One of my posts in this blog was all about cooking calabacitas for the California nieces, and it dawned on me that the easiest way for everyone, especially someone new to this cuisine, to prepare traditional New Mexican dishes is to own one of my favorite cookbooks – Simply Simpatico, from the Junior League of Albuquerque (find at http://www.jlabq.org/ – $19.95).
My copy was given to me by my pal Patty Williams, back in 1988, and the pages are, quite appropriately, smeared with evidence of red chile sauce, avocado, batter from chile rellenos. I’ve USED this cookbook.
Especially during the years that I was exiled to Kansas and North Carolina, I tried almost every recipe in the “Comida Simpatica” section, which is touted as the section which will “. . .introduce the novice cook and the newcomer to the basics of New Mexican cookery.” At the time I didn’t necessarily consider myself a novice cook, but without a Sadie’s or Frontier around the corner where I could order rellenos smothered in green chile, I knew I had to learn very quickly how to make my own.
So I learned to make red chile sauce and rellenos and bizcochitos and sopaipillas and quelitas and fry bread and tamales and carne adovada and albondigas and empanaditas. I improvised with local ingredients – once my mother sent an extra suitcase home to North Carolina with Johanna, full of fresh green chiles. I had to roast them on my own over the charcoal grill. No one in North Carolina had the slightest clue what I was doing.
I even made tortillas from Simply Simpatico, and in the process impressed the folks where I was living with what they considered very interesting cooking. I took green chile stew to a potluck in Greensboro, North Carolina, handed out the recipe, and still hear from the girls in that office every time one of them makes the dish. They taught me to make grits in exchange (wonder how grits with green chile would taste?) for my bizcochito recipe.
Simply Simpatico is a great gift – especially for yourself. It’s essential in my kitchen, still. It’s full of recipes that use fresh, local ingredients – Michael Pollan would be proud. It’s an easy way to follow his Food Rules.
Even if I can now walk to the Plaza Cafe today for lunch for a green chile smothered burrito, sometimes you just want to try your hand at something authentic. Ever tried Capirotada or Natillas? They’re in there. . .