Hot Chiles for my Hot Firefighter

Chile Crunch

I started making this condiment a few months ago, and we are addicted. When we run out, there's a lot of malaise, scrounging through the fridge for something that might approximate it. Sriracha? Too sweet. Tapatio? Too musky. Chile oil? Not crunchy. So I finally went to Cash and Carry, bought embarassing quantities of the ingredients, and once a week I can be found frying dried garlic and chiles in my wok, Wyatt walking up the stairs and asking hopefully, "Are you making that hot stuff?" He never eats a sandwich without it, which warms my heart.

And Yancey is even more nutso about it, putting it on almost everything. You may have heard that the central part of Washington is engulfed in flames, and Yancey and a crew of firefighers from his station have been sent to help. 3 men died earlier this week, and I'm just heartsick for their families. And for the evacuees, the pets and wildlife, everything and everyone in the path of this insatiable fire. I've been flooded with love, check-ins, and well wishes and have been passing those onto Yancey, and I don't feel worried. I'm not a worrier. But I do feel a deep sense of reality, like the veil has been lifted for a bit and we can see into the nature of things. We are not in control, we're always on the verge of catastrophe, and we'd better learn how to be present to one another now, without waiting. 

And I'm disporportionately nostalgic about things that remind me of Yancey--chile crunch, his tools in the garage, his little pile of keys, receipts, and flashlights by his bed. My neighbor and her infant daughter are without their husband/father for a year because he's been called up to the Army reserves and is serving in Afghanistan. This week is giving me the tiniest, teensiest idea of what it must be like for her, reading the news, checking Twitter feeds, looking for texts or emails. There are millions of people who, for many reasons, know they are on the edge all the time, and I'm appreciating them this week. (Thinking a lot about the anniversary of Katrina, too. For a great window into New Orleans then and now, I recommend my current favorite podcast, Death, Sex, and Money, its fabulous host Anna Sale, and her beautiful series on New Orleans.)

I've been fascinated by some studies I've read about collective trauma, and that part of what saves people is being about to do something with their bodies in the wake of diaster or in the middle of anxiety. That's probably why we cook for funerals and probably why I'm in the kitchen more than normal this week, makiing chile crunch, roasting hatch chiles, making granola, keeping my brain just busy enough and my body connected to the ground. I wish the same for you wherever are. xo

Crunchy Chile and Garlic Paste
This won't taste quite right at first and needs to sit for about 24 hours to let all the flavors meld. So if you taste it right after it's cooled, you might be non-plussed. Be patient. It will reveal itself to you. And it keeps forever in the fridge. 

1/2 c. dried minced garlic (not garlic salt or garlic powder)
1/2 c. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tb. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. salt 
1 c. canola oil 

Mix all ingredients together in a wok or heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring often, for about 5-7 minutes until oil is sizzling and garlic is just beginning to barely turn color. Turn off heat, let cool in the pan, and scrape into a glass jar. Cover and refrigerate.

Hatch Chile and Corn Frittata

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Wow. I've been gone awhile! Logging in to post here again, I breathed a happy sigh. Hello!

I'm going to get on (one of my many) soap-boxes and put a plug in for going off the grid. We've been unreachable for about 10 days and it was HEAVEN! Out-of-office message on the email, totally checked out of Facebook and Instagram, news, and anything anyone else was doing. Period. Cell reception wasn't even possible. (I know. Nutso. Or in Wyatt's lingo for crazy, "CRA.") I got to a totally different place--settled, in tune to the little things around me, and I read 6 books. Thank you, Universe, for time like that. I'm aware there are millions of Americans working several minimum wage jobs at once. For them, "no work" means no money. That doesn't mean I shouldn't take vacation, but I'm grateful all over again when I think of it that way.

Something is opening up around me, under me. And it doesn't threaten to swallow me up. Rather, it's something boundless, loving, infinite. Jane Fonda described it this way--"I feel a presence, a reverence humming within me that was, and is, difficult to articulate." Beautiful. Here's to the humming.

(And one more soapbox.) I talked to two people yesterday who've been having a hard time hearing the humming. Grief, loss, anxiety, plus the everyday difficulties of paying bills, meeting responsibilities. And all with the added summer burden of "getting out and enjoying life." They both shared that Facebook has made that harder for them. We don't post photos or updates that say, "I'm in a dark hole right now, or "My family vacation was a total disaster." So I guess my soapbox isn't that we shouldn't enjoy FB or post photos (I did and I'm going to again. These Ross Lake photos make me happy.), but that we should be mindful of how complicated life really is. Facebook is about the image we craft and present to the world. It's not the truth. The Truth is that we are enfolded by Divine Love no matter what, that money, status, friends, or vacations has absolutely nothing to do with that, and that our carefully curated images actually KEEP us from dwelling in love. Going off the grid reminded me of all that.

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Okay. Hatch Chiles. My mom orders a case of these from New Mexico every year, but they have shown up in my neighborhood supermarket. Wonder of wonders! For $1/pound. So I've been loading up and roasting them like they are going out of style. (Put them all on a sheet pan, broil them, turning until all sides are blackened. Put them into a paper bag and steam them for 20 minutes until skins are loosened from flesh and they are cool enough to handle. Peel and seed them with gloves on! And eat them on everything.)

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I brought this frittata to Jen and Jason's house for brunch on Sunday. Frittatas are good vehicles for so many things, and chiles and eggs are natural partners. You could certainly leave them out, substitute finely chopped jalapeno (less than what's called for here!), or use roasted anaheims from a can. It's still summer, after all, and you might not want to follow my example of broiling peppers all day. That's kind of CRA.

Hatch Chile and Corn Frittata

1 Tb. olive oil
1 c. frozen or fresh corn kernels (I like the frozen roasted corn from TJs)
1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions
1 small zucchini, very thinly sliced (mandolins are perfect for this if you have one)
1/2-1 c. roasted hatch chiles, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
8 eggs
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. coarsely crushed tortilla chips
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 c. crumbled feta
handful of fresh herbs--basil, parsley, cilantro, or a mixture

Turn oven to 425.

Heat oil up over medium heat in a 10" cast iron skillet. Add corn, green onions, and zucchini and saute until soft, about 7 or 8 minutes. Add hatch chiles, salt and pepper,  and turn the heat to low.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, and crushed tortilla chips together. Pour over sauteed veggies and let cook slowly for about 15 minutes, until it's starting to set up but not yet totally cooked. Top with cheese and herbs, and put into your preheated oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, until frittata is puffed and golden on top. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before you slice into wedges.