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Mellow Red Chile Salsa with Sweet Garlic and Roasted Tomatoes

Mellow Red Chile Salsa with Sweet Garlic and Roasted Tomatoes

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Heat the broiler to high. Pull the steams off the dried chiles, tear them open, and shake out the seeds. Place in a bowl, cover with hot tap water, and lay a plate on top to keep them submerged.

Lay the whole tomatoes on a broiler pan or baking sheet. Set as close to the broiler as possible and broil until darkly roasted and blacked in spots, about 6 minutes. With a pair of tongs, flip over the tomatoes and roast them until they are cooked through, about another 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Turn the oven down to 425 degrees. Separate the onion rings and combine with the garlic on a baking sheet. Cook in the oven until the onions are soft and beautifully roasted, adn the garlic is soft and browned in spots, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

If you're not inclined toward rustic textures in your salsa, pull off the peels from the cooled tomatoes and cut out the "cores" where the steams were attached. By now, the chiles should be soft. Drain the chiles and combine with the tomatoes and their juice in a blender. Process to a rather smooth purée — chile skins are tough, so careful to make sure you've chopped them enough. Scrap 2/3 of the purée into a large bowl. Roughly chop the onion-garlic mixture, then add it to the blender and pulse repeatedly until all is finely chopped. Scrape down the sides from time to time to keep everything moving evenly, and if the mixture just won't move through the baldes, add a little water to loosen it up. Scrape the purée into the bowl. Stir in the oregano and vinegar, then add enough water to give this salsa a light consistency.

Taste and season highly with salt — remember, it's a condiment, so a heavy dose of salt will go a long way. Taste again and add a little sugar if you think it's necessary to balance any lingering bitterness in the chiles. If you're planning to use your salsa right away, simply put it into a bowl, otherwise refrigerate and use within 5 days.

Favorite salsa recipes?


Full Member

Post by felicity on May 6, 2021 16:05:33 GMT -5

Senior Member

Post by gummybear on May 6, 2021 16:12:43 GMT -5

Full Member

Post by satsuma on May 6, 2021 16:24:40 GMT -5

I always chop by hand so no tips on using the blender, but I know that onions can be tricky. Too fine of a chop and you can end up with really pungent onion flavors. I also always use canned tomatoes. So much easier than using fresh. My favorite are the Muir Glen fire roasted ones. I think I usually use one can diced and one can crushed, but I'm not 100% sure on that. It's a lot of eyeballing what looks right.

It's usually something like:
Several cloves of garlic crushed with salt
part of an onion
one bell pepper
2 jalapenos - wear gloves when chopping, that oil takes forever to wash off skin
1 15oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 15oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
chopped cilantro
lime juice

Full Member

Post by felicity on May 6, 2021 16:35:06 GMT -5

I always chop by hand so no tips on using the blender, but I know that onions can be tricky. Too fine of a chop and you can end up with really pungent onion flavors. I also always use canned tomatoes. So much easier than using fresh. My favorite are the Muir Glen fire roasted ones. I think I usually use one can diced and one can crushed, but I'm not 100% sure on that. It's a lot of eyeballing what looks right.

It's usually something like:
Several cloves of garlic crushed with salt
part of an onion
one bell pepper
2 jalapenos - wear gloves when chopping, that oil takes forever to wash off skin
1 15oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 15oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
chopped cilantro
lime juice

Senior Member

Post by sameoldstory on May 6, 2021 16:40:53 GMT -5

Full Member

Post by felicity on May 6, 2021 16:48:07 GMT -5

Senior Member

Post by basilosaurus on May 6, 2021 20:09:58 GMT -5

Full Member

Post by ny96 on May 6, 2021 20:44:46 GMT -5


Post by redheadk on May 6, 2021 21:47:44 GMT -5

Junior Member
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Post by axh2277 on May 7, 2021 7:44:47 GMT -5

I make this salsa and it's hands down so good. I won't bar jarred anymore.

Senior Member

Post by bex1973 on May 7, 2021 8:10:54 GMT -5

Junior Member
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Post by turbo on May 7, 2021 8:20:51 GMT -5

This salsa is amazing and so, so easy.

Six roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
One jalapeño, seeded and halved lengthwise
Half a yellow onion, sliced into 1/4” thick rings
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro
2ish tablespoons fresh mint

Turn on your broiler to high.
On a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, arrange the roma tomatoes, jalapeño, and onion slices in a single layer. Broil for 8-12 minutes, until things start to char. Remove from oven and cool. Then add to food processor (with any juices from pan) along with kosher salt, rice vinegar, mint, and cilantro, and pulse to desired consistency. Refrigerate at least one hour to allow items to cool and flavors to blend.

It’s restaurant quality. So freaking good.

Full Member

Post by felicity on May 7, 2021 8:40:49 GMT -5

This salsa is amazing and so, so easy.

Six roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
One jalapeño, seeded and halved lengthwise
Half a yellow onion, sliced into 1/4” thick rings
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup packed chopped cilantro
2ish tablespoons fresh mint

Turn on your broiler to high.
On a rimmed baking pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, arrange the roma tomatoes, jalapeño, and onion slices in a single layer. Broil for 8-12 minutes, until things start to char. Remove from oven and cool. Then add to food processor (with any juices from pan) along with kosher salt, rice vinegar, mint, and cilantro, and pulse to desired consistency. Refrigerate at least one hour to allow items to cool and flavors to blend.

It’s restaurant quality. So freaking good.

Full Member

Mellow Red Chile Salsa with Sweet Garlic and Roasted Tomatoes - Recipes

Situated close to the Washington Dulles Airport, we took our design inspiration from aviation and air travel. The interior of our restaurant is modeled after the inside of an old aircraft hangar, with décor inspired by the history of flight, the restaurant’s art features includes illuminated globes and airplane propellers suspended from the ceiling, and a giant, colorful bust of Amelia Earhart. This exterior of our Mellow Mushroom also features bright, eye catching mural work from the incredible artist, MADSTEEZ.

About Mellow Mushroom Chantilly, VA

Close to Centreville, Fairfax, Arlington, Vienna, Clifton, Ashburn, Leesburg, Gainesville, Oakton, and Falls Church, it’s not just visitors who come for our incredible food and unique atmosphere, area locals come in regularly for the very best pizza, cold beer, craft cocktails, and a great time – and bring your canine friend when you come dine on our pet friendly patio! Come join us and try your new favorite pizza at Mellow Mushroom!

