Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Question of Taste: Chile Roasting Season

The New Mexico State Bird is the roadrunner. This little fellow is quite an amazing creature. One would expect that any flightless bird might become dinner for a rattlesnake, but the fact is that roadrunners kill and eat rattlesnakes. They are so fast, that they can pick a rattlesnake up by its tail and slam its head on the ground before the snake has a chance to strike. Quite a feat, I would say, and one which earns a real feast.

Which brings us to the New Mexico State Question. Now most states don’t have a state question, but this one is asked so frequently, the legislature had no choice but to adopt it. The question we would now ask the roadrunner is, “Red, or green?” No, we are not checking to see if the roadrunner is color blind, we are asking him what kind of chile he wants with that rattlesnake. And why not? New Mexicans put chile on almost everything.

Chile Rellenos are whole green chiles with eggs. Green chiles are heaped onto omelettes, burritos (of course!) and meats of all kinds, added to soups and stews, and in New Mexico, even McDonald's offers a chile burger. I once had a roommate who put green chile in tuna salad! Now red chiles are served as a sauce, and are not chunky like green chile. Contrary to popular opinion, red chile is not necessarily hotter than green, and in fact, the hottest chile pepper is green. In the mood for a mixture? Then your answer to the state question is “Christmas!”

The average New Mexican probably has a freezer loaded with chiles, or buys any of numerous brands of green chile refrigerated or frozen. And in their pantry is generally a variety of chile sauces. My favorite is chipotle, made from jalapenos specially roasted to develop a delicious smokey flavor. And then there's the hardcore chile addict, who has a year’s stash of the peppers roasted fresh annually.

Throughout New Mexico, supermarket parking lots are turned into chile roasting stations after the chile harvest. Green chiles are purchased in large burlap bags, and the chile lover takes his or her place in line to wait for their batch to be roasted. The aroma of chiles roasting can be smelled blocks from any supermarket, and for those who live in New Mexico towns, it is a constant for several weeks.

I remember sitting in a Taos supermarket parking lot a couple of years ago, waiting for my cousin to finish her shopping. I was parked just next to the chile roasting “paddock,” watching the ritual, and listening to the sounds of the tumbling chile roaster. Now, my cousin loves chile, but does not have enough room in her freezer to store it in such quantity, so freshly roasted, still-sweating chiles are generally not a staple at her house.

As a woman walked by with her chile stash, I asked her if they perhaps sold any smaller batches, explaining my cousin’s situation to her. Well, this kind soul became my cousin’s “Chile Angel,” offering to sell me a couple of gallon zip lock bags of the still-warm peppers for $2.00. I jumped at the chance, knowing I would be rewarded with a big smile on my cousin’s face when I told her the news. She made those chiles last (it was an amount that she could freeze), enjoying them in numerous dishes for most of the following year.

The subject of chile brings up so many questions, I’m going to write about them in ongoing blog entries... sort of a running FAQ. In the meantime, it’s time to make cornbread and chipotle pinto beans. ~Aimee

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Bandana

Definition: “A large handkerchief or neckerchief, typically of cotton, often having a colorful pattern; a red paisley bandana kerchief, neckerchief, headscarf, or babushka.” A kerchief (from the French, couvre-chef, “cover the head”) is a square or triangular piece of cloth tied around the head or neck for protective or decorative purposes. Bandannas are worn as a practical garment by outdoor workers such as farmers and cowboys, who wear them around the neck to wipe the sweat off their faces and keep dust out of their collars.

There are several methods of bandana folding and many different uses for them. In the past, these handy handkerchiefs were folded into common workers’ squares, and tucked into pockets for the more traditional uses, but they have also been used as bandages, compresses to stop bleeding, and folded into triangles, to be worn around the neck as slings.

Cotton bandanas in regulation sizes, are available in a multitude of patterns and colors. Today, bandanas have many new uses, and are in style as head coverings, and are folded and worn in different ways.

Bandana folding: Regular bandanas, being square, are folded into a triangle, placed low on the forehead, just above the eyebrows, and tied in a manner to secure the back triangle to the head. These are often worn by motorcycle enthusiasts underneath their helmets, or as Western wear, alone or under a cowboy hat. Folded bandanas can also become a type of head scarf, when they are folded into a triangle, placed on the top of the head, brought behind the ears, and tied to leave the back triangle point free. ~Jean

A Bit of Personal Bandana Trivia: About 10 years ago, I took to wearing a bandana on my head almost every time I went outside or into town (the exception would be if I chose to wear a cowboy hat, instead). For quite awhile I was unaware that anyone took notice of it. Then, one day I met with a woman for some business concerns and the first thing she said to me was, “Oh, you’re the woman who always wears the bandana! I see you at the market quite often.” Now, I find more and more, people seem to compliment me on the bandana I am wearing. I have collected quite a few unusual and colorful ones over the years! ~Jean

 Above: My dog, Juno, wearing his favorite bandana.

