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Conversation With a Cheesemonger

A conversation with Derrick Sanders, Cheesemonger at the Nob Hill La Montanita Co-op.

Derrick Sanders, Cheesemonger @ La Montanita Co-op | mjskitchen.com

The other day I was perusing the cheese section at the Nob Hill La Montanita Co-op looking for a particular cheese. When I couldn’t find it I asked Derrick, the cheese clerk for help.  You know what it’s like having a sommelier help you select a wine to go with your meal?  Well, that’s how I felt with Derrick helping me select a cheese.  This guy knows his cheese!  So rather than keep Derrick’s knowledge of cheese to myself, I thought I would share some of it with you.

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Roasted Red Chile Spread

Roasted red chile spread - use as a sandwich spread, for pasta, seasoning for soups and other dishes | mjskitchen.com #redchile

 

It’s October which brings about the last of the green chile season but the beginning of the short, and oh so sweet, fresh red chile season.  Toward the end of chile season, farmers let some of the green chile stay on the bushes allowing them to turn red.  When the red chile is picked, it is either strung into ristras or sold just like green chile. Here in my area of New Mexico, the amount of fresh red chile sold at the market is limited, so one needs to keep a careful eye out for its arrival and buy it quickly. It will be gone within a couple of weeks.  Normally, mild, medium, and hot chile are all available, but this year I could only find hot and mild. The mild was quite mild, but was still meaty with that amazing roasted red chile flavor; and the hot…same sweet flavor, but HOT.  If you haven’t tried roasted red chile, then it’s something you need to try.  There’s really nothing like it.

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Pico de Gallo with Pickled Peppers and Chipotle

 with pickled peppers and chipotle flakes | mjskitchen.com #salsa

 

Last week I showed you how to make Quick and Easy Pickled Peppers.  This week a few of those pickled peppers came together with some fresh garden tomatoes and chipotle flakes to make a delightfully tasty pico de gallo.  Bobby and I have eaten three batches of this in the past few days because it’s so addicting and we wanted to get the seasoning just right.  Lucky us. :)

Pico de Gallo with Pickled Peppers can be used as a dip or a topping for tacos, tostadas, burritos or a nice bowl of pinto beans.

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Quick and Easy Pickled Peppers

Guero and red cherry chile peppers | mjskitchen.com

 

After the pesky racoons ravaged my chile plants back in June, I did manage to find a few lonely plants tucked away in the sale section of the nursery.  Even though it was late in the season, I still planted them and now, in September, I’m getting some peppers.  YAY!  My first picking yielded a few guero chiles (yellow hot or caribe) and three red cherry chiles. It wasn’t much, but it’s something.  So what did I do with these beauties?  I made some pickled peppers!

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Grilled Cheese with Urfa Biber Chile

Urfa Biber chile and toasted pinon (pine) nuts make a great grilled cheese sandwich | mjskitchen.com #grilledcheese #urfabiber

 

Recently, I read an article about grilled cheese sandwiches and after reading the article I skimmed through the comments where it became quickly apparent that there are a number of people that think it’s sacrilege to add anything to a grilled cheese other than cheese.  Well, I’m not one of them. :)  Personally, I find a grilled cheese sandwich with ONLY cheese to be rather boring. However, it doesn’t take much to change that. One or two additional ingredients can take a grilled cheese from boring to downright exciting.  And downright exciting is what you get with this grilled cheese with roasted urfa biber chile and toasted pinon nuts.

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Raspberry Mole’ Jam

Raspberry Mole' Jam made with spice, red chile and a touch of cocoa. mjskitchen.com

 

Have you ever had black molé (aka Molé Negro)?  Molé Negro is a dark, rich, spicy sauce that is one of the seven molés of Oaxaca, Mexico. I made it once with great success, but it was a very time consuming and laborious process, so much so that the next time I wanted to make it, I wimped out and bought some from the local Mexican market. My love of molé is what drove me to make this  Raspberry Molé Jam. I wanted a sweet and spicy jam with a little nuttiness, and the richness of a black molé.  For this jam, raspberries are cooked down with a little sugar (less than normal), minced dates, almonds, red chile, chocolate and spice.  You’ll be hooked on the first bite.
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Spicy Mint Pesto with Grilled Lamb Chops

Mint Pesto with Lime and Red Chile Flakes | mjskitchen.com

 

From the title of this post and the pictures, you’ve probably figured out that this post is more about the mint pesto than the lamb.  I could just sit and eat this Spicy Mint Pesto with a spoon.  To heck with the lamb chops. :) Not really, we do love lamb chops and get some great ones at Costco.  Bobby always grills them and then I make a simple little sauce to go with them.   During the summer when my spearmint goes bonkers, as mint always does, I love making this spicy mint pesto, which, as all lamb lovers know, mint is a great complement to lamb.

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Bok Choy with Pecans and Lemongrass

An easy side of bok choy, pecans and Asian spices. mjskitchen.com @MJsKitchen

The primary inspiration for this Bok Choy with Lemongrass recipe came from some spices that I Assortment of Asian spices from Season with Spice mjskitchen.combought a while back from one of my favorite online small businesses – Season with Spice (SwS), an Asian Spice Shop.  Being a lover of a variety of herbs and spices, I purchased quite a few new spices, some of which I had never heard of before. One of those spices was galangal powder, which comes from the fibrous rhizome galangal plant.  The flavor (to me) is earthy and peppery with a hint of ginger. I found it was a nice complementary spice with another of my favorites from SwS – lemongrass powder.

The following recipe uses SwS’s lemongrass powder, galangal powder and Sweet Ginger Sea Salt to make a very simple side dish of bok choy and pecans.  The idea of combining bok choy with pecans comes from a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks – Great Greens by Georgeanne Brennan.

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Hibiscus – a Flower, a Simple Syrup, a Soda and a Tea

Pink Hibiscus flowers mjskitchen.com

 

The hibiscus flower is widely known for its beauty, but there is more to this flower than meets the eye.  The dried flowers are used to make a variety of beverages from hot tea to chilled Agua de jamaica (“ha-ma-ike-ah”), sparkling drinks to cocktails. And they have some health benefits as well.  I’ve been playing around with these dried flowers for a couple of years now and today, I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite ways to enjoy them.

Dried hibiscus flowers make a delicious simple syrup that is both sweet and tart.  The syrup can be added to sparkling water for a refreshing soda or used to make a hibiscus cocktail.  It can also be poured over vanilla ice cream and who wouldn’t love that?!  Following is a recipe for making Hibiscus Mint Simple Syrup.  Since I normally add a sprig of mint to just about any summer drink, I decided to also add some mint to the simple syrup.  However, you could choose to eliminate the mint all together, or even replace it with a small piece of ginger or a stick of cinnamon.

You can purchase dried hibiscus flowers from a variety of sources online, some herb or tea shops or a local organic/health store.  I buy mine at the local La Montanita co-op.

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