Recently I heavily adapted a few recipes from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen, using the on-farm ingredients we had on hand, to make a really nice multi-course pseudo-Mexican meal that was tied together by a few basic and seasonal (for us, anyway) ingredients. I doubt anyone will make this just as I describe it, but I want to share what I did to demonstrate a few useful techniques for combining similar ingredients in multiple ways. You could adapt this for all sorts of available inputs. I basically started with a simple pepper sauce made from our dried peppers, them used that in several related dishes. Using sweet potatoes instead of normal potatoes gives everything a really nice, rich color, and a sweeter flavor that balances spiciness nicely. As usual, our on-farm ingredients listed in italics.
BASIC PEPPER SAUCE (this ties everything else together)
1-2 dried chipotles
handful dried sweet peppers
handful dried tomatoes
2T roasted or chopped garlic
handful fresh cilantro
4-6oz scallions, chopped, tops reserved for soup
1 cup meat or vegetable broth
salt & pepper to taste
Puree or hand-grind the dried ingredients into a flaky powder (careful: pepper dust can be strong); I use a food processor. Reserve a bit for fried potatoes (below). Add the other ingredients and puree again until you have a thick sauce.
CREAMY PEPPER SOUP
Pepper sauce (above)
1/2-1 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 cup chopped sweet potatoes
Scallion tops (chopped, from sauce, above)
3-5 cups meat or vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk (or cream)
Cook the sauce over medium heat for a few minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer. Reserve 1 cup for cooking meat (below). Add potatoes & mushrooms and cook 1/2 hour or until tender. A few minutes before serving, add milk/cream and stir to combine. Serve topped with scallion greens.
TORTILLAS & FILLING
Tortillas (we make ours fresh)
1lb sweet potato, diced
Ground pepper spice from sauce (above)
Olive oil, salt, & pepper
1lb chicken breasts or other tender meat
1 cup reserved soup broth (above)
1 cup soft cheese (we use our fresh ricotta)
Place chicken or other meat in shallow baking dish. Pour soup broth over the meat and bake in a 350F oven for 45 minutes, until tender.
With 20 minutes to go on the meat, heat some oil in a heavy pan. Toss diced potatoes with pepper spice, oil, salt, & pepper. Fry, stirring frequently, until cooked.
Fill tortillas with meat, fried potatoes, chopped scallion greens, and cheese. Serve soup on side, topped with scallion greens. This goes especially well with a sweet, refreshing drink like mojitos.