Read more about Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico on Taos A to Z

Monday, August 22, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Fish Tacos

Taco Ingredients:

2 cups chopped white onion, divided
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/4 cup olive oil
5 tbsp. fresh lime juice, divided
3 tbsp. fresh orange juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 pound tilapia, striped bass, or sturgeon fillets
Coarse ground salt
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. milk
Corn tortillas
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/2 small head of cabbage, cored, thinly sliced
Salsa Verde
Lime wedges


Stir 1 cup onion, 1/4 cup cilantro, oil, 3 tablespoons lime juice, orange juice, garlic, and oregano in medium bowl. Sprinkle fish with coarse salt and pepper. Spread half of onion mixture over bottom of 11 x 7 x 2 inch glass baking dish. Arrange fish atop onion mixture. Spoon remaining onion mixture over fish. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Turn fish; cover and chill 30 minutes longer. Whisk mayonnaise, milk, and the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice in small bowl.

Brush grill grate with oil; prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill fish with some marinade still clinging until just opaque in center, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Grill tortillas until slightly charred, about 10 seconds per side.

Coarsely chop fish; place on platter. Serve with lime mayonnaise, tortillas, the remaining 1 cup chopped onion, the remaining 1/2 cup cilantro, avocados, cabbage, Salsa Verde, and lime wedges.

Salsa Verde Ingredients:

2 large fresh Anaheim or other mild chiles
1/2 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and diced
1-1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 large green onions, chopped
1 large serrano chile, stemmed, and seeded
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (firmly packed)
1 tbsp. whipping cream
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice (optional)


Char chiles directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag; let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed and chop chilies.

Combine tomatillos, broth, green onions, serrano chile, and garlic in medium saucepan; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until mixture is reduced to 1-2/3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. Transfer mixture to blender. Add Anaheim chiles, cilantro and cream. Puree until smooth. Season salsa with salt and pepper. Add lime juice, if desired.


Find New Mexico grown, fresh roasted, frozen and prepared chiles

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Museums of Taos, New Mexico: A Taos Unlimited Blog Series, Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of blog entries about the museums in Taos and the surrounding area.

La Hacienda de los Martinez
One of the few remaining Northern New Mexico style Spanish Colonial “Great Houses” open to the public, this hacienda served as an important trade center between the northern frontier of the Spanish Empire and Mexico City.

Built in 1804, this fortress-like building with massive adobe walls became an important trade center for the northern boundary of the Spanish Empire. The Hacienda was the final terminus for the Camino Real (the royal road) which connected northern New Mexico to Mexico City. The Hacienda also was the headquarters for an extensive ranching and farming operation.

Severino and his wife Maria del Carmel Santistevan Martinez raised six children in the Hacienda. Their eldest son was the famous Padre Antonio Martinez who battled the French Bishop Lamy to preserve the Hispanic character of the Catholic Church in the territory. The Padre was a dynamic social reformer who created the first co-educational school in New Mexico and brought the first printing press to Taos.

Today, the Hacienda’s 21 rooms, surrounding two courtyards, provide the visitor with a rare glimpse of the rugged frontier life and times of the early 19th century.

To read about the other museums in Taos, New Mexico, visit the Museums section on Taos Unlimited

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Taos Mountain Music Festival

In August of 2009, approximately 4,000 people gathered in the village of Taos Ski Valley to enjoy the 1st Annual Taos Mountain Music Festival. Music lovers of all ages spent the day enjoying music, food and games on Taos Ski Valley’s Strawberry Hill.

Now in its third year, the Taos Mountain Music Festival is expanding. The festival has become so popular so quickly, that more music has been added, and this year’s festival is scheduled for August 20th and 21st.

It’s no surprise. The Taos Ski Valley is an ideal setting for an outdoor music festival. The festival site is located at the base of the Taos Ski Valley ski runs, and is surrounded by the Carson National Forest and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The Festival presents a wide spectrum of music, including Blues, Rock, Hip-Hop, Country, Latin, and Reggae. Festival promoters encourage bringing sunscreen, hats, lawn chairs, blankets, and warm clothes. A photo ID is required to purchase alcoholic beverages, and an ATM is on site. Sorry, pets are not allowed, but beach balls and hula hoops are encouraged.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hot Chili Days, Cool Mountain Nights

It’s the time of year that lends a fiery passion to New Mexico. Time for chile pickin’, chile roastin’, chile dryin’, and chili cook-offs.

