Monthly Archives: October 2010

Carne Adovada


Serves 6 to 8.

Note: From “The Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook,” by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison.

  • •8 oz. (about 25) whole dried red chile pods, preferably Chimayo or other New Mexico red, or ancho
  • • 4 c. water, divided
  • • 1 tsp. minced white onion
  • • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • • 3 lb. boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat and cut into 1- to 2-in. cubes
  • • Lettuce and tomatoes, optional, for garnish


To prepare sauce: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Break stems off chile pods and discard seeds. It is not necessary to get rid of every seed, but most should be removed. Place chiles in sink or large bowl, rinse carefully and then drain.

Place damp pods in 1 layer on baking sheet and roast 5 minutes in oven. Watch pods carefully so they don’t burn. The chiles can have a little remaining moisture. Remove from oven and let cool. Break each chile into 2 or 3 pieces.

In blender, purée half of pods with 2 cups water. Pour liquid into large, heavy saucepan. Repeat with remaining pods and water.

Add onion, Worcestershire, oregano, salt and white pepper to chile purée and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture will be thickened, but should remain a bit soupy. Remove from heat. Set aside.

To prepare meat: In a large oiled baking pot with lid, pour enough sauce over bottom of pot to fully cover. Top evenly with pork cubes. Pour remaining sauce over pork. There should be more sauce than meat.

Cover pot and bake at 300 degrees until meat is tender and sauce cooks down, about 31/2 hours. Check meat after 3 hours. The carne adovada can be left uncovered for the last few minutes of baking if sauce seems watery.

Garnish with lettuce and tomato on side, if desired. Sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for a day. The completed recipe can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Add a couple tablespoons water before reheating in oven or top of stove

Green Chile Stew


Serves 8.

Note: You can substitute canned green chile peppers for the roasted. From the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

  • • 1 1/2 lb. beef stew meat, pork or chicken, cut in 1/2 -in. pieces
  • • 1/4 c. oil
  • • 2 onions, diced
  • • 4 c. chicken or beef stock
  • • 2 tsp. salt
  • • 4 potatoes, cubed
  • • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • • 3 c. chopped roasted green chiles
  • • 2 tbsp. cilantro, or more to taste


Brown meat in oil in large saucepan. Add onions and continue to cook until onions are brown on edges. Add stock and salt; bring to boil. Add potatoes and simmer 1 to 2 hours.

Add bell peppers and garlic. Cook for another 30 minutes. Add green chile and cilantro and cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

Variations: Add any or all, to taste: posole, pinto beans, corn, tomatoes, chipotles en adobo and crushed coriander seed.

Star Tribune, Your choice: red or green? October 6, 2010

Autumn means fresh chiles in New Mexico, and the traditional recipes that use them are hearty and rich in flavor.

By Lee Dean, Star Tribune, October 6, 2010.  This article is syndicated from the Star Tribune, click here for the original article

A ristra of dried chiles. Richard Swearinger, Special to the Star Tribune

SANTA FE, N.M. – The fragrance of roasting peppers was as effective as a trail of bread crumbs as I looked for the farmers market on Guadalupe Street. The closer I got to the railroad station, where the vendor stalls began, the more pungent the peppers’ aroma.

By the time I reached Reynaldo Romero and his wire roaster on the outskirts of the plaza, the chile oils in the air were making me cough and my eyes burn.

Romero seemed unaffected by the volatile oils or intense heat. His safari hat and long sleeves protected him from the sun and roaster as he quietly and constantly turned the wheel to rotate the chiles. Each batch took about five minutes to blister, at which time the chile skins could be easily removed and the peppers were ready to eat, freeze or cook.

It’s chile harvest season in New Mexico, a glorious time when 40-pound burlap bags of chiles are sold in markets and from the backs of trucks. Some chiles are hung and dried in the colorful strings of peppers called ristras. But many are sold in quantities to be roasted en masse.

My cabdriver pointed out the bags of chiles for sale in vacant corners of parking lots as we zipped through the city. It was a good year for chiles, and he and his wife expected to spend a weekend roasting and canning peppers to carry them through a year’s worth of recipes — an annual fall event in kitchens throughout the region.

Not surprising in a state where a U.S. senator entered the official spelling of “chile” — not chili or chilie — into the Congressional Record. Or where state legislators voted on an official “question” as a symbol.

“Red or green?” is asked at any New Mexican restaurant, signifying “red or green sauce.” For those who can’t make up their minds — or who simply like the taste of both — there’s another possibility: “Christmas,” meaning both red and green sauces.

The New Mexican chiles — green in the summer and red in the fall as they ripen — offer two very different choices, depending on their color, the green being more, well “green” and vegetative in flavor, and the red a much deeper, darker and more complex taste.

Green chiles are standard fare in New Mexico, added to everything from tuna to pizza, says Cheryl Alters Jamison. She and her husband, Bill, are prolific cookbook authors who live in the area. The red, most often used dried, is either ground or cooked whole in sauces.

The chiles grow well in the bright sun, low humidity and high altitude of New Mexico (Santa Fe’s elevation is 7,000 feet), with specific varieties grown in different regions — think wine and terroir. Chiles are no different, with the Hatch chile coming from Hatch, N.M., and the Chimayo from the region of the same name. Outside New Mexico, the green chiles are often called Anaheim.

