Piquant Des-Mex Delights - Recipes

Desert Lil's Delicacies - A DesertUSA Food Feature

pepperAs we discussed in February, Mexican cooking, like other cuisines, is the product of both regional culture and local agriculture. It's also the combination of two worlds -- the Hispanic and the Native American. Exporting this cuisine to the southwestern U.S. creates a hybrid of local cuisines I like to call Des-Mex -- Mexican food as served in the deserts of the American Southwest.

The two most characteristic components of Des Mex food are corn and chiles. The chile pepper, often called the world's most popular flavoring, has more than 200 known varieties, but only a dozen or so are available in U.S. food markets. We usually think of chile peppers as an ingredient included to add hot seasoning, but Mexican and Des-Mex cooks also use chiles to impart subtle flavors.

sulsaLast month we created various salsas -- red and verde, fresca and cooked -- using fresh and dried chiles. This month, we can take what we've learned about the varieties of chile peppers, combining them together with the salsa we created last month, to prepare some delicious Des-Mex dishes with that unique southwestern flavor. All of the items below can be served with warm corn or flour tortillas.

Shrimp Chile Rellenos

  • 8-12 Poblano chiles
  • 1/2 lb Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 lb cooked, peeled small shrimp
  • 1/2 cup diced scallions (including tops)
  • Yogurt or sour cream
  • Diced, fresh cilantro
  • Cilantro-Lime Salsa or Mexican (Red) Salsa

Prepare salsa and chill. Place Poblanos on grill and cook uncovered until slightly charred on one side. Remove from grill and peel any skin that comes away easily. Slit cooked side lengthwise, remove seeds, but leave stem intact. Mix shrimp, scallions and cheese and cilantro, then spoon into chiles. Place slit up on medium grill and cook until cheese is well melted. Top with spoon of yogurt or sour cream, and another spoon of Salsa. Serve.

Green Chile Quiche
Serves 4-8

  • 8 whole cooked and peeled Anaheim chiles
  • 1/4 pound sharp cheddar and/or jack cheese, shredded
  • 5 eggs (or egg substitute)
  • 1 large tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Salsa Verde

Prepare Salsa Verde and chill. Grease 10-inch pie plate. Slit chiles lengthwise and clean if necessary then arrange like crust in plate and top with tomatoes. Blend remaining ingredients at low speed, then pour over chiles and bake at 325 F for 30 minutes or until set. Serve in wedges as an entree, or in small pieces as an appetizer. Top with Salsa Verde and serve.

Corn & Cheese Enchiladas
Serves 6

  • 3 cups Salsa Roja
  • 4 Serrano,or Jalapeno chiles, diced
  • 3 cups frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup jack cheese
  • 1 cup finely diced onions
  • 2 Tbsp butter or oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dry oregano
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup sour cream or yogurt

Prepare Salsa Roja. Prepare filling: Heat large frying pan, then add butter/oil, onions and cumin and cook for 5 minutes. Add corn and 1/4 cup water, then cover and cook 5 minutes on medium heat. Uncover and cook until liquid evaporates, stirring often. Remove from heat, and stir in diced chiles, 1 cup sour cream/yogurt and cheddar cheese, with salt to taste

Heat tortillas on hot grill, frying pan or in the microwave. Spread 1 cup Salsa Roja in bottom of 10 x15 inch baking dish. Spoon 1/4 cup filling into each warm tortilla, roll and place seam-down in the dish. Cover with remaining sauce, sprinkle with jack cheese and bake in 350 F oven for 25 minutes

Short Rib & Hominy Chipotle
Serves 4

  • 4 lean beef short ribs
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 can chipolte chiles
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 large can hominy
  • Chile de Arbol Hot Sauce.

Prepare Chile de Arbol Hot Sauce. Cover and bake ribs, onion, garlic, and chiles with broth for 3 hours. Remove cover and bake another 1/2 hour. Cook rice during this 30-minute period. When meat is brown, remove it from broth. Place pan on stove with low heat and mash whole pieces with scrapings as you would to make gravy. Drain hominy add, and cook until hot. Place ribs over cooked rice, top with hominy broth broth and serve with Chile de Arbol Hot Sauce.

Complete Index of Desert Lil's Delicacies


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The Saguaro often begins life in the shelter of a "nurse" tree or shrub which can provide a shaded, moister habitat for the germination of life. The Saguaro grows very slowly -- perhaps an inch a year -- but to a great height, 15 to 50 feet.

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