Abdul the Spice Guy and Chile Class
We had a late morning start today so it allowed us all to sleep in a little and explore downtown Santa Fe a bit. The temperature was crisp but the sun burned bright to start warming up the day. The sky was clear and stunningly blue.
Our first stop was the Tesuque Pueblo Market, a market 15 minutes north of town that has vendors that sell everything from rugs, Native American jewelry, apples and art. We met up with Abdul, an Egyptian man who specialized in organic quality spices from both “East and West” to quote his philosophy. He loves a crowd and after a quick greeting, was immediately on, talking a million miles a minute to describe his wares. He carries a number of different red chile spices, from a hot Ancho powder from Hatch to a medium-hot red chile powder and a flake from Chimayo. I always come back for his green chile powder (also from Hatch) and his smoked chipotle and I ration them when I get home. He hand-assembles a layered “chef’s blend” with his many spices, made to your preferred heat level. It includes red and green chile powder, Mexican oregano, tumeric (!), Zataar, chile flakes, and smoked chipotle. We grabbed a quick lunch at the food vendors there and, laden with new cowboy boots, rug, and beads, we started the fifteen minute drive back to town for our chile cooking class at the Santa Fe Cooking School.
Rocky Durham, the entertaining and chatty culinary director of the Santa Fe Cooking School, taught our “Chile Amor!” class that day. I had met Rocky, a native New Mexican, on my last trip and was struck by his passion for local food in general, and New Mexican foods especially. He talked to us about the essential NM ingredients: corn, beans, peppers, squash, potato, tomatoes, chocolate, and vanilla; some of which are native and some were brought by the Spanish. (I bet you can guess which.) He showed us how to grind dry corn with a mocajete (a hefty morter and pestle), and make the masa, or corn flour, into tortillas. We got to press them ourselves and toast them on griddle or “plancha”. We also hand roasted the green chiles, in perfect season now, until the skins charred. We then steamed them in sealed plastic bags, which allowed us to scrape the tender skins off easily. WE did this with gloves on, however, so as not to scald our fingers. Although Rocky did it with his bare hands, of course. We also learned how to make both red and green chile sauce. The class concluded with local wine all around and each table got to nibble on fresh tortilla, local South Mountain goat cheese, and red and green chile sauce.