Salsa de Chili Pequin

Salsa de Chili Pequin | Culinary Compost

This is an authentic salsa that originated in the Sonoran desert of Northern Mexico. It is popular in Arizona and New Mexico due to the availability of the hot dried chili pequin pepper. The pepper is a close relative of the very small chiltepin pepper — essentially from the same cultivar; Capsicum Annuum var. Glabriusculum. If you have dried chiltepin peppers on hand, feel free to use those instead — they tend to be more spicy.

My recipe is extremely hot – adjust the heat to your preference.  You may use a propane torch or your oven broiler to blacken the cherry tomatoes. Don’t skip this step, as it’s critical to achieving the smoky, charred flavor that makes this dish so special.

Let stand for an hour in the fridge before serving. En Fuego!



30 cherry tomatoes, washed and drained in cold water.
3/4 cup loose trimmed cilantro leaves
3 small handfuls dried chili pequin peppers (about four tbs.)
4 cloves garlic with husks on
1 tbs. Bragg’s Organic apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt, to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried ground Mexican oregano
1 tsp. dried ground coriander seed
up to 3 tbs. cold water (use more if needed)



Wash thirty small, fresh cherry tomatoes and set aside. Wash and trim the fresh cilantro leaves.

Heat a small, heavy cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the dried pequin peppers. Toast lightly, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Remove from heat. Toast the garlic in the husks using the same manner. The garlic will take longer to toast. Remove when slightly charred, and then peel.

In a heavy eight-inch cast-iron skillet, blacken the cherry tomatoes with a propane torch. Use extreme caution – when possible use this technique outdoors to prevent a fire hazard. Stir occasionally to ensure they are evenly blackened. Remove from the skillet and place in a blender with the cilantro, toasted pequin chili, the garlic, vinegar, salt and ground black pepper. Add the ground coriander and Mexican oregano.

Pulse until smooth. Add a bit of cold water if you need to. Remove and let stand in your refrigerator for one hour before serving.


Makes just over one cup.
Heat level: 8


Toasted Chili Pequin and Garlic | Culinary Compost

Toasted chili pequin and garlic in a cast-iron skillet.

Blackening Cherry Tomatoes | Culinary Compost

Blackening cherry tomatoes in a cast-iron skillet, using a propane torch.

Tomatillo Salsa with Fired Serrano Chilies

Wood-Fired Tomatillo Salsa | Culinary Compost RecipesYet another variation on my fresh, traditional salsa verde. In this recipe, the serrano chilies are fire-roasted until charred. This method adds a subtle, complex flavor that is distinctively different. You may choose to fire the peppers on a grill, gas burner or with a propane torch.  Any of these methods work great.  There’s no need to peel them afterward — just stem them and pulse in your food processor until the desired consistency is achieved.  Note that a pinch of ground toasted whole cumin seed is also added.  The result?  Perfection.

In many traditional Mexican salsa recipes the tomatillos are simmered and then blended. Culturally, each has its place — and people seem to be vehemently polarized on their opinion of which they like better.

I love this version; it is very refreshing on a hot summer day.


12-16 fresh tomatillos, husked, washed and cored
6 large, fresh serrano chili peppers
1 medium onion, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed (try roasting it, as an option)
1/2 cup washed and trimmed cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. ground cumin – toasted from seed
2 tsp. salt, to taste


Peel the tomatillos and ensure they are completely washed clean in cold water. Core and quarter them and place in a food processor. Blacken and stem the serranos. Add to the processor with the onion, mashed garlic cloves and cilantro. Pulse until finely-chopped, but not smooth. Add the salt and toasted ground cumin. Mix well and let stand for 1/2 hour before serving.

Serves 6-8
Heat Level: 7

Salsa Verde |Culinary Compost Recipes

Use a good-quality food processor when preparing salsa. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and produce more consistent results. Choose one with a large-capacity work bowl, strong motor and a pulse switch. Shown is a premium Breville® Sous Chef 12-cup food processor. The pulse feature allows you to quickly process ingredients with just a few pushes of the button. Note the consistency of the cut. The unit costs a lot more than your average processor, but you get what you pay for.

Guajillo Salsa

Guajillo Salsa Recipe | Culinary Compost

This is a wonderful salsa made from dried Guajillo chili peppers and ripe plum tomatoes. If the Guajillos are too spicy, you can cut the heat by adding more tomatoes.



