Monday, September 26, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Ristra

A method of hanging chiles, garlic and other foodstuffs on a string for drying and storage. They are commonly used for decoration inside and outside adobe houses in Taos and Santa Fe. New Mexican legend has it that hanging a ristra outside your home brings good luck. ~Aimee

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

Friday, September 23, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Chile Rellenos


6 Fresh green chiles of a mild variety such as Ancho, Pablano or Anaheim
1/2 pound Queso Blanco or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
(shredded spiced chicken may be used with or instead of the cheese)
1/4 cup flour
6 raw eggs (separated)
2 cups salsa verde and/or 2 cups Homestyle Salsa
1 cup vegetable oil, plus oil to coat chiles
Salt to taste   


Rinse the chiles. Preheat oven to broil.

Coat chiles evenly with vegetable oil. Do not use olive oil, as it has a low smoke point. Place the chiles in a 9 x 14 baking dish and place on the top shelf of your oven.

Keep a close watch on the chiles. When the skins start to char and turn black in places, take the chiles out and flip them over. When both sides are fairly evenly charred, remove them from the oven.

Place chiles in a paper bag, roll the tip closed, and allow the chiles to steam. After a few minutes, check the skins. When the skin comes off easily, peel the chiles.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, slit each pepper lengthwise. You may remove the stem or cut around it according to your preference. Remove the seeds and pulp, and with the back of your knife, gently scrape off any stray seeds which remain.

Fill the chiles. Fillings should be at room temperature or slightly chilled. If fillings are hot, the juices will flow out and cause the coating to slide off.

Use enough filling to stuff each chile relleno as completely as possible, but not so much that the seam won't hold together. Once the chiles are stuffed, you can set them aside for a few minutes or a few hours in the refrigerator.

Whip the egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer, until stiff peaks have formed.

Heat the oil in a skillet until a drop of water sizzles when dropped into the pan.

Beat the egg yolks with one tablespoon flour and salt. Mix the yolks into egg whites and stir to a thick paste.

Roll the chiles in 1/4 cup flour and dip each one in the egg batter. Coat evenly. Fry, seam side down on both sides until golden brown. Place on paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, heat the salsa in a medium saucepan (either one or some of each). Place one or two rellenos on each plate and pour salsa over them. Serve immediately.


Purchase fresh or frozen flame-roasted New Mexico chiles

Monday, September 19, 2011

High Desert Plants & Wildlife: A Taos Unlimited Blog Series, Part 4

Juniper Trees
Juniper is a coniferous plant of the cypress family, with more than 50 varieties ranging all the way from the arctic to tropical Africa. This 25- to 50-foot tree is common in the Southwest, where it causes severe allergic reactions in much of the population during late winter and early spring when it is in flower. Juniper berries are actually a modified pine cone, with fleshy scales that merge together to form an outer skin over the seed, giving it a berry-like appearance. The berries start out green, ripening into a blue, purple or nearly black color in 10 to 18 months, depending on the variety. Trees will typically contain berries at all stages of the ripening process.

Juniper is durable, adaptable and tolerates extremes of both heat and cold, making it a commonly used element in landscaping. This versatile plant includes tall tree, bushy, and creeping ground cover varieties. The trees are also some of the most popular species chosen for bonsai.

With the exception of a few juniper species, specimens have two types of leaves. Seedlings and occasional twigs of mature trees have needle-like leaves, while the mature plants produce tiny, overlapping, scaly leaves.

Several species of butterfly larvae feed exclusively on juniper, including the Juniper Carpet, Juniper Pug and Pine Beauty.

While highly toxic, juniper berries are used for medicinal purposes, in cooking and for other flavorings. Perhaps the best known use of these highly aromatic berries is the use of green berries in the flavoring of gin, which explains the particularly bad hangover that overindulgence in gin produces. In addition, the beautiful ripe blue to purple-black berries are used in numerous culinary applications, including a sauce for game meats, such as quail, pheasant, rabbit, boar, and venison. Juniper berries are typically used in Norwegian and Swedish dishes, and sometimes in German, Austrian, Czech, and Hungarian cuisine, often to flavor roasts. Northern Italian cuisine sometimes incorporates juniper berries, as well. While thought of mostly as a flavoring for the game meats and fowl, juniper berries also complement pork and beef dishes. Their pungent, piney flavor is particularly suited to marinades and sauces with black pepper, garlic, sage, thyme, or rosemary.

Juniper berries have diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, and are used medicinally to treat a wide range of ailments, including asthma, arthritis, rheumatism, and to hasten childbirth. An infusion of juniper berries can be used as a topical antiseptic to treat wounds, acne and other skin disorders, including growths. The antiseptic action of juniper moves through the body, disinfecting the digestive system, relieving ulcers, colitis and urinary infections. It also removes uric acid from the body, relieving gout and kidney disease. High in natural insulin, juniper was used by certain Indian tribes to treat diabetes, as a contraceptive, and as an appetite suppressant in times of hunger or famine. A folk tale reported in Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs mentions more esoteric uses for juniper: “The plant’s pungent aroma has long recommended it for driving away evil spirits and disease. Legend has it that juniper planted beside the front door will keep out witches; the only way for a witch to get past the plant was by correctly counting its needles.”

See more about Northern New Mexico Plants & Wildlife on Taos Unlimited

Monday, September 12, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Chamisa

Chamisa (also known as Rabbitbush) is a member of the Asteraceae family. It is a deciduous shrub, similar to sagebrush with a native range in the arid Western United States and Mexico. It is a shrubby, 12- to 90-inch perennial, producing pungent-smelling, golden-yellow flowers in late summer and early fall. Chamisa is seen literally everywhere in Northern New Mexico and is synonymous with the landscape of both Santa Fe and Taos. Chamisa is a significant source of food for browsing wildlife on winter ranges. Dense stands of chamisa often grow on poorly managed rangelands, in disturbed areas along roadways, and on abandoned agricultural property. It is, however, locally prized as a xeriscape plant that needs little care or specific watering. It thrives in a wide range of coarse, alkaline soils that are common to desert environments. Pruning the shrub back to several inches in early spring, before new growth begins, may help improve its ornamental value. I love chamisa! ~Jean

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