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Cheese Pizza V GF

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Balsamic marinated Tempeh layered on top of lettuce, Roma tomatoes, and melted Follow Your Heart Vegan Cheese. Finished with grilled onions, mushrooms and green peppers.

half: (cal 580) whole: (cal 1170)

Vegan Veg Out V

Mellow takes veggies to the max. This pie starts with Mellow red sauce layered with Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, spinach, green peppers, sliced mushrooms, sweet onions, black olives and Roma tomatoes. Don’t worry we have removed the butter and parmesan finish.

Small (cal 380)
Medium (cal 450)
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The Ultimate Mellow: this pie starts with Gluten-free crust (available only in size small) and Mellow red sauce, mozzarella, topped with pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, honey ham, applewood-smoked bacon, black olives, sliced mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, green peppers, sweet onions and the finishing touch…more mozzarella.

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Individually wrapped brownie, baked with cage-free eggs, a blend of gluten-free flour, sustainable chocolate and ingredients free of GMOs and artificial additives. (cal 360)

Calzones Calzones

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Spinach, mushrooms, roma tomatoes, seasoned ricotta, mozzarella, and provolone.
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Mozzarella, provolone and seasoned ricotta.


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Start with a cheese calzone and add your favorite ingredients.

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Your choice of teriyaki tempeh or tofu with provolone, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, mayo, lettuce and roma tomatoes.

half tofu: (cal 450-460) whole tofu: (cal 900-930)
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Simple, yet lively. This Cuban-inspired hoagie comes with grilled pork, ham, pickle slices, Swiss cheese melted on top and the perfect amount of mustard.

half: (cal 640-650) whole: (1270-1290)


Balsamic marinated tempeh layered on top of mayo, lettuce, Roma tomatoes, and melted provolone. Finished with grilled onions, mushrooms and green peppers.

half: (cal 580-590) whole: (cal 1170-1190)


Mayo, lettuce, and Roma tomatoes, melted provolone, choice of grilled, shaved all-natural ribeye steak or teriyaki chicken, grilled onions, mushrooms and green peppers.

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Add two additional ingredients of your choice from the following list below:
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Avocado (cal 50)
Cheddar cheese (cal 110)
Swiss cheese (cal 100)
Bleu cheese (cal 80)
Applewood smoked bacon (cal 160)


Finished with swiss, caramelized onions, garlic aioli, romaine lettuce, sliced tomato and pickle chips.

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Specialty Pizzas

Vegan Cheese can be subbed onto any specialty pizza

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Build Your Own Salad / Pizza

Advise Vegan on ALL orders & NO Butter or Parmesan on the Crust of Pizza

  • Salad Base Choices ( Your Choice of Base plus 3 Ingredients–List Below )
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    (Pick Your Base Sauce & Pizza Size – Small, Medium or Large. Gluten Free Crust is only available on 10″)

    Salad / Pizza Ingredient Choices (

    GF = Gluten Free S = Available for Salads Only * = These items count as 2 Ingredients)

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    Vegan Cheese can be subbed onto any sandwich

    • Avocado Hoagie on French or Multigrain Roll. Order with NO mayo.
    • Tempeh or Tofu Hoagie on French or Multigrain Roll. Order with NO mayo.


    Vegan Cheese can be subbed onto any salad

    • Greek Salad with Vegan Dressing below. Order with NO feta cheese.
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    Vegan Salad Dressing / Sauces

    • Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
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    • Sweet Chili Glaze
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    Please Note: The Tofu & Tempeh can be prepared in your choice of sauce: BBQ, Herb Vinaigrette, or Jerk

    THE CHILE ENCYCLOPEDIA / Making sense of summer's dizzying array of fresh chiles

    One of my first food memories -- my own Proust's madeleine, if you will -- is the damp, pungent smell of red chile puree in the kitchen of my grandmother.

    Of course, I didn't know then that I was growing up in an ethnic kitchen. Chiles were a part of our most important dishes, and I just assumed that everyone else loved them, too.

    Not so. My college roommate from Oregon had to be resuscitated with bread, iced tea and ice cream after eating the tamales that Grandmama had made for my homecoming.

    But time didn't stand still. The same people who didn't eat chiles a decade ago are now swearing to addiction. There is a chipotle chile restaurant in Colorado in Ohio they're going mad over habanero- based hot sauce. Chiles have entered the mainstream -- by the side door of the ethnic kitchen.

    Fiery cuisines across the globe have fueled the interest, but in the United States the phenomenon has its roots solidly in native and Latino cultures.

    Chiles have starred in the native kitchen of the Americas since time immemorial. In the 15th century, Bartolome de las Casas, one of the first Spaniards to write about Mexico, had a succinct comment about the foods of the Native Americans:

    "Sin chile, no creen que estan comiendo!" ("Without chile, they don't think they are eating!")

    Even though chile consumption is skyrocketing, confusion still reigns. Grocers and growers alike are often casual about chile names. And in California, during peak season -- now through early fall -- the dozen or so fresh chiles that are usually available will confuse the issue even more.

    What's the best way to use each chile? What chiles go well together? What can you substitute if the one you're looking for proves elusive?

    Here's a quick rundown on a variety of increasingly common chiles:


    -- Anaheims. These are the most common chile available -- long, green, and gentle as a lamb. Canned Anaheims are everywhere, and they're likely what you'll get when you order a chile relleno at a mass-market restaurant. Because Anaheims have a tough skin, they must first be charred until lightly blackened, then steamed in a plastic or paper bag for 10 minutes so the skin can be peeled off. The main season for fresh ones is July to September in October, red Anaheims are available.

    They're great, of course, in chiles rellenos I also use them for rajas and a variety of mild green-chile stews. Poblanos are a good substitute.

    -- Poblanos. These heart-shaped chiles -- wider and darker than Anaheims -- are also mild.

    You may find them erroneously labeled as pasilla chiles if you can't find them, ask your store's produce manager to order some (but you may have to say you want pasillas).

    This is Mexico's favorite chile, and mine, too. It has a big interior perfect for stuffing -- but don't stop at cheese. Try fillings based on black beans, fresh steamed white corn kernels, chicken salad or a picadillo. The poblano holds up well under grilling, which enhances its velvety, rich taste.