8-10 dried Guajillo peppers
2 plum tomatoes, seeded
2 large cloves of garlic
Pinch of dry ground coriander
Pinch of dry Mexican oregano
1 tsp. salt, to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced



Place the dry Guajillo pods in a large cast-iron skillet and heat over medium until lightly toasted and aromatic – about 5 minutes. Press them down and turn once so they don’t scorch. Remove and trim stems. Remove the seeds from the pods and place in a blender with enough water to cover the peppers. Let stand for at least a half hour.

Pour out the water from the blender and reserve. Measure 1 cup of the water and place back into the blender. Add the peeled garlic cloves, coriander, salt, Mexican oregano and cilantro. Pulse until smooth.

Add the seeded tomato and pulse again until smooth.

Let stand 20 minutes before serving. Makes about 2.5 cups.

Chili Relleños

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch | Culinary Compost

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch. The tough outer skin is unpalatable and should be removed before baking.

Stuffed chilis can take on many forms. The small ones known as “poppers” are very popular as an appetizer. Preparing them can be a bit time-consuming, but is well worth the extra effort. They taste nothing like the frozen ones you buy in a supermarket.

Rellenos historically are stuffed and baked Poblano peppers. The concept here is the same, only bite-sized and deep-fried. (Atkins participants need not apply.) Years ago, I had the opportunity to sample some called “Banditos” at a streetcorner ice-cream shop in downtown Denver. They were the hottest damn jalapeños I have ever had. They served them floured in a french-fry basket with sour cream on the side. Good eats!



Fresh jalapeño peppers
Cream cheese
Shredded Jack cheese
Bread crumbs
Salt (to taste)
Vegetable oil



Wash peppers. Leave the stems on. Cut horizontally about a third of the way through the pepper near the base by the stem. Next, make a vertical slit running from this cut down the length of the pepper. The result should look like a T-shaped slit on only one side. Carefully pry open the wall with a slender paring knife and snip out the membrane and seeds. Doing this takes a little practice. Wash out the rest of the seeds with cold water.

Prepare two large plastic storage bags with flour and bread crumbs, respectively. Fill a coffee cup full of milk and another with three beaten eggs. Place aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and shredded cheese. Microwave for 20-30 seconds until just softened. Mix well with spoon.

Carefully stuff each pepper with the cheese mixture. A butterknife works well for this. Gently press the sides of the pepper back together around the cut and wipe away any excess cheese.

Now comes the fun part…. dunk one pepper in milk, then drop it into the flour bag and shake. Remove and then place in egg cup, being sure to evenly coat all sides of the pepper. Remove from egg and toss in breadcrumb bag. Repeat the egg and breadcrumb step for a thicker batter.

In case you’re wondering, the milk is a binding agent… without it, the batter would slide right off the pepper when placed in the deep fryer.
Peppers can also be arranged on wax paper and sealed in an airtight container in the fridge overnight if needed. Make a batch the night before, then deep-fry them when you need them.


Deep Frying:
Heat a deep cast-iron pan filled with vegetable oil on medium-high. Drip a small amount of water in the oil. If it sizzles, you’re ready. Using a long pair of tongs, carefully set 5-6 peppers in the oil and brown for about three minutes, turning once. Do not crowd the pan as the temperature of the oil will drop.

Remove peppers, drain on paper towels and serve with sour cream, salsa or guacamole. CAUTION: FILLING WILL BE EXTREMELY HOT. LET COOL FOR A FEW MINUTES BEFORE SERVING.

Beef with Broccoli Stir-Fry

This is a fantastic, healthy and quick meal to prepare. Make sure that your wok is preheated until it’s blistering hot – ensuring that the flavors are seared quickly. In a pinch you can use snow peas or even asparagus.

Most indoor ranges cannot put out enough heat for a proper stir-fry. I use my cast-iron Lodge wok on my 22″ outdoor Weber charcoal grill. It works great and eliminates the need for an expensive, high-BTU output propane burner.