Not surprisingly, Red River makes a big to-do out of it all, with its annual “Hot Chili Days, Cool Mountain Nights” Music Festival & Cook-off. This year the festival runs August 18th through 20th, and features the “Red River Red” CASI Chili Cook-off, the New Mexico State Green Chile Championship, and a Lone Star BBQ Society Cook-off. Well, that should be enough red or green chile for just about anyone!

This spicy three-day celebration combines a singer/songwriter music festival at venues throughout Red River from Thursday through Saturday, with multiple cook-offs in Brandenburg Park on Saturday.

The cook-off this year is the CASI (Chili Appreciation Society International) Four Corners Regional Cook-off, so Red River is expecting more chili cooks than ever. They are also hosting the Lonestar BBQ Society for their third cook-off in Red River, and are once again having the New Mexico State Green Chile Championship.

There will be a new overall “People’s Choice” category this year allowing for a huge prize (with cash) for the favorite entry in the PC category. This event is open to numerous recipes, including salsa, chili, green chile, jalapeno poppers, cobbler, beans, or whatever the cooks might dream up.

So make your way to Red River this weekend for some hot food and cool music.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Arroyo

Definition: “A steep-sided gully cut by running water in an arid or semi-arid region.” An arroyo is a nearly vertically walled, flat floored stream channel that forms in fine, cohesive, easily eroded material. Arroyos can cut as deeply as 65 feet into the valley floor, are often wider than 165 feet, and can be hundreds of miles long. Arroyos exist throughout the Western United States, but are most common in arid and semi-arid climates in the Southwest. They are found throughout New Mexico.

The rapid widening and deepening of arroyos have both changed the physical environment and been a costly nuisance in the West since settlement began in the mid-1800s. From 1870 to 1890, the number of livestock in New Mexico alone increased from 300,000 to 2,300,000. Valley floors, which were the most dependable forage areas for the animals, were quickly overgrazed. The fragile vegetation was consumed, and the soil was compacted and left extremely susceptible to erosion. To further exacerbate the soil conditions, both humans and livestock created trails along stream channels and nearby hillsides forming small ditches, leaving the land surface susceptible to arroyo formation. ~Aimee

Read more about Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico on Taos A to Z

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wild & Scenic Rivers, Part 3: The Pecos River

National Wild and Scenic River status is a designation made by Congress for the purpose of protecting naturally flowing rivers from development which would substantially change their wild or scenic nature.

Selected rivers in the United States are preserved under this designation for possessing “outstandingly remarkable” scenic, recreational, geologic, historic, or other similar values. Rivers, or sections of rivers, so designated are preserved in their free-flowing condition and are not dammed or otherwise impeded.

New Mexico has four designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, which include the Rio Grande, the Rio Chama, the Pecos River, and the east fork of the Jemez River. These rivers flow through some of the most breathtaking landscapes New Mexico has to offer.

Famous in the folklore of the Old West, the expression “West of the Pecos” made reference to the rugged frontiers of the Wild West in the latter half of the 19th century. The Rio Pecos played a large role in the exploration of the Southwest by the Spaniards.

The Pecos River headwaters are located north of Pecos, New Mexico, at an elevation of 12,000 feet. The river flows from the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains through the rugged granite canyons and high alpine meadows of the Pecos Wilderness, forming several waterfalls. The river flows a total of 926 miles through the Santa Fe National Forest in North Central New Mexico and neighboring Texas, before it empties into the Rio Grande near Del Rio. The Pecos is one of New Mexico’s most heavily fished trout streams.

The upper reaches of the Pecos flow through deep forest year-round. The river provides seasonal whitewater opportunities for canoeists and kayakers, and excellent year-round fly fishing. Other recreational activities on the Pecos River include mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, scenic drives, and wildlife viewing.

Find out more about New Mexico’s Wild & Scenic Rivers

Monday, August 1, 2011

Our 6th Great Year!

August 2011, marks our sixth great year at Taos Unlimited and Santa Fe Unlimited! From the conception of these two Southwestern-themed websites (which consisted simply of Aimee and I sitting on our porch laying the whole project out on paper), through the months of work we both did in website design and construction, to the two website portals as they exist today... well, it has been a labor of love that has proven successful beyond our wildest dreams.

And the creative ideas and work continues. Just this year we have added numerous sections and individual features to both sites. And at this writing, I am working on yet another major feature for the Western Funhouse section, while Aimee continues her work on many more fun and interesting features.

We love creating, developing, and designing for Taos Unlimited and Santa Fe Unlimited, and we see no end in site for the growth of these already huge websites. We want to take this opportunity to thank all our supporters over the last five years, and we look forward to the next five years being as exciting, expansive and successful as the ones we’ve already enjoyed. Thanks to all! ~Jean and Aimee

Visit Taos Unlimited and Santa Fe Unlimited