    The poblano's skin is not as tough as the Anaheim's, so if you're lazy, don't worry about removing the skin from grilled poblanos just cut around the indented stem and remove the huge seed pod that is the trademark of this chile. Peak season is June to October.


    -- New Mexico Green Chiles. These are cousins of the Anaheim -- about the same size, although knobbier and more irregular. But New Mexico green chiles are much hotter and seem to pull a lot more flavor out of the sandy soil and dry heat of the short Southwestern summers.

    Prized varieties include the Big Jim and the New Mex 6-4, both flavorful and mildly hot. Sandias and Barkers are hotter still -- about 10,000 Scoville units -- and prized accordingly. The Barker especially is like fire to me -- but some people like their foreheads to bead with sweat when they eat chiles.

    These are hard to find in California, though they're worth the effort, and some suppliers in New Mexico will ship them (see resource box, this page). If you order them, make sure you find out what kind of chile you're getting and its heat level.

    Depending on the weather, the season for green New Mexicos is from the end of July to September. During October, growers let them turn red, which makes them hotter still. The red ones are equally beloved, partly for their heartbeat- short season (which ends when they're strung into New Mexico's signature braided ristras) and also for their divine sweetness.

    Southwestern cooks use New Mexico greens, with their earthy, rich flavor, for green chile stew, green chile enchilada sauce, salsas and fierce chiles rellenos. A good substitute is a mixture of Anaheims and jalapenos.

    -- Jalapenos. This workhorse chile (2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units) was one of the most popular hot chiles until that upstart, the habanero, came along to steal its thunder.

    Most bottled salsas are based on the jalapeno. It's two to three inches long, wider at the stem end, with a blunt tip. It should be dark green and firm with a shiny skin.

    Modern science recently came up with a version called the Tam- jalapeno-1, so disgustingly mild that Gerber's could use it for a line of nacho baby food.

    Jalapenos are available year- round, but they're superb from July to September. In September and October, look for ripe red jalapenos at farmers' markets and country farm stands (which are also good places to find freshly smoked jalapenos, the haunting chipotles).

    Jalapenos have the richest flavor of all the small chiles, making them perfect for salsas and for stuffing as appetizers. You shouldn't have trouble finding them, but Fresnos, gueros and serranos are adequate substitutes.

    -- Red Fresnos. These are similar in size and shape to jalapenos, but they're thinner-walled and less succulent. At 5,000 Scoville units, red ones are hotter than green, and they're excellent in salsas.

    The season is from June to October, and you're unlikely to find them in the winter months. Sometimes, you'll find them mistakenly labeled as jalapenos.

    -- Yellow Wax, or Guero, Chiles. About 3 inches long, these are a little narrower than jalapenos and thinner-walled. In Mexico they're called gueros (blondies) because of their yellow-green color. With Scoville rankings of 2,000 to 5,000 units, they're used almost exclusively for salsas, where they can add an interesting color accent.

    You can substitute jalapenos, Fresnos or serranos. The main season is from June to October, although these chiles are available from cold storage all year long. -- Serranos. These small, skinny, pointy chiles are about five times hotter -- with a Scoville rating that exceeds 20,000 units -- than jalapenos. Thai cooks like it just as much as Latino cooks do.

    Because you don't have to char or core this thin-skinned chile -- just cut it into tiny slices and mince it -- it's the fastest one to use for salsas. The flavor is bright and biting, with a delayed fuse.

    Although it's widely available throughout the year, you'll find ripe red ones in October. You can substitute jalapenos and Fresnos.

    -- Green Cayennes. These long, skinny, green chiles are grown mainly in India and Asia, where they show up in Indian, Indonesian and Pakistani cuisines. The green cayenne is an immature -- and somewhat cooler, at 30,000 to 40,000 Scoville units -- version of the red cayenne.

    California markets sometimes carry it during the summer months. You can substitute larger quantities of jalapeno, serrano or Fresno chiles.

    -- Red Cayennes. The mature cayenne is deep red, about five or six inches long, and slender. It's hot, about 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units, and used mainly in powdered form. (Sometimes, it's simply labeled red pepper.)

    It's a good source of instant heat. Carefully toast whole chiles, dried or fresh, and add to salsas. The cayenne is the chile used most often in Cajun cooking, and it appears, whole, in Chinese dishes. Fresh red cayennes are a summer product you can substitute jalapeno, serrano, Fresno or dried chile de arbol (common in Latin markets).


    -- Habaneros. These beautiful two-inch chiles range in color from an orange sherbet to lime green. The habanero is considered the hottest domesticated chile in the world -- Scoville units range from 100,000 to 300,000.

    At the moment, it's also one of the trendiest.

    Start out easy. Not long ago, I made two cups of salsa, enlivened with half a habanero. It was incredibly hot. The flavor starts out floral-fruity, followed by a blast of heat that goes up your nostrils just like wasabi, the incendiary Japanese horseradish. In Peru, habaneros are nicknamed "levanta muertos," or "raise the dead."

    The habanero season runs from June to September.

    Like other chiles, the habanero has some cousins that are fun to experiment with -- if you can find them. All originate in hot, tropical places. They marry best with fruits such as mango, pineapple and papaya, whose own fruitiness is accented by the fruity overtones of the habanero family. Among them: -- Red Sevina, the habanero for extremists. It's rare, it's expensive, and it has more than half a million Scoville units. Use cautiously, in salsas. -- Manzana, a cousin that's often mistaken for the habanero itself. It's larger, however, with a more rounded tip. It, too, is very, very hot. -- Scotch Bonnet, a smaller version of the habanero, with a similar floral-fruity flavor. It's a summer chile, used extensively in the Caribbean, especially in jerk sauces. I once bought a bottle of Scotch Bonnet salsa from an old man on the Island of Tortola who was selling his wares off a wooden crate. A month later, the bottle exploded. Need I say more?


    Wash your hands extremely well after working with chiles -- and even then don't assume you've removed all the oil.

    Even if you can't feel the heat on your tongue when you lick your finger, there may still be a residue -- and it will burn when it comes into contact with more sensitive parts of your skin. Be extremely careful about touching your face, especially your nose and eyes.

