Local agriculture is hard at 6500 feet. Most of El Paso County is well over a mile high in elevation, and with a 90 day growing season, few cities in North America are this size with a growing season this short. Home grown produce is more novelty than reality for most individuals.
Go downhill a good 1700 feet, have access to Arkansas River irrigation and "enjoy" a couple dozen summer afternoons with temperatures well over 100 degrees and you get a totally different climate. Pueblo, CO is the ideal environment for high quality chile, and while I will always tip the hat to our neighbors in New Mexico and the quality of their Hatch and Chimayo... my heart is loyal to the local Mira Sol.
This weekend is the 15th Annual Loaf and Jug Chile and Frijole Festival. I mean, how can you not attend with a name like that? It is your opportunity to head south for a little local culture that has been native to the Front Range for centuries... yes, chile cultivation predates by centuries the more commonly celebrated "western heritage" of events like the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo. And let's face it... burgers, dogs and funnel cake ain't got nothing on hoppin' mean green made with the local Mira Sol. And if you need burgers, dogs and funnel cake you can find it at the 15th Annual Loaf and Jug Chile and Frijole Festival ...slathered in chile of course.
If you're a first timer to local chile, keep in mind that the hotter the summer, generally the more pungent the heat. This was not a toasty summer so it probably won't be so hot. If you're making chile and have a low Scoville tolerance, stick with the Anaheims. This SoCal import is conisderably milder and still rich in flavor. If you like mellow nutiness, get the extra-vine-ripened red chiles for a different, more complex flavor.
But if you really want the full-on, local experience... this is the weekend to head to Pueblo, buy a bushel of flame-kissed peppers
(does the culinary world know anything better than a rotating steel cage and a blowtorch?), stink up your car so it smells like reefer madness on the way home, and peel and bag the babies in your kitchen sink. Your freezer is blessed with Colorado's finest local vegetable.
Morgan called last week to tell me the revelation that is Hawaiian Ceviche: Five ingredients, all available at King Soopers, basic knife-skills and refrigeration were all that separated him from a sublime evening pupu (appetizer). It had hit him like a revelation, so much of what he loved about the Big Island, the simple "howzit?" attitude to the question that sinks in on day 6... "what day is it? Do I care?".For $10 at the local grocery store, he was that much closer to island time.
I follow @DenverFoodGuy on Twitter and he posts tons of easy to follow YouTube videos on creating your own delicacies. Sushi rightly has a reputation as being exotic and the difficulty of the Japanese culinary aesthetic too much for the basic chef to attempt. Well, Denver Food Guy has a Morgan-esque appreciation for easy yummies...
How many ingredients? Six. White rice, some water, a little rice vinegar for the rice, sashimi-grade ahi tuna, Nori wraps and Sriracha Hot Sauce.
Sure, you can go and spend $7 a roll at a sushi place for these. Or you can make them at home for half the price and live to tell about it!
A Monster Crop of Colorado Peaches awaits the consumer this summer. Picking is scheduled to begin this weekend in Palisade and probably the end of next week in Paonia. The first batches are good, but the Labor Day monsters are truly out-of-this-world juicy goodness. If you're from Georgia, I will, in my ignorance, challenge y'all to a peach throwdown. We don't grow much worth bragging about in Colorado, but our peaches are the bomb!
Author's Note: This recipe is from a mysterious "Jim" who posted it as a comment on the Rocky Mountain News website this past weekend about the burgeoning peach crop. How nice to see someone not flaming and instead creating in a comment space!
Cobbler 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1 1/2 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar 1 1/4 lb blackberries (5 cups) 2 lb peaches (6 medium), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole milk
Whipped Vanilla Cream
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream 2T Sugar 1T Vanilla Extract
Preparation Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to
425°F. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish
(3-quart capacity). Chill bowl and beaters for whipping cream in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. Whisk together cornstarch and 1 1/2 cups sugar
in a large bowl, then add blackberries and peaches and toss to combine
well. Transfer to baking dish and bake until just bubbling, 10 to 15
While fruit bakes, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in
another large bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips or a
pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and stir
just until a dough forms.
Drop dough onto hot fruit mixture in 12 mounds (about 1/3 cup each),
then sprinkle dough with remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake cobbler until
top is golden, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve warm.
For Vanilla Whipped Cream: Mix All ingredients and whip until heavy and thick on high speed. Add a generous dollop to the top of each portion.
Cooks' note: Cobbler can be baked 6 hours ahead and cooled
completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Before serving, let stand
at room temperature 1 hour, then reheat in a preheated 350°F oven until
warm, about 20 minutes.