Vail Simply Seasonal column: Add vibrant Latin flavor with Fresno chiles
I’ve recently become enamored with fresno chiles – bright red, smooth, firm skin and a shiny sheen. Available locally, they add pizzazz to the chile pepper section of the produce aisle. While some chiles tend to be too hot, and some not hot enough, the fresno seems just right to me.It is considered to be a hot chile, between 4,000 and 8,000 on the Scoville standard heat index. That means about a 4-6 out of 10. The fresno closely resembles the jalapeno but with wider shoulders. They can be used interchangeably in recipes, but choose the fresno for its striking color.Native to South America, the fresno is known as chile caribe or chile cera. It is a mainstay of many Latin dishes. Ceviche, a South American specialty, takes many forms depending on which country you visit, but it will always contain the freshest seafood and chile caribe. This versatile chile can be used raw in ceviches, salads and salsas, roasted with meats or poultry, blended into sauces, spreads and stews, or pickled as a colorful garnish. The hot, sweet flavor adds another dimension to your recipes.Relatively new to the U.S., the fresno was developed for commercial cultivation in 1952. It was named for the town of Fresno in California’s San Joaquin Valley, considered the most productive agricultural region in the world today. This town has embraced its namesake chile with a festival where heat is the theme. The annual Fresno Chile Festival honors hot food, hot rods, hot technology and hot talent. To be held Aug. 11, 2012, it sounds like a great way to spend a hot summer day.Ceviche marinade41⁄2 ounces vegetable oil5 lemons, juiced1 medium ripe tomato, roasted1 lime, juice & zest1 Tablespoons sea salt2 Fresno chiles, sliced11⁄2 ounces honey1⁄2 orange, juice & zestGarnishes:Diced tomatoDiced avocadoDiced red onionChopped cilantroCombine all ingredients except oil in blender and puree. Add oil slowly to emulsify. Chill in refrigerator 12 hours to infuse flavors before using.For ceviche: use 2 pounds fresh white fish (cut into 1⁄2 inch pieces), shrimp, scallops or combination. Place seafood in a non-metallic bowl. Cover with marinade. Refrigerate 12 hours. If desired, add garnishes at serving time, mixing into seafood. Serve with corn chips for dipping or in lettuce cups for an elegant appetizer.Smoked trout spread1⁄4 lb smoked trout 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened 2 tablespoons half-and-half 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 fresno chile, minced1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder 1 tablespoon scallion, sliced thin Garnish: 1 Fresno chile, sliced into thin ringsRemove bones and flake the fish. Combine all ingredients (except garnish) mixing thoroughly. Chill before serving. To serve, place in a decorative dish, top with fresno chile slices and surround with crackers. Makes 1 cup. Grilled tomatillo and pineapple salsa 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked and halved2 slices fresh pineapple, each about 6 inches long and 1⁄2 inch thick3 fresno chiles, stemmed1 clove garlic, minced1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt1 Tablespoons honey1⁄3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped2 Tablespoons white onion, finely diced Preheat grill to medium. Grill tomatillos, pineapple and chiles; turning once, until blackened and cooked through (about 4 minutes each side.) Set aside pineapple, allow to cool, then chop into 1⁄2 inch cubes. Place tomatillos, chiles, garlic, salt and honey in a food processor and pulse until coarsely combined. Transfer to a bowl. Add pineapple, cilantro and onion to the tomatillo mixture. Stir until combined. Serve warm or at room temperature. Salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes 21⁄2 cups. Sue Barham is the director of sales and marketing at Cima, now open in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa. The newest restaurant concept from internationally acclaimed chef Richard Sandoval, Cima is a contemporary Latin kitchen, featuring bold, vibrant flavors with Latino roots, created with fresh ingredients and global cooking techniques. Visit http://www.richardsandoval.com/cima.