    If you do rub chile oil into your eyes, flush them immediately with cold running water.

    -- Finding the Heat. The hottest part of a chile is not the seeds. Most of the capsaicin (pronounced cap-SAY-a-sin), or chile oil, is in the central membrane to which the seeds are attached. As the chile is picked and transported, this powerful chemical is released onto the seeds. -- Using the Seeds. Seeds look good floating on top of a salsa, lending authority and giving it an authentic look. Don't chop up the seeds with the rest of the ingredients, however they can be bitter. Remove the seeds as you chop the chiles, then add them back to the finished salsa. And be sure to check the heat level. -- The Lowdown on Charring. Chiles are charred and roasted for two main reasons: to bring out flavor, and to remove the tough, translucent skin.

    Blacken the chile by turning it over a gas burner or by putting it on a stainless steel cooling rack placed over an electric burner. The gas-burner method works best because the flame just chars the surface, without actually cooking the chile.

    Place blackened chiles in a plastic or paper bag so they will briefly steam. Three to five minutes is enough. The blackened skin will easily slip off. Use a paring knife to remove any tough spots. Do not worry about removing every last bit of blackened skin a few bits add character.

    Note: The only reason for blackening and roasting small chiles, such as the jalapeno and serrano, is to deepen the flavor. The skin on these chiles is not tough and doesn't need to be removed.

    And habanero chiles are never roasted. The fumes alone would reach a nuclear level.


    In 1912, William Scoville, a Detroit pharmacologist, measured capsaicin by having a panel of hardy souls sip a sweetened solution of dried chile peppers dissolved in alcohol. The concoction had decreasing amounts of capsaicin until it no longer burned.

    The results were converted into Scoville units -- with no mention made as to what happened to all those tasters.

    In recent years, this subjective test was converted to a chemical process, but with results still expressed as Scoville units.

    Scoville units can range from zero (the good old bell pepper) to more than half a million (the Red Savina habanero chile).

    Disagreement is common, but the ratings give a good idea of relative chile heat.


    Fresh chiles from Mexico, Southern California and Florida are available now chiles from the Bay Area and nearby farm areas will be late, arriving from mid-August into the fall.

    Here are some sources for the harder-to-find fresh chiles. Farmers' markets throughout the Bay Area are often a good bet, as are specialty produce shops, ethnic groceries and many supermarkets.


    One of the Bay Area's most diversified chile-growers, Tierra Vegetable Farm of Healdsburg, will be selling at three local farmers' markets this year. Although only Yellow Wax chiles are available now, Tierra will sell rocotillo, Floral Gems, jalapenos and Anaheims by mid-August by September, Tierra will have true habaneros, Jamaican habaneros and New Mexican red chiles.

    Tierra sells at these farmers' markets:

    -- San Francisco: Ferry Plaza on the Embarcadero, Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m., year-round

    -- San Rafael: Marin Civic Center, Sunday 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday 8 a.m.-1 p.m. year-round

    -- Healdsburg: North and Vine streets, West Plaza parking lot, Tuesday, 4-6:30 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon, June-October.


    More and more supermarkets and specialty produce shops carry a good variety of chiles. Check with your local market here are some good sources if you can't find what you need.

    -- Mi Rancho, 464 Seventh Street, Oakland (510) 451-2393. This market supplies restaurants, so there's usually a good variety of serranos, poblanos, Anaheims and habaneros.

    -- Casa Lucas Market (Mission District), 2934 24th Street, San Francisco (415) 826-4334. It has poblanos, jalapenos, serranos, Anaheims and a large variety of dried chiles.

    -- Andronico's markets, four Berkeley locations and 1200 Irving Street, San Francisco (415) 661- 3220 (San Francisco store). One of the biggest supermarket selections of chiles from Anaheims and jalapenos to fiery habaneros.

    -- Berkeley Bowl, 2777 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley (510) 843- 6929. The Bowl carries all seasonal chiles, both imported and locally grown.

    -- Monterey Foods, 1550 Hopkins, Berkeley (510) 526-6042. Monterey usually has about 20 varieties of chiles, and there will be even more by August. Serranos, Thai chiles, jalapenos, red and green Anaheims and habaneros from Costa Rica are available now.


    -- Melissa's World Variety Produce, P.O. Box 21127, Los Angeles (800) 588-0151.Catalog available for exotic produce habaneros and Scotch Bonnets from Florida.

    -- Hatch Chile Express, P.O. Box 350, Hatch, NM 87937 (800) 292- 4454 or (505) 267-3226. This is probably the source for New Mexico green chiles the owners have worked with scientists at New Mexico State University to develop many new varieties. By mid-August, they will have the New Mex 6-4 (mild), the Big Jim (medium-hot and wonderful for stuffing), the Sandia (hot) and the Espanola Improved (thin-walled and very, very hot).

    Plan to share with friends fresh chiles are sold in 10-pound ($33) and 25-pound ($63) boxes charred, ready-to-peel chiles also come in 10-pound boxes ($75.25). Both are shipped via Federal Express. Prices include shipping and handling.


    Common varieties of fresh chiles











    This colorful salad makes a great meal on a warm summer evening.


    -- 2 cups thinly sliced romaine

    lettuce -- 2 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage -- 1 cup julienned jicama -- 1/2 cup thinly sliced mild, sweet onion -- 1/2 cup cooked corn kernels -- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, diced -- 2 plum tomatoes, diced -- 1/2 cup crumbled tortilla chips -- 1/2 cup olives -- 1/2 cup queso anejo or feta cheese, crumbled -- 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds -- 1 cup diced smoked chicken


    INSTRUCTIONS: Put the dressing ingredients into a food processor and puree. If you want the dressing to be chunkier, set aside 1 of the tomatoes and 1/2 jalapeno. Chop and stir into the pureed dressing. Set aside until salad ingredients are ready. Combine the salad ingredients in a bowl. Add the dressing and toss to mix.

    PER SERVING: 380 calories, 12 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 32 g fat (6 g saturated), 29 mg cholesterol, 437 mg sodium, 7 g fiber.





