Saturday, September 23, 2006

mole'chiladas, 3-beans and a sweet thing (friday night's menu)

Man, I love chocolate. On my trip into the Sierras, I ate it everyday, as I am sure many other backpackers do. It is certainly a time when you can justify the calories. Chocolate is a good way to have a high-calorie per unit weight food (not the best, but palatability can be a huge factor in the back-country,) it is good for fiber (that is, if you like it dark, less sweet, and in quantity) and needs no preparation (in bar form.) This photo, upon review of my trip, was taken on the first night that I didn't eat chocolate for dinner. The previous two nights were too cold to justify spending time cooking much of anything. When the wind calmed for a day, and I feasted on that gorgeous Sierra afternoon and evening (see previous post) I was full when it came time for dessert. I may have skipped eating chocolate that night, but I thought about it. I thought mortar and pestle. I thought mole. This sat in the rock-like vessel of my head, and was ground around for a few days until my first real opportunity to cook something that would take much more than an hour. With a guest from the past having dinner with us, I had occasion to make what had been mashed. Dark chocolate ancho mole.

I knew what I wanted in it, but the proportions were lacking. I began my search for a new recipe by consulting recipelink and decided that as usual, recipes are really just outlines. The resulting concoction is something I am quite proud of.

I began with 2 ounces of dried ancho chili peppers that I seeded and stemmed and put in warm water to soak for about an hour. While this was happening I ground 1/2t coriander and 1/4t cinnamon stick in the mortar. To this I added 1T sesame seeds and almost 1/2c blanched slivered almonds. When this was a nice consistent paste I added 1/4t ground clove and then began adding the chili peppers after mincing them in batches. Upon pastiness being reached I added 2 large cloves of minced garlic and about 2T powdered chocolate. This looked nice, but needed the dried fruit component (raisens?) The monkey suggested that we go out in the yard and pick some blackberries and I thought, "what a great idea!" so we went out in the yard and harvested some blackberries and strawberries (they are on the way to the blackberries.) About 1/4c of mixed berries made it in the mole and I continued to pound, pound, pound, grind, grind, grind. In went 1/2 a yellow onion (chopped) and then yet more grinding and pounding. At this point there was too much in the mortar to contain, so I opted to start sauteeing the paste in a few tablespoons of olive oil, figuring that the onion would break down just fine. Over a medium heat, I heated the chocolatey paste for about 15 minutes and then added about 1c veggie stock and began simmering. This continued for about an hour, with frequent additions of 1/4 - 1/2 cup of stock to keep it from becoming too thick. In the end, it was a thick dark paste, begging to become enchilada sauce.

As this was cooking I boiled some water and added 1c israeli couscous. After ten minutes I drained it and gave it a qiuck rinse and then added some canola oil to it while I began chopping 2 nectarines and 1/2c toasted and salted almonds. I added these to the couscous with the juice of 1 lime and a good 1/2t of "oh Peggy Hill, this need nutmeg!." The result was nice, but not as sweet as I was envisioning so I added some agave nectar to taste. Hmmmm, still not right. I look down at the monkey as she grabs a dried fig from the counter and once again I am inspired. In goes about 8 fried figs, all chopped up, and now it is just right. All together, it was sweet and nutty, and kinda like a dessert pasta salad, if you can picture such a thing.

I'd also been jonesing for a 3 bean salad, and Barbara had bestowed upon me a ton of fresh herbs during my last visit so I was primed for an herby, oil and lemon coated salad. I used 1 can each of organic garbanzos, white kidneys (cannellini) and pintos. To these I added from the garden 4 small diced tomatoes, 1 largish zucchini (julienned for a short noodle-like effect,) 1/2 cup thinly disced baby carrots, 1/4 cup chopped basil, 1T oregano, 1t rosemary, and 1T of fresh thyme and 1/4c parsley from Barbara. For the dressing I used 1/4c of the mildest olive oil we have and the juice of 1 lemon, plus salt and pepper to taste.

With the salads complete, I sliced 1/2lb of crimini mushrooms and a large onion and began sauteeing them in some olive oil. Shortly after, I crumbled in a block of tofu (quickly sliced and hand pressed.) After the onion and tofu were getting golden yellow, I removed the mixture from the pan and added veggie stock (2c maybe) to de-glaze. I then added about 1c of the mole and stirred it in. The resulting sauce was intoxicating. I soaked 3 tortillas (blue corn) at a time in the sauce and commenced enchilada construction. Along with the sauteed mush/onion/tofu combo I added grated vegan spicey cheddar. With 6 enchiladas in a small square pan, I doused it with the remaining sauce, a touch of the cheddar, and baked it covered with foil at 350 for about 30 minutes.

The baked mole'chiladas completely satified the chocolatl yearnings. The bean salad was tangy and herby, while the couscous was sweet and nutty. Together, they tested many parts of the palatte, and to me, seemed to please them all. It was a foray into some new territory, that resulted in "Ohh, that's good" from a few at the table (see ya soon M.)


cookiecrumb said...

Yikes, that's a lot of cooking for one meal! And such a celebration of diversity. Your mole looks fab; I love that you used fruit from the yard.
(Your sainted sister sent me over here to take a peek at your blog.)
Good stuff.

cookiecrumb said...

I have to bother you with one more comment. Go see this mole preparation. OMG.