ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO SALSA
You can use either grape or cherry tomatoes for this piquant salsa, good with, well, everything. Cafe Drake likes it best as a pre-dinner, kitchen snack with salty tortilla chips and a strong drink.
Broil 1 lb. cherry tomatoes - along with 1 large pasilla chile, 1/2 cup sliced onion and 1-2 jalapeno or serrano chilies, split in half - on a baking sheet for 5-7 minutes, or until blackened in spots and becoming softer. A teaspoon of vegetable oil tossed with the veggies may be used if needed. Be careful to avoid burning. After a few minutes remove from the broiler; cover for 15 minutes to allow the onions and chilies to steam. We find this easiest to do by scraping all in to a bowl and covering with a plate.
Seed the pasilla chile well (this will make a HUGE difference in the finished texture) and puree all in a processor or blender. Transfer to a bowl and season with: about 2 T. minced cilantro, 2 T. lime juice, 1 t. maple syrup (or honey or sugar) and salt to taste. Let rest for half an hour at least to mingle flavors. Best served at room temperature but store in the fridge for up to a week.
SIMPLIFIED ADOBO SAUCE AND MARINADE
A Mexican adobo sauce is technically a chile paste slathered on meat or fish and then baked or grilled, but this recipe - adapted from Marcella Valladolid - is so thick and luscious Cafe Drake can make a meal from mere warmed tortillas dipped in the stuff! Marcella recommends this for roast chicken but as above, we coated pork chops and then baked until the meat just reached 170 degrees. We've also added dried chipotles for their smokey heat.
Heat 2 T. oil (any kind you like really) in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 small onion (chopped) and cook until just soft and translucent. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and cook for another minute. Add 8 dried guajillo chilies and 2 dried chipotle chilies, all seeded and broken into small-ish pieces. Cook for a couple of minutes or until the guajillo chilies begin to darken. Now add 1 1/2 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable) and simmer for at least 5 minutes - make sure the chilies are soft.
Transfer it all to a blender and process till you get a smooth paste. No worries if a few recalcitrant chunks of dried chile resist the blender blades. Season with salt and pepper and now you're ready to coat anything you'd like before roasting or grilling - vegetables, fish, poultry, beef, pork, anything.
TOMATILLO, ARBOL CHILE AND SESAME SEED SALSA
Quite simply, our new addiction, also courtesy of Marcella V.! Perfect on tacos, nachos, meatloaf sandwiches, mac and cheese . . . you get the far-reaching concept.
Heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup minced onion and 2 minced garlic cloves (more if you like). Saute for at least 5 minutes or until all is richly browned but not burned. Add 1/4 cup sesame seeds and 1/2 cup dried arbol chiles. Cook and stir for 5 more minutes.
While the chile/onion/seed mix is cooking heat a cast iron skillet over a high flame. Toss in 4 large tomatilloes (peeled and rinsed). Sear all over for about 10 minutes or until you have black spots covering most of the skins. When ready add to the sauce pan and cook everything together for 5 additional minutes. Press the tomatilloes with a spoon to release their juices. Cool slightly then puree in a blender with 1 cup water.
Season to taste with plenty of salt (this requires quite a bit) and black pepper. Best at room temperature or only slightly chilled.