1 pound beef sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 1/8″ strips, against the grain
1/4 cup soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. hot chili sambal paste
3 cloves mashed garlic

2 large heads broccoli, washed and trimmed
2 fresh large scallion, trimmed and cut into thirds, then julienned
1 red bell pepper, cored and thin sliced
2 carrots, peeled, cut into thirds and julienned
1 cup beef broth
2 tbs. soy sauce
1/4 cup cold water
2 tbs. corn starch
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1-inch long pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp. sesame oil

2 cups cooked white rice
2 tbs. peanut oil


Prepare the beef marinade by trimming the beef and placing it in a ziplock storage bag. Combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tsp. hot chili sambal paste and three cloves mashed garlic. Stir well to incorporate and add to the bag. Seal, shake it well and let sit in your fridge for at least two hours.

Prepare the vegetables and place in a bowl so you have them ready to go.
Mix the two tbs. corn starch and 1/4 cup cold water in a small dish and set aside.
Mix two tbs. soy sauce and the beef broth and set aside.
Mince the ginger and three cloves garlic and combine in a small serving dish

Everything should be brought up to room temperature before being placed in the wok. Ensure that your vegetables are patted dry. Wet vegetables will create soggy food.

Prepare an outdoor grill with enough charcoal for a very hot fire, using direct heat. The mound of charcoal should touch the bottom of the top rack when placed on the grill. Lightly wipe down the surface of the cast-iron wok with peanut oil and place on the grill when the coals are nearly white-hot. The wok will be hot enough when a drop of water vaporizes instantly.

Have a covered serving dish, two silicone spatulas, a meat tongs, oven mitts and a Chinese-style spider-strainer ready. This meal will be done in under four minutes. Have all other ingredients at the ready. Combine the corn starch mixture and the beef broth and stir one last time to incorporate.

OK, are you ready? Add the two tbs. peanut oil to the wok and swirl quickly to coat the surface. Immediately add the ginger/garlic and quickly stir-fry for about thirty seconds until just aromatic. Immediately add the beef using a tongs (marinade should be drained off.) Quickly stir-fry until no longer pink, but not thoroughly cooked. Remove the meat with a spider-strainer and set aside in the covered serving dish.

Add the vegetables and stir fry for about two minutes until just crisp-tender. This part is critical. If you cook them too long, they will be overdone and soggy when the beef is recombined in the next step.

Add the beef back to the wok, combine and add the sauce mixture. Heat until it thickens, about thirty seconds to one minute. Add the sesame oil and combine.

Remove the wok from the grill and transfer the stir-fry to a covered serving dish. Serve with steamed rice.

Grilled Corn, Poblano and Black Bean Salsa

Take advantage of your outdoor grill during summer months by adding incredible flavor and depth to this unique salsa. Enjoy! It’s well worth the extra effort.


4-6 cobs fresh corn, soaked in cold water with silk removed (keep the husks!)
1 large poblano pepper, cored and washed
2 serrano peppers, stems removed and minced
3 ripe roma or 1 large garden tomato, cored and halved
1/2 red onion cut into planks
1 small can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloved peeled garlic, minced
1/4 cup washed cilantro leaves, minced
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
Juice of 1/8 lime wedge
XV olive oil

Charcoal for grilling
Paper lunch bag
Tortilla chips


Preheat your outdoor grill with enough charcoal for a medium fire. (You can try this recipe on a gas grill, but it will not turn out the same.)

Prep the vegetables. Let the corn soak in cold water for at least an hour.

When the coals are white hot (use direct heating method), place the corn cobs with husks on the grill and cover, rotating for about 45 minutes until slightly charred. During this time, keep the corn moist by adding a small amount of water over the cobs after turning. Remove and set aside to cool.

Check the temperature of your fire and re-stoke if necessary.

Working quickly, place the poblano pepper, the tomato and onion planks to the grill. Brush with olive oil and allow to char evenly. Rotate to avoid overcooking. When done, remove and place the poblano pepper in a sealed paper bag. Allow to stand for 15 minutes. The pepper’s tough outer skin will sweat and blister off.

Cut the kernels off the cobs and place the corn in a bowl. Add the salt, lime juice and minced cilantro. Dice the skinned poblano, tomato and onion. Add to the bowl. Add the minced serrano pepper. Use the serranos to control the heat to your preference. Add the black beans (about a cup), and the garlic. Stir well.

Allow to sit for at least 1/2 hour, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Serve and enjoy!

Serves 4-6

I highly recommend blue corn chips with this recipe.