March 18, 2011
Authors Kraig Kraft, Gary Paul Nabhan and Chef Kurt Michael Friese (all three involved in Edible Communities magazines) traveled the Southwest and Mexico searching out the story of climate change, the most controversial topic of our time, narrowed through the lens of the tiny yet iconic chile pepper and those who farm, cook and eat this fiery and culturally symbolic ingredient. “We had a hunch that climate change wasn’t just out there—in the polar ice caps and in receding glaciers—but in here, in our food system, in our daily bread as well,” the three self-proclaimed “chileheads” write in the introduction. Surprisingly, the chile is a perfect food to follow; it has spread in various varieties to all six inhabited continents and has found its way into main dishes of numerous ethnicities. Part travel narrative, part gastro-exploration, the first chapter had me hooked. I was also pleasantly surprised to read about a pepper that takes its name from a city right here in Wisconsin.
Read the rest at NOTABLE EDIBLES | Spring 2011.
February 25, 2011
Photo by Gary Paul Nabhan
Excerpted from chapter 3 of Chasing Chiles:
One of the most delightful food discoveries for us in Mérida was xnipek (pronounced SHNEE-peck). The name comes from the Mayan language and means “dog’s nose.” Unappetizing as that might sound at first, rest assured there is no dog in the recipe. It’s simply a reference to this salsa’s heat level. Hot chiles can cause the nose to run, thus the metaphor.
There’s more to xnipek than just heat, though. It not only uses the Yucatecan powerhouse chile—the habanero—but also includes the native fruit known as naranja agria, or bitter orange, which is also the secret to great Yucatecan escabeche. It’s hard to find fresh in the States, so there’s a brief recipe for a reasonable facsimile following our rendition of this fiery relish.
We found many versions of xnipek in our travels around the Yucatán. All had the habanero and bitter orange, but beyond that they varied widely. This is why we prefer the term genuine to authentic—it allows for many interpretations while still remaining true to tradition.
Xnipek is one of the salsas collectively referred to as Pico de Gallo, or “beak of the chicken,” a reference either to the size of the chopped ingredients or to chicken feed. It’s made of many ingredients chopped together to form more of a relish than a sauce (or salsa). Our favorite renditions include the unique addition of fresh cabbage, which adds another layer of flavor and crunch.
February 23, 2011
An excerpt from Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft and Gary Paul Nabhan, Chelsea Green Publishing, March 2011.
When we crossed the US–Mexico border into the estado de Sonora, we could feel something different in the landscape. It was especially visible along the roadsides, a feeling that was palpable in the dusty air. Less than half an hour south of Nogales, Arizona, we began to see dozens of street vendors on the edge of the highway, hawking their wares. There were fruit stands, ceviche and fish tacos in seafood carts, tin-roofed barbacoa huts, and all sorts of garish concrete and soapstone lawn ornaments clumped together. Amid all the runof-the-mill street food and tourist kitsch, we sensed that we might just discover something truly Sonoran.
Dozens of long strings of dried crimson peppers called chiles de sarta hung from the beams of the roadside stands, ready for making moles and enchilada sauces. Hidden among them were “recycled” containers used to harbor smaller but more potent peppers: old Coronita beer bottles and the familiar curvy Coca-Cola silhouette filled with homemade pickled wild green chiltepines. These were what we sought—little incendiary wild chiles, stuffed into old bottles like a chile Molotov cocktail and sold on the street.
via FINDING THE WILDNESS OF CHILES IN SONORA | Spring 2011.