Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cook Locally

Cook locally

We took a little time out last week to play tourist in our new home region. We had a local Visitor's guide, and followed one of the day trips in in. Drove over to Mesilla, the Mission era town on the edge of Las Cruces. Once Mesilla and Las Cruces were separated by the Rio Grande and the border between the US and Mexico. Then the river moved. Mesilla retains a lot of colonial Spanish flavor, with an attractive cathedral on the town plaza, and Mission style architecture around it.

Then we drove down to Stahneman's. They have 180,000 thousand acres of Pecan trees. We had just missed the tasting tour. The drive between the orchards is very gracious, especially where the pecan trees have grown to stretch arching branches across the road, in a fashion I usually expect from elms. Stahneman's has a spacious gift shop -- selling pecan gift tins, specialty foods, candy, ice cream, kitchen accessories and cookbooks. We browsed for some time. Naturally the cookbooks took a fair portion of my attention. Only a few days before, I'd said I wanted local recipes so we could start taking more advantage of the local ingredients. I settled on _The Aficionado's Southwestern Cooking_ by Ronald Johnson. It seems to be a classic, and I liked the way he talked about ways to vary the recipes. No photos, friendly attitude, solid food.

So, last night we followed his recipe to make Green Sauce. This may be the most New Mexican of New Mexican foods. We are only 80 miles from Hatch, the Green Chile capitol of the world. And the state question of New Mexico is 'Red or Green?' -- meaning, which color of chile sauce would you like on your dinner? (Of course you want chile sauce on your dinner, what are you thinking?!) When we crossed the border to New Mexico on our second trip here, and discovered that the convenience store offered green chili for the nachos, Doug said, "Ah! I'm home!" So of course Green sauce is where we started our New Mexico style cooking.

We had found frozen green chile purée at Costco in Albuquerque -- I'm sure they've never carried it in Oregon -- so of course we had to quadruple the recipe to match the volume of chiles. Costco, you know. So we had enough to simmer two and a half pounds of cubed and browned pork, plus some to use as salsa and several more packages to freeze. It was labelled 'Hot' and is it ever! The pork chili verde was excellent! Made a very nice dinner with broccoli and refried beans.

Other local specialties are pecans and honey. We've eaten a lot of pecans since arriving. I'll be looking for recipes for them. And there are lots of fruits and vegetables grown locally.

In fact, there's a farmer's market this morning, and I think I'll go.

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