Monday, December 10, 2012

Gettin' Spicy

One of the things I love most about urban living is the bodega, that little corner store that has a just a little bit of everything in it.

There are about four within walking distance of my apartment, and each one has it's own distinct character.  There's the Italian grocery with oodles of pastas, grains, and pickled salads; the predominantly Eastern European store offering up strange cuts of meats and curious packages with lots of "K"s and "W"s on the labels.  And two Mexican bodegas with a host of fresh produce and spices galore.

Feeling adventurous, I trotted on over to the rack filled with dried chiles in cellophane bags with red, white, and green labels, and I grabbed two: chiles de árbol and cascabel chiles.  Chiles de árbol are basically a substitute for cayenne, small and spicy.  Cascabels are gorgeous, chocolate brown little bundles of smoky, lightly spicy love.  I figured the combination of the two would make for an amazing backbone for some hearty, winter dishes.

Here's what I came up with.

*You can find these chiles in most grocery stores.  Look for them in the produce section (on that strange rotating rack of bagged spices that you never look at) or near the end of the Mexican aisle!

Cascabel Spiced Eggplant and Zucchini with Wilted Kale

The warm, earthy notes of the cascabel chiles mixed with the slight heat of the chiles de árbol are perfect on a cold winter's night!

1 medium eggplant, diced into 3/4" cubes
2 zucchini, diced into 3/4" cubes
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 cups kale, stemmed
1 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes, coarsely chopped
5 dried cascabel chiles
3 dried chiles de árbol
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup Roasted Veggie Stock
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cumin
2 Tbl olive oil

Place cascabel and chiles de árbol in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Set aside for 10 minutes.

While the chiles steep, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, stir to coat onions, and cook for 1 minute.  Add eggplant and zucchini, and saute until veggies begin to brown but still have some bite to them, about 7-10 minutes.

While veggies cook, drain the softened chiles reserving the liquid.  Place chiles in a food processor or blender with one half of the liquid.  Puree until smooth.

Once the veggies have browned a bit, stir in tomatoes, the chile puree, and the remainder of the steeping liquid.  Simmer for about 10-12 minutes, reducing the liquid.  Add kale and veggie stock, stirring until just wilted.

Serve over rice, grains, pasta, or large pieces of grilled bread rubbed with garlic.

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