    INSTRUCTIONS: The beans: Pick over the beans for debris. Place in a sieve and rinse well. Place the beans in a large pot. Add the water onion, garlic, chipotle, and black pepper to taste. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours, until tender. Add the salt during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

    The sauce: Combine the sour cream and pureed chipotle stir to mix. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    When beans are tender, discard the chipotle and place a scant 1/4 cup beans, drained of excess liquid, in the cavity of each chile. Arrange the chiles in a baking dish, pour the chipotle cream over them and top with the grated cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Dust with paprika or ground mild red chile just before serving.

    PER SERVING: 510 calories, 29 g protein, 69 g carbohydrate, 15 g fat (9 g saturated), 34 mg cholesterol, 489 mg sodium, 19 g fiber.


    One of my favorite ways of using poblanos is the simplest, an idea borrowed from the now famous Super Rica Taqueria in Santa Barbara (where Julia Child likes to eat when she is in residence). One day, while waiting for my order at the window, I noticed the cook roasting an army of whole poblanos on his wide griddle. When they were done to perfection, he created this divine mix of hacked-up poblanos and grilled chicken. Hand-patted corn tortillas are used for wrappers.


    INSTRUCTIONS: Rinse the chiles under cold water. Make a slit along one side of each chile so you can easily pull out the large seed pod. (Wear gloves if you are sensitive to capsaicin.) Set chiles aside.

    Place each chicken fillet between 2 sheets of waxed paper and pound with a mallet to flatten evenly. Place in a glass dish. Combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper to taste pour over the chicken and let marinate for 20 minutes.

    Grill the chicken over a gas barbecue or white-ash coals for 6 to 8 minutes per side. Rub the remaining olive oil over the chiles so they won't stick to the grill. Grill the chiles just long enough to blister and blacken the skin on both sides, about 10 minutes.

    When everything is done, carry the chicken and chiles to a cutting board. Cut the chicken into strips. Remove caps from chiles by cutting around the indented stem. Pull out and discard the seed pod. Cut the chiles into strips (no need to peel). Toss the chicken and chile strips together.

    Serve with lots of hot corn tortillas and icy beer.

    PER SERVING: 310 calories, 42 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (2 g saturated), 102 mg cholesterol, 384 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

    Claire's Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

    Serve on crackers or fresh bread as an appetizer at your next party. Or serve with your favorite pasta.

    ¾ cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained
    ¼ cup pine nuts
    ¼ cup packed fresh parsley leaves
    1 medium clove garlic
    ¾ cup vegetable broth
    ¼ cup olive oil
    1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

    1) In a food processor, puree tomatoes, nuts, parsley and garlic.

    2) Add vegetable broth and oil.

    3) Stir in red pepper flakes.

    Where to Go

    Think about local options.

    Pure Eatery in Fishers has been in business since June 2010. Co-owners Dave Andrus and Jason Jacobi bring to the table a mix of Jacobi’s homegrown Iowa farm life and Andrus’ restaurant management (including Pearl Street Pizzeria & Pub, also in Fishers).

    The restaurant offers such options as tacos (saut yellow squash, zucchini, Portobello, corn salsa, black beans, sun-dried tomato hummus, cucumber and tomato-basil vinaigrette), a southwest black bean, a grilled vegetable Panini and a Fountain Square falafel.

    The signature hearty falafel includes two patties served on pita with a green garnish and an herbed ranch topping. A side (such as the tangy Brussels spouts) makes this a hearty lunch. Helpful servers suggest a variety of sides including soup of the day or seasonal fruit.

    Another local option, divvy at Carmel City Center, is just steps away from the Center for the Performing Arts. Owners Kevin “Woody” Rider and Richelle Rider, who also operate Woodys Library Restaurant in the Carmel Arts & Design District, pride themselves on offering their own twist on trendy dishes. One of their most popular vegan dishes is blistered Brussels sprouts with red pepper flakes, pine nuts and roasted garlic. Another is squash tots with a lavender agave Dijon dipping sauce. Other house favorites are roasted vegetable bisque, raw root veggies and a generous vegetable charcuterie platter.

    “My husband thought I was crazy putting the Brussels sprouts on the menu. Usually they are prepared with maple and bacon. We try to be trendy but we also try to hit it with our own ingredients. In this case, there’s no bacon – our secret is they are just the right amount of crispy chard,” said Richelle Rider, named one of “Indy’s Top Ten Chefs.”

    THE CHRONICLE PAIRING GUIDE / THE SPICE IS RIGHT / The secrets of matching Indian food with wine

    1 of 9 PAIRINGS08_034_cl.JPG Story on pairing wine with Indian food. Wine with different Indian spices. Event on 5/30/07 in San Francisco. photo by Craig Lee / The Chronicle MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT photo by Craig Lee Show More Show Less


    4 of 9 CURRY01JOHNLEE.JPG Black-eyed pea curry. By JOHN LEE/SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE JOHN LEE Show More Show Less


    7 of 9 PAIRINGS08_089_cl.JPG Story on pairing wine with Indian food. Wine with different Indian spices. Event on 5/30/07 in San Francisco. photo by Craig Lee / The Chronicle MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT photo by Craig Lee Show More Show Less

    8 of 9 CURRY03JOHNLEE.JPG Chicken with Green Curry. By JOHN LEE/SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE JOHN LEE Show More Show Less

    Asian cuisines get scant consideration when it comes to wine.

    If you ask about which wine to pair with Indian food, expect a one-word answer. Usually Gewurztraminer. Perhaps Riesling. Maybe Syrah.

    An entire culture's cuisine to be paired with a single varietal? Ridiculous.

    Among Asian cuisines, Indian food probably has the greatest notoriety for being hard to match with wine. Its complex layering of spices and chile heat makes for a tricky challenge.

    Let's begin with the obvious: Beer makes for an excellent pairing with most Indian food. (Which beer, and which food, is grist for another day.) If that's your preference, go with it. Whiskey, as enjoyed in India with hors d'oeuvres, is fine, too.

    For the wine lover, though, finding an ideal match is more complicated.

    It will not be found with Gewurztraminer. That varietal's spicy profile can work every now and then, but it usually collides with the nuances of Indian food. Almost every Indian dish begins with a blend of spices, so our challenge was to find out which spices warm up to which wines.

    We called on Ruta Kahate, an Indian culinary teacher and author based in the East Bay, for guidance. The three of us met to consider her list of the 10 most crucial spices in Indian cuisine -- mustard seeds, cardamom, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, mace/nutmeg, ginger, bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon. Cayenne we put in a class of its own, making 11. Then we devised a list of about 80 wines -- as obvious as Syrah and as esoteric as Muller-Thurgau.

