Chiles in the garden & a rose

A few months ago, a lady began selling plants, including a wide variety of chiles, at the Alhambra Farmers’ Market.  Inspired by Gustavo Arellano‘s Facebook posts on growing chiles and by the “Hot Peppers” episode of Visiting With Huell Howser, I bought a couple of plants from the lady at the farmers’ market.  I bought a few more over the next month or so, and I now have six chile plants:

* Fresno
* Apache
* Chile de arbol
* Black Cobra
* Bombero
* Piquin

Three weeks ago, I picked the first peppers from my little garden.  (I only thought to take pictures after I had eaten some of the first crop!)

I cooked up the first Fresno chile & the first chile de arbol with some cauliflower, shallots, and garlic.    I cooked the Apache chiles with a tofu scramble, but first I took a bite of the skin.

I am a rather cowardly person when it comes to physical pain.  The exceptions are in the garden and on the soccer field – and now the Apache pepper.  It burns, but its combination of sweetness and heat is heavenly.  Then it hurts, hurts, hurts, but it’s worth it.

And that’s just the skin!  I haven’t been brave enough to eat the seeds by themselves.  I cook with the seeds, but I balance the heat a bit with lime.

Here is last weekend’s pick, which includes the first Black Cobra as well as Apaches & chiles de arbol.

The small peppers are the potent Apaches, and the longer one is the Black Cobra.
The small peppers are the potent Apaches, and the longer one is the Black Cobra.
Though the large unripe pepper looks like a Fresno or a jalapeño, these are all chiles de arbol.
Though the large unripe pepper looks like a Fresno or a jalapeño, these are all chiles de arbol.

The Black Cobra is also delicious, hotter than the Apache even, but without the Apache’s sweetness.  The chile de arbol, which is common in Mexican cooking, is smokier and not as hot.

The Piquin, which is also advertised as smoky, has borne fruit but the peppers are still unripe.  The Bombero, last of the plants to blossom, has put out flowers but no fruit yet.

Finally, here are a few photos of a pink miniature rose that bloomed last week.  My interest in gardening is intimately linked to my memories of my grandpa, whose second career (after years in the Navy) was as a gardener at Balboa Park.  This is one of the roses that I was able to transplant from his garden eight years ago after he died and we had to sell his house.

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Adventures in the Valley(s)

Marlene and I had to pick up our quarterly wine club bottles from Agua Dulce Winery in the Sierra Pelona Valley in northern Los Angeles County (about an hour from our house).  On the way, we decided to stop in the northeast San Fernando Valley at #100 on LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold’s Top 101 Restaurants, Rocio’s Mole de los Dioses (mole of the gods/goddesses).

I started off with a refreshing agua de nopal con piña (fruit drink with cactus and pineapple).  We shared the mole sampler; I  also had a cactus salad and Marlene had a chicken dish with mole poblano.

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The mole sampler with “nopaltillas,” cactus tortillas. Photo by Marlene Caldera.

The moles were delicious, probably the best I’ve ever had.  The “mole de los dioses,” made with huitlacoche, an edible fungus that grows on corn and is also called “corn truffle,” had a smooth creaminess; the mole manchamanteles was smoky, almost like a Mexican barbecue sauce; and the mole de nopal was creamy up front and hot at the end.

After lunch, we headed over the Newhall Pass into the Santa Clarita Valley and exited California Highway 14 at Placerita Canyon Road to visit the Placerita Canyon Nature Center.

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The center, maintained by LA County Parks & Recreation, is the home of a famous tree:  the Oak of the Golden Dream.

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Photo by Marlene Caldera

Leon Worden’s article at Santa Clarita TV’s history website tells the story:  according to legend, in 1842, Francisco Lopez was herding cattle on his niece’s ranch when took a nap under an oak tree.  As he slept, he dreamed that he was swimming in a pool of gold.  After his siesta, Don Francisco found some wild onions, and, after he dug the onions up, he noticed that some particles of gold in the dirt around the onion roots.  Sure enough, Placerita Canyon was the site of the first gold strike in California, six years before the famous strike in Northern California.

Next, we headed to the Vasquez Rocks, not far from the winery.  If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, you’ve seen this iconic landform.

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Apparently, not far from the rocks are Native American petroglyphs.  Looks like we’ll have to go back and hike that trail!

We ended up at the winery around 3:30.  It was getting late, so we only stayed long enough to pick up our wine before heading for home.

Tofu Scramble Tacos

Today’s make for Connected Educator Month is “Make Some Fabulous Food.”  Right up my alley!

I made tofu scramble tacos, my take on a recipe from Post Punk Kitchen.

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I started with garlic plus half a shallot and a whole jalapeño, including the seeds.  Cooking the scramble with the jalapeño seeds gives it a wonderful spicy hotness.

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Garlic, shallot, and jalapeño (with seeds) sautéeing in olive oil

While the garlic, shallot, and pepper sauté, I chop up the tofu.

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After five minutes, the tofu goes in the pan.

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Next I chopped up spinach to add with the spice blend (cumin, turmeric, and thyme) and the nutritional yeast (which gives the scramble a cheesy flavor and adds Vitamin B-12 and protein).

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Chopped spinach next to 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast in the Pyrex beaker

After the tofu has been in the pan for 10 minutes, I added the nutritional yeast and the spice blend.

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Spice blend added
Spice blend mixed in with the tofu
Spice blend mixed in with the tofu
Nutritional yeast added to the tofu
Nutritional yeast added to the tofu

Finally, after three minutes, I added the spinach.

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Spinach added to the tofu
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Spinach mixed in – the dish is almost ready!

Finally, I heated some corn tortillas on the stove for the tacos.

The recipe – following the Post Punk Kitchen’s directions – made enough scramble for 6 tacos.

My wife added the delicious Original California Style Hot Pepper Sauce from Pepper Plant to her tacos; I ate mine without added sauce.