temps and casseroles are nearby.
Do you have fall favorite?
Adapted from the glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.comServes 6
- 1 lb. organic ground free range beef (optional)
- 30 oz. of cooked black beans
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 heaping cups chopped roasted chiles
- 1 large or 2 smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 ears of fresh sweet corn, cut off the cob
- 1 14-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 3 cups broth, or so- as needed
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
- 1-2 fresh limes
- A pinch of sugar, if needed
- Sliced avocado
- Sour cream
- Fresh cilantro chopped