    Kahate pointed out that almost all spices are used in combination, especially in what's known as "curry" -- which is a range of specific spice blends, or masalas. Northern Indian spice mixes can be cooked in a base such as yogurt or light cream, while Southern Indian masalas are sometimes cooked with coconut milk. Sauces also might contain acidic elements such as tomato or tamarind juice. And don't forget the great quantities of fresh ginger, garlic and onions that are essential to Indian fare.

    Rather than seek out specific wines to match specific dishes, we decided to think in terms of flavor families -- mostly based on sauces. The dominant flavors in Indian dishes often come from the sauce and spice rather than the main meat or vegetable.

    In the end, we distilled Indian cuisine down to five sauce/spice groups:

    1. Simple Spice. Dishes that rely on just a few spices, at most three, as seasoning.

    2. Light Sauce. Lighter dishes, many of them with dried peas, beans and legumes such as lentil and garbanzo beans.

    3. Heavy Sauce. The dishes most often called "curries," including popular cream-based picks such as tikka masala.

    4. Tandoori. Marinated meats that have been roasted in a clay oven.

    5. Fresh and Green. Dishes with fresh greens or herbs as a primary ingredient, such as the spinach-based saag paneer.

    But there is a vast gap between home-cooked dishes and what might be found in your local Indian joint. Wine requires dishes with a more restrained use of spice, so if you want to dial the heat up to 11, beer is really the way to go.

    To test our theories in the field, we ordered a wide range of takeout dishes from both sides of the bay. And we also headed to Ajanta in Berkeley for a sit-down meal.

    Chef-owner Lachu Moorjani offers a wine list of nearly 50 wines that includes thoughtful options such as Merlot from Washington state and rosé from Bandol along with, yes, Gewurztraminer (a best-seller).

    Moorjani joined us as we tried to match both popular dishes like tandoori chicken and regional specialties like kozi milagu chettinad, a Madras specialty pungent with black pepper. Though Moorjani, a devoted wine lover, serves as impromptu sommelier for his diners, he finds it tough going.

    "One person out of four will speak up and say, 'I think beer goes better with Indian food than wine,' " says Moorjani. "And boom, they'll all get beer, which is very discouraging to me if I want to put together a good wine list."

    Slowly, conclusions began to emerge from our cardamom-and-cumin haze.

    -- Toss out conventional wisdom about pairing with whites and reds. Because sauce and spice are so crucial, dishes that seem like a sure bet for red wine -- like the heavy, creamy lamb korma -- are often better with white, and vice versa. "That was a revelation to me," says Moorjani.

    -- Among red wines, aromatic varieties work best, especially those without too many dark fruit flavors. Less use of oak seems to avoid clashes with complex flavors, though in some cases -- as when woody coriander is present -- a more oaky wine, like a Spanish Rioja, can work well. On the other hand, between big tannins and heavy spices, it's almost impossible for Cabernet Sauvignon not to clash.

    -- For white wines, again, less oak is better -- although some aging in old oak barrels can provide a silky texture that bolsters rich sauces. Acidity is important, but too much can be jarring, unless it's balanced by another element in the wine. That's one reason sweeter Rieslings seemed to work better than dry.

    -- Alcohol levels are important because more alcohol tends to magnify the heat in a dish and steamroll over flavors. Wines at 14 percent alcohol or less seemed to work better. That said, one of our favorite pairings came from a 14.3 percent Pinot Noir.

    -- Match less complex wines with more complex dishes. Too many different aromas and flavors can collide. But that's a rule made to be broken: A deeply nuanced Pinot Noir harmonized perfectly with the kadhai gosht, a lamb dish that featured more than 10 flavor components.

    -- Keep an eye out for the use of cream and yogurt. They can flatten the flavors of red wines, and may clash with tart white wines.

    All fine, but how do you choose a wine, especially if you're dining out and have to choose a single bottle for the whole meal?

    For whites, some expected winners -- like Gruner Veltliner -- fell a bit short. But several varieties native to Alsace (besides Gewurztraminer) worked beautifully for most types of dishes -- Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Sylvaner. Ditto the aromatic white wines of Italy's Alto Adige region, like Kerner and Muller-Thurgau. In both cases, the wines balance bright acidity with lush texture. Pinot Blanc, in particular, was a sleeper hit. What often is a liability for these wines -- little overt fruit and a more rounded texture -- proved to be an asset. But they're a hard sell. "It took me a year to sell a single case of Pinot Blanc," says Moorjani.

    For reds, the best results came from fragrant wines with mellow red fruit flavors and soft tannins. Syrah is often cited as a top choice for Indian food, perhaps because the Indian winery Sula Vineyards makes an increasingly popular Shiraz. Syrah with little oak can work beautifully, though too much oak can ruin the party. Consider Cabernet Franc, Grenache, cooler-climate Syrah and Rhone-style blends either from France or cooler Central Coast spots. Austrian Zweigelt and Lagrein from northern Italy worked beautifully, too. In all cases, balanced acidity and modest alcohol levels are crucial. The secret weapon may be rosés -- especially those made from Cabernet Franc -- which are versatile and match a wide range of dishes.

    Sparkling wine, despite our theories, was less versatile than expected, perhaps due to the high acid levels.

    To get really specific, we've suggested pairings for each of our five categories as well as for recipes from Ajanta restaurant and from Ruta Kahate's recently released book "5 Spices, 50 Dishes," ($19.95, Chronicle Books).

    See what works best and don't fear the cork next time you have curry on the brain.


    The Chronicle Pairing Guide, launching today, is an occasional series devoted to matching wine with food. In coming months, we'll focus on cuisines and dishes that often are overlooked in wine pairings. Got a favorite food-wine match? E-mail us at [email protected]

    Many home-cooked Indian dishes rely on a single spice, or at most three spices, as seasoning. Black mustard seeds are often popped in hot oil to "bloom" their flavor, called "tadka." Turmeric weaves through much of Indian cooking sometimes in conjunction with one other spice, often black mustard seed.

