The Red Sauce

I use several kinds of chile sauces when I'm cooking Mexican food - green, yellow, white, creamy, but probably the most used in my kitchen is the red sauce.

I made a red enchilada sauce a few weeks ago with New Mexico red dried peppers that Rich, my husband, bought from a street vendor in Tucson. One day, we were going to have a potluck at work and somebody volunteered me to bring the salsa, but I forgot to make it. On the day of the potluck, I got up early in the morning and remembered that I was supposed to bring the salsa. I looked into my refrigerator and saw a jar halfway full with enchilada sauce but no hot salsa. I grabbed the enchilada sauce, a couple of jalapeño peppers, one tomato and some leftover cilantro. I blended it all together, placed it in a jar and took off for work with my improvised salsa, hoping that people would like it even a little. To my surprise, everyone loved it, including myself!

Here is the recipe for my original enchilada sauce and a tip on how to turn extra enchilada sauce into a great hot salsa (when one forgets to make one from scratch).

Enchilada Sauce with Sunflower Seeds

10 New Mexico dried red peppers
1 T pepper seeds
2 T sunflower seeds
1 T dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion
salt to taste

Clean and divein the peppers scraping the seeds. Save 1 Table spoon of seeds and discard the rest. Toast pepper seeds and sunflower seeds in a dry cast iron pan until they become aromatic. Remove from the pan. Next toast the oregano until it becomes aromatic, it will only take seconds. Grind all three ingredients in a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Briefly toast the peppers being careful not to burn them. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 15 minutes until they rehydrate and become very soft. In the same pan, roast the onion (peeled) and garlic (with paper on) until they become tender. Peel the garlic, drain the peppers saving about 1/2 cup of the soaking water and transfer all ingredients into a blender or food processor; purée until smooth. Pass the sauce through a semi fine strainer, discard the solids left on the strainer and store the sauce in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.

This sauce is not spicy as New Mexico peppers are not too hot but if you like it milder, you can roast one tomato and add it to the blender before puréeing.

I use this sauce for enchiladas but when I have a little extra, I boil one tomato with one or two jalapeño peppers. Place them in a blender with the extra sauce and a handful of cilantro, purée and turn it into a hot salsa.


The Other Kind of Leftovers

Leftover meals are some of the best food, some people say and I agree! There is nothing better then a fried tamal the day after Christmas, or reheated chilaquiles for lunch (chilaquiles are a breakfast meal). These are one kind of leftovers but there is another kind of leftover food that forces me to be creative with dinners.

Towards the end of the week, when almost all my groceries are gone and I don't feel like going grocery shopping, I have to use the little pieces and bits of leftover produce, cheese and sauces that are in my fridge. I don't know why but at the end of the week, I always end up with little containers of tomato sauce. Plastic bags that store a piece of vegetable or three or four green beans, or a very small amount of cheese but I don't have any tortillas to make a quesadilla and there are no more leftovers from last night's dinner. This is when I ask myself; What should we have for dinner? It is time for the other kind of leftovers.

Here are two very good dinners that I made with leftover food. They turned out very nice!

Eggplant Rolls
(with leftover
lasagna ingredients)

2 thin slices (length wise) of eggplant
4 T of cheese mixture (ricotta, parmesan, egg, crushed red pepper, and black pepper)
1/2 c homemade marinara sauce (this is what made this meal special!)
2 slices of mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350°
Blanch the eggplant slices in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl full of cold water to stop the cooking. When cold enough to handle, spread 2 Ts of cheese mixture on each slice of eggplant, form into a roll and place in an ovenproof dish. Pour the sauce over the rolls and bake covered for approximately 15 minutes. Top each roll with 1 slice of mozzarella, and continue baking until the cheese melts. Serve hot.

Gilled Cheese Sandwich and Veggies
(with leftovers cheeses, green beans and fennel)

For the sandwich:

1 Ciabatta bread, sliced
2-4 slices of cheese (my leftovers were colby jack, fontina and ricotta salata)
3-4 spinach leaves

Spread the inside of the bread with as little or as much mayonnaise as you like, top one half of the bread with layers of cheese, spinach and more cheese and cover with the other half of bread. Grill in a panini press or a griddle until the cheese melts. The ricotta will not melt but it gives this sandwich a very nice salty flavor.

For the veggies:

1T olive oil
1 handful of green beans, trimmed
1/4 head of fennel, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
salt and black pepper to taste

In a shallow pan, heat the oil, add the veggies and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes or until desired doneness (I like them crunchy). Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy.

Para leer en Español pulse aquí: La Otra Clase de Sobrantes


A Thousand Zucchinis in One Little Garden/ Miles de Calabacitas en un Jardin Muy Pequeño

Greetings from my beautiful garden! I would like to share some pictures of my zucchini and squash, tomatoes and tomatillo plants!

The first photo is from last year. My plants produced beautiful flowers but not very many squash. The center photo is my garden today. I planted four tomato plants (San Marzano, grape tomatoes, and two kinds of heirlooms that my mother gave me). I also have two tomatillo plants and a basil plant. But I have lots of squash! It looks like all the seeds that I sowed germinated without any trouble. My mother-in-law said that I will have enough squash to feed the entire County of San Diego but I will be very happy if I get enough for my household. The last photo is what I expect to harvest very soon. I can't wait!

On the other side of the garden (I have not taken pictures yet) I'm growing serrano peppers, beets, three kinds of potatoes, fennel, carrots, lettuce, garlic, onion chives and herbs of various kinds - parsley, mint , oregano, basil, chamomile, thyme, sage, lemon verbena and a bay tree that is still very, very small.

Last year I did not have much luck with my squash and my tomatoes but I harvested sweet potato, lettuce and purslane, and my basil and parsley plants lasted almost all year. I did have some good tomatoes and some squash last year but this year, I hope to have an abundance of vegetables. What about you? What do you have in your garden this year? Send me a little note.

Here is a recipe for a simple but delicious soup that I love to cook. I got the recipe from a women at work (Marenda) about 5 years ago and now is one of my favorites.

Potato and Summer Squash Soup with Mint

Serves 4-5

1 yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbs. olive oil
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 red potatoes, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small yellow squash, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small mexican squash, trimmed and thinly sliced*
1 cup of small dried pasta shapes or couscous
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, add the zucchini, yellow and mexican squash, and cook until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Add the pasta or couscous and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Stir in the mint.
Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

*Note- I use 3 kinds of squash to make this soup colorful but you can use only 1 kind if you want, it won't affect the flavor.