Dark chocolate melts into straightforward mole sauce

Straightforward Mole Sauce

“Straightforward mole sauce” doubtless sounds a little oxymoronic, but here’s what it means:

  1. You don’t have to roast or peel any peppers.
  2. You only have to use two pans.
  3. After one round of sauté, you’re basically just adding things to the blender and hitting “blend.”

Straightforward mole sauce is definitely a case where you want to have everything out and ready to go. The things below will either go in a saute pan or a blender.

Ingredients for straightforward mole sauce are best laid out ahead of time.

This, of course, is but one version, though there are not too many straightforward mole sauces out there. Indeed, many of them boast about how complicated they are. Like any dish closely associated with a particular location—think kimchi or gnocchi—mole exists in as many different incarnations as there are cooks. This somewhat ancient article from the NYTimes, “On a Quest for Ultimate Mole Sauce,” does a pretty good job of explaining just how complicated a dish it is.

A cook named Margaret Shakespeare inspired me. I adapted it from her recipe in the Great Meals in Minutes: Mexican Meals cookbook (Time-Life Books, 1984). i like it very much in this vegan mole bowl recipe. It also works just dandy on a thing that, here is Michigan, is called a “wet burrito”—in other words, your basic burrito, with rice, beans, veggies, meat if you eat it, drenched in sauce. In that case, consider thinning it down.

Here, you can see the sauce before the chocolate melts in, chocolate naturally being the key ingredient.

Chocolate is ready to melt into a straightforward mole sauce.

And here it is, all blended up and lovely, dark, and deep on the Vegan Mole Bowl.

It goes wonderfully with savory, sweet, creamy—you name it. Cilantro is a marvelous foil. You can pour the finished batch in a glass jar, and unlike the kind you’d buy ready made, you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

Enjoy!

Vegan Mole Bowl

Vegan Mole Bowl

Mole—rhymes with “guacamole”—wears its Aztec roots with pride. This vegan mole bowl revels in a deep, thick,  mysterious sauce, which livens up what’s otherwise a simple of rice, beans, and vegetables.

There is, however, not a simple way to make mole. This recipe, adapted from a recipe by Margaret Shakespeare*, is close. If you get all the ingredients out ahead of time…

mole-ingr

….you can pretty easily get your mole on while everything else cooks.

mole-cooking

That, by the way, shows the chocolate before it melts. The chocolate is what gives mole its color and hard to pin down flavor.

(Click this link for the mole sauce on its own.)

As stated, this is a vegan mole bowl, relying on my old favorite cauliflower. (I’m not sure where I’d be without that vegetable.) If you don’t have a cauliflower, zucchini will roast up nicely, though in about half the time. If you have fresh corn, spectacular. And the mole will complement chicken, steak, or a robust seafood like scallops, shrimp, or cod—in other words, a fairly sturdy fish, though more bland is better. Salmon is out. Fresh tuna…you’re on your own.

Meanwhile, I turn once again to the awesome rice/quinoa mix put together by Seeds of Change, which we buy in 6-packs at Costco and that I go through about as often as I do cauliflower. You could also, of course, use your own cooked brown rice, quinoa, or your own blend of pretty much any grain you like.

mole-rice-pkg

Have fun with your toppings. I had a mango on hand and opted for sliced avocado so the mole could star. But if you don’t mind a crowded flavor party, throw a little guacamole on there and the two great Mexican creations can duke it out. Just be sure to have some fresh crunchy Romaine—possibly mixed up with a little green cabbage. Enjoy.

mole2

Sopa Seca

A few months ago I discovered the joy of cooking pasta in just enough liquid to bubble up over the top of the noodles. (Thanks to Cooking LIght magazine for the inspiration.) I realized that this dish translates easily to sopa seca, the wonderful “dry soup” of Mexico.

There’s nothing dry about sopa seca, but there’s not a whole lot of liquid. The method defies the conventional wisdom of giving pasta plenty of room in pot as they boil. Indeed, I still cook pasta that way when it’s the right way to cook it.

This method—which uses just 2 1/2 cups of broth for 4 ounces of pasta—behaves in an interesting way with any pasta, and particularly with gluten-free versions. I feared that it might dissolve into mush, which can happen pretty easily when you boil g.f. pasta in a giant pot of water. But Full Circle Gluten-Free Spaghetti, made from corn and rice, stayed stubbornly intact, remained pleasantly “to the teeth,” as they say in Italian.  Additionally, the corn and rice starch soaks into the broth, boosting it with subtle flavor. Given both grains’ close association with Mexican cuisine, it worked perfectly.

(If, by the way, you’re interested and even skeptical about cooking pasta in less water, read this entertaining NYTimes article.)

For the zucchini, I used Steve’s trick for even browning; he’s a stickler for getting all sides seared. Rather than cube the zucchini before hand (thus having to turn over each individual cube), we slice the zucchini lengthwise. We end up with 5 or 6 slices that are easy to turn; then we cut them afterward.

Zucchini is roasted before adding to sopa seca.

It goes together quickly. Non-vegans can add any number of protein choices to it, but it’s wonderfully filling and you really don’t need them, especially if you go a little hog-wild with the toppings. Is the vegan version of hog-wild….I dunno, avocado-wild? I kinda like that. May keep it. Or send your own nominations in the comments section. Above all, simply enjoy this lovely meal.

Sopa seca featuring roasted zucchini, avocado, cilantro, and other garnishes.