    Food: Samosas and pakoras. (For an optimal wine experience, hold the raita.) Biryani rice dishes. Ruta Kahate's Tangy Shredded Cabbage Salad (see recipe), which uses the tadka technique. Desserts such as Kahate's sublime cookies, Cardamom Nankaties (see recipe).

    Wine: Let the spice suggest the wines. This is also one of the few categories where sparkling wine was a clear winner -- including a Moscato d'Asti with the cardamom cookies. Be mindful of the amount of chile or citrus used. If you're making the dish, hold back on the lemon juice and chile. For dishes with mustard seed, minerally and peppery red wines, or grassy white wines, mesh well. For turmeric, rosé, floral whites and leathery red wines go well.

    Examples: Champagne and sparkling wines, dry Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, dry Viognier, Syrah, Mourvedre. .

    Makes approximately 30 cookies

    This buttery, shortbread cookie from Ruta Kahate relies on a single spice: cardamom. Depending on how you measure the dry ingredients, you may need a few additional tablespoons of softened butter to make the dough come together. Pairs with: Cascinetta Vietti Moscato d'Asti.


    3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

    1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

    1 teaspoon ground cardamom


    Instructions: Preheat the oven to 350°.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir the flours, almonds, cardamom and salt together, and add to the creamed butter. Mix just until the dough starts to clump together.

    Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Pinch off a tablespoon-size portion of the dough and roll in your palms to form a perfect round ball. Flatten slightly and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough, placing the cookies on the sheet 2 inches apart. You can use a small ice cream scoop to measure out the cookie dough if you'd like.

    Bake in the middle of the oven until the edges of the cookies turn a very pale brown, 15 to 18 minutes.

    Cool on a wire rack, and store in an airtight container.

    Per cookie: 95 calories, 1 g protein, 11 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (3 g saturated), 12 mg cholesterol, 19 mg sodium, 0 fiber. .

    You might use less serrano chile if you wish to pair this salad from Ruta Kahate with wine. Pairs with: 2004 Mastroberardino NovaSerra Greco di Tufo or 2006 Domaine de Beausejour Chinon Rosé.


    2 cups tightly packed, shredded green cabbage (use the large holes of the grater)

    1 small serrano chile, seeded and minced

    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more as needed

    1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds


    Instructions: In a medium bowl, toss together the cabbage, chile, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You are looking for a well-balanced, sweet and sour taste.

    Heat the oil in a small skillet or butter warmer over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering the pan with a lid or splatter screen. When seeds top popping, immediately pour the oil over the cabbage salad and toss well. Let the salad sit for at least 15 minutes before serving, to allow the flavors to blossom.

    Serve cold or at room temperature.

    Per serving: 50 calories, 1 g protein, g 4 carbohydrate, 4 g fat (0 saturated), 0 cholesterol, 540 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

    These dishes begin with a masala (spice) mix, though not too complex, and the natural sweetness and some mild acid from tomato. There can be a little dairy and the resultant gravy -- not a full-on sauce -- is leaner.

    Food: Everyday Dal (see recipe), and many other dal recipes Black-Eyed Peas in a Spicy Goan Curry (see recipe) and other coconut-milk curries and the channa masala (chickpea curry) found on restaurant menus. Dishes like kadhai gosht, a heavier preparation with 10 or more spice components, also fall into this flavor profile. This is a versatile group, which despite acid from tomatoes, is also sweet, especially if it includes pulses and legumes (peas and beans). In this instance, an okra dish with the heavier gosht sauce actually jazzes with red wine.

    Wine: Tomatoes require wines with plenty of acid, though not as their defining trait. Fortunately, this category lends itself to the broadest range of options. In particular, rosé shines. Reds should be fruity and relatively light. Whites should be more silky than sharp, and some sweetness can balance out high acidity.

    Examples: Aromatic whites (Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muller-Thurgau, Sylvaner) dry Chenin Blanc dry or late-harvest Riesling (depending on the sauce) red or white Cotes du Rhone. Young, fruity cooler-climate reds like Grenache/Garnacha, Lagrein, Zweigelt, Barbera lighter Pinot Noir. Dry Rosé. .

    Black-eyed peas give Ruta Kahate's curry a smoky flavor that suggests a red, but also goes with a white. Pairs with: 2003 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir or 2006 Domaine de Beausejour Chinon Rosé.


    1 cup dried black-eyed peas or two 15-ounce cans, drained

    1 small yellow onion, minced (about 1 cup)

    1 teaspoon coriander seeds, finely ground

    1/2 teaspoons finely grated garlic (about 1 large clove)

    1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger (about a 1-inch piece)

    1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

    1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, finely ground

    1/4 cup minced tomato (1 small tomato)

    2 cups (or 1 cup if using canned peas) hot water

    1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste if using canned peas

    1 cup canned coconut milk

    2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves


    Instructions: If using dried black-eyed peas, rinse and soak them in enough water to cover for 6 to 8 hours. Drain.

    In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat and saute the onion until it turns dark brown, about 8 minutes. Add the coriander, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne and cumin, and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomato and stir over low heat until it disintegrates.

    Add the peas and mix well. Pour in the hot water, if using, add the salt and sugar, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer until the peas are cooked through, about 20 minutes. If using canned peas, simmer for only 10 minutes (it is essential to simmer the canned peas, too, so that all the flavors blend better). Stir in the coconut milk and simmer uncovered for another 8 to 10 minutes, again allowing the flavors to come together.

    Add the cilantro and lemon juice, simmer for 1 minute more, and remove from heat. Serve hot.

    Per serving: 140 calories, 6 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (0 saturated), 0 cholesterol, 204 mg sodium, 3 g fiber. .

    Adapted from Ruta Kahate's recipe, this dish goes with white or red wine, depending on how prominent the cilantro flavor is. With stronger cilantro, lean toward a white. Pairs with: 2005 Cantina Produttori Bolzano Alto Adige Santa Maddalena Classico or 2006 Van Duzer Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Gris.


    1 cup yellow split peas, soaked in cold water for 1 hour

    1 large tomato (about 8 ounces), cut into 8 wedges

    1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

    5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

    1 teaspoon coriander seeds, finely ground

    3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

    1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter


    Instructions: Drain the dal (split peas) and place in a large saucepan. Add the tomato and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until peas are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Pick out any tomato skins and whisk dal to emulsify it. Keep warm over very low heat.

    Heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the cumin seeds, covering the pan with a lid or splatter screen. After the seeds have stopped sputtering, add the onion and saute over medium heat. About 3 minutes later, add the garlic and saute until most of the onion has turned dark brown, about 5 minutes altogether. Add the coriander, turmeric and cayenne, stir and pour mixture over the dal. Add the cilantro, butter and salt to the dal and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

    Per serving: 465 calories, 21 g protein, 58 g carbohydrate, 18 g fat (3 g saturated), 8 mg cholesterol, 545 mg sodium, 22 g fiber.

    These are the dishes you're most likely to find translated as "curry" in English. They're complexly spiced, often first marinated, perhaps seared in butter, then layered with cream and finished with ground or sliced nuts -- the kind of thing that finer restaurants do, says Ruta Kahate. "It's layers upon layers of seasoning. I call it saucy."

    Food: Cream-based lamb korma and chicken makhanwala are two archetypes. The popular chicken tikka masala, in which tandoori chicken is then sauced, is another popular example. The vindaloo dishes can fit in here, although if they are very hot, as they should be, it's time for beer.

    Wine: With modest amounts of dairy, a lighter red can work -- even a Syrah. If the sauce is creamier, turn to a higher-acid white.

    Examples: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, sweet Riesling, Beaujolais, Syrah, red and white Cotes du Rhone or Rhone-style wines. .

    This is Ajanta restaurant's Lamb Korma recipe, rich with masala, cream and nuts. Pairs with: 2004 Chapoutier Saint-Joseph Deschants Blanc or 2003 Reininger Walla Walla Valley Syrah.


    1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped

    4 medium onions, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced

    2 pounds boneless cubed lamb, defatted (weigh after boning and defatting)

    1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric powder

    1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Mexican ground chiles 3 teaspoons ground coriander

    2 teaspoons garam masala (see Note)

    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


    Instructions: Heat oil in a 6-quart saucepan. When hot, add cumin seeds. When the seeds pop, add ginger. Fry for about 10 seconds.

    Add onions and saute over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions become slightly brown.

    Raise heat to high. When the pot becomes very hot, add lamb. Stir and saute until the lamb is browned and most of the moisture has evaporated. Add turmeric, salt, paprika, cayenne pepper and ground coriander. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add yogurt (the heat is turned off to prevent yogurt from curdling). Stir to combine. Turn the heat back on.

    Bring the mixture to a boil. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water if there is not enough liquid if mixture seems too thick. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer over low heat for 25 to 35 minutes, or until lamb becomes tender. At this point, there should be a thin film of oil on the top surface. Add garam masala, black pepper and cream. Stir and cover, then turn off the heat and leave it on the stove for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle slivered almonds on top before serving.

    Note: You may use a purchased, all-purpose garam masala, but it is preferable to make your own. Toast about 1 tablespoon each of whole cardamom, cinnamon bark (broken into pieces) and cloves in a toaster oven or in a dry frying pan over medium heat for 5 minutes or until aromas are released. Then grind in a spice grinder or in a clean electric coffee grinder. This will yield slightly more than you need for this recipe. The remainder may be stored in a tightly sealed container.

    Per serving: 405 calories, 28 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate, 27 g fat (9 g saturated), 105 mg cholesterol, 624 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

    Bright red and grilled in the ultra-high temperatures of the clay tandoori oven, poultry, meat and fish are first moistened with a long marination in yogurt, a spice mixture and a puree of fresh ginger and garlic. The spice mixture varies from cook to cook, each with her or his secret masala, and can vary according to the meat to be seasoned. The yogurt (and sometimes lemon juice) also tenderizes the protein.

    Although the signature bright red color in this classic preparation should come from the cochineal additive, restaurants often go the easy way by using synthetic food coloring. Some kitchens substitute paprika, and that, too, affects your wine choice.

    Food: Tandoori chicken, tandoori fish

    Wines: Of all the categories, this one is most dependent on the meat or fish being prepared, so traditional rules often apply. Lamb, for instance, warms itself to Pinot Noir and fish to Muscadet. Leaner white wines like Sauvignon Blanc also work to balance out the presence of acid like lemon juice, and reds should have relatively high acid.

    Examples: Cabernet Franc, especially lighter Loire Valley wines Pinot Blanc red Cotes du Rhone Barbera Pinot Noir Lagrein Zweigelt Viognier Sauvignon Blanc Muscadet.

    Chopped spinach, chopped cilantro and other greens are basis of the "sauce" in this class of dishes.

    Food: Saag paneer (chunks of farmer-like cheese with minced spinach), green fish curry.

    Wine: Here's the one category where white wines work almost exclusively, regardless of the protein (fish, chicken, cheese or red meat). Look for wines with more green fruit and grassy or herbal flavors, and a leaner texture. Skip the oak. A fully dry rosé works well, too, though it can bring out any sweetness in the dish.

    Examples: Dry Chenin Blanc Dry Riesling Muller-Thurgau unoaked Chardonnay, like Chablis Sauvignon Blanc Albarino Pinot Blanc Cabernet Franc rosé. .

    Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main dish

    The Chronicle Test Kitchen substituted 1 pound of halibut for the 1 pound of mussels in Ruta Kahate's recipe. Pairs with: 2005 Garlider Sudtirol Eisacktaler Alto Adige Muller-Thurgau or 2004 Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbes Pinot Blanc.


    1 pound mussels or 1 pound halibut, cut into 1- by 2-inch pieces

    1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, freshly ground

    1-inch piece of fresh ginger

    1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

    1 cup canned coconut milk


    Instructions: Scrub the mussels well. Pull off any beards and discard any mussels that are not tightly closed.

    Using blender or food processor, grind the cumin, tomato, cilantro, mint, ginger and chiles to a fine, smooth paste. You may add a few tablespoons of water if needed.

    Heat the oil in a medium wok or cast-iron skillet over medium heat, and saute the onion until golden brown. Add the green curry paste and saute until the curry smells cooked and fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add coconut milk and salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Add the mussels or halibut, if using, and reduce the heat to low. Toss well, cover and cook until all the mussels open, about 5 minutes. Discard any that have not opened. Serve hot with rice or French bread.

    Per serving: 655 calories, 52 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 43 g fat (24 g saturated), 73 mg cholesterol, 151 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.


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