Thursday, June 12, 2014


Chiles de arbol - fresh and dried - are very similar in appearance to cayenne chiles, which are typically used in Indian cooking, although the flavours of both chiles are somewhat different. Chiles de arbol are a bit woodsy and smokier than cayennes.

As a side note, in Gujarati, dried cayenne chiles are referred to as "vaghaar na marcha" - chiles used for tempering. We also pickle fresh cayenne chiles with mustard or lime, or eat them raw with a meal, sometimes dipped in salt before each bite. If you cannot find chiles de arbol in a store near you, you can use cayenne chiles for this salsa.

This spicy salsa is really easy to make and will no doubt become a regular in your fridge! It's great with chips, on tacos and enchiladas, as a simmer sauce, over baked/grilled meat or fish, with poached eggs, and - as shown above - even as a poaching sauce for eggs (thin it a bit with water first).

You can make it as spicy or mild as you want. To make it spicy, leave the seeds in the chile pods. To make it mild, break the chiles in half and shake out the seeds before roasting. Either way, it's a really delicious sauce!

Salsa Verde with Chiles de Arbol
makes: ~2 cups

- 8 - 10 chiles de arbol
- 5 medium tomatillos, husks removed, and washed well
- 1/2 medium onion (don't chop it)
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- 1/4 bunch cilantro (15 - 20 stalks)
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 cups water

  1. Heat a cast-iron or other heavy skillet. Fill a bowl or lidded container with 1 cup of the water.
  2. Remove the stems of the chiles and toast on the skillet, stirring frequently to keep them from burning. Once the chiles smell fragrant and are lightly browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the container of water. Cover and let the chiles soak while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Put the tomatillos, garlic, and onion (cut side down) in the hot skillet and roast, turning once or twice. Once the tomatillos are charred in spots and soft, the garlic is charred in spots, and the cut side of the onion is somewhat blackened, turn off the heat and leave to cool.
  4. Peel the garlic, cut the onion and avocado into 2-3 large pieces, and drain the chiles.
  5. Add the chiles, tomatillos, peeled garlic, onion, avocado, cilantro, salt, lime juice, and 1/2 cup water to a blender jar. Blend till you have a thick salsa (if you want a thinner salsa, add the other 1/2 cup water). Taste and adjust salt and lime.
  6. Store in the fridge up to 3-4 days.

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