Their skins are tough because of the weather, which is why they are roasted first to make the skins slip off easily.

To do this at home, put the peppers in a single layer under a broiler and, turning them occasionally, let the skins blister and blacken, which will take about five minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven and put them on a clean towel and fold over the top (or put in a paper bag and close it); let the peppers rest for a few minutes. The skins then can be pulled off with your fingers with or without running water (don’t worry about removing all of the black bits). If they are to be frozen, the skins can be left on and removed when defrosted.

Both red and green chiles are used extensively at Rancho de Chimayo, a 45-year-old restaurant nestled in the rural hills 30 miles outside of Santa Fe. The restaurant was one of the first to offer a menu that reflected the way New Mexicans ate at home — a novelty at the time — with its mix of chiles, posole and beans in a variety of dishes. The recipes can be found in “The Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook,” by the Jamisons.

If you pay attention to terroir — and Anaheim simply won’t do — you can order the real pepper fresh (in season), frozen, dried or ground from the Santa Fe School of Cooking, 116 W. San Francisco St., Santa Fe, NM 87501, 1-505-983-4511.

As for me, I plan to cook my way through “The Rancho de Chimayo Cookbook,” one chile pepper at a time.

Old Santa Fe: 400 and still evolving

By:  Chris Reynolds, Los Angeles Time Staff Writer, October 4, 2010

Reporting from Santa Fe, N.M.– “Oldest house,” panted Robert Chavez, steering his pedicab past a 17th century adobe.

“Oldest church,” he added a moment later, nodding left toward the 17th century San Miguel Mission Church.

Santa Fe — rich, tan, relentlessly artsy and frequently artificial — is really old, by American standards. The city turned 400 this year.

When I visited recently, my mission wasn’t really to chase after old buildings, odd galleries and new restaurants. I wanted a look at Santa Fe’s newest downtown neighborhood, a once-blighted railroad zone whose revival is nearly complete. But in the middle of such history and atmosphere, a tourist gets distracted.

Before long, I was seated in Chavez’s pedicab, hurtling down a historic alley near the ditch that carried the city’s original water supply.

And then I was in front of a jewelry shop on San Francisco Street, where a cowboy guitarist named Wily Jim yodeled like a coyote who’d put in a semester at Juilliard. A few blocks over on Marcy Avenue, the Mira! Boutique was offering a stylish patio chair, crafted in Togo from an old oil barrel — only $$250. In the front yard of a gallery on Canyon Road, a woman with a blue scarf daubed white spots on a painting of a dancing pig. Planning your trip


From LAX, Southwest and United offer nonstop service, and US Airways, Delta, Frontier, Southwest and United offer connecting service (change of planes) to Albuquerque, which is about 60 miles from Santa Fe. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $$218. Since late 2009 American Eagle has been offering one daily nonstop flight between LAX and Santa Fe Municipal Airport. The flight takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes. The jet, an Embraer ERJ-140, seats 44 passengers. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $$210.

 “I’m just putting dots on her panties while the artist goes and gets a cigarette,” explained Deborah A. Higgs, director of All My Relations gallery. A moment later, artist Robert Anderson returned, took back the brush and regarded the pig anew.

“She represents to me a sort of welcoming, motherly femininity,” Anderson said.

So goes the good life in Santa Fe, and much of it is conducted among the city’s beloved earth-toned adobe and faux-adobe buildings (because the real adobes can melt like mocha ice cream in the rain). At their roof lines, carefully carved wood vigas — the ceiling beams — protrude, and red-pepper ristras dangle. The handsome blue doors and window frames look nice too, but their first purpose (so the folk wisdom goes) is to repel evil spirits.

If only there were a color that tourists could wear to repel high prices. But because there isn’t, be grateful that fall is here and room rates are falling.

If you visit in October — when the aspens and cottonwoods put on golden displays of fall foliage — you’ll probably pay 15% less for your room than the August hordes (who paid $$144 nightly on average last year). In November, you might pay 30% less, but you will need a heavier jacket; Santa Fe is about 7,000 feet above sea level, and the average November high/low is 52/26.

No matter when you arrive, you’ll want to check out the dozens of galleries along Canyon Road, where landscapes, portraits, American pottery and Australian aboriginal abstracts abound, at price points of $$100 to $$10,000. You’ll also want to pay respects at the Palace of the Governors, the long, low structure that faces the plaza, where the Native American merchants lay out their wares along the shaded walkway.

It’s not only the oldest building in town (and a genuine adobe that requires careful maintenance), but it’s also billed as the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. Inside, you can browse historical exhibits. Just behind the palace stands the New Mexico History Museum, which opened last year.

The palace has been tweaked and renovated over the years, but this is where the Spanish set up headquarters when they showed up around 1610. When Native Americans rose up and chased the Spanish out of town in 1680, this building was here. When the Spanish retook the town in 1693, it was still here.

And in the late 1870s, when New Mexico territorial governor Lew Wallace turned away from his day job to scribble, of all things, a novel about a chariot-racing Jewish slave/prince named Ben-Hur, this is where he did it. (Long before the Charlton Heston movie, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” was a 19th century bestseller.)

The St. Francis Cathedral Basilica two blocks away will demand your attention as well. It’s a massive stone structure that was put up by 19th century Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, who came from France and didn’t care much for the adobe look. (Locals persuaded him to leave standing a part of the old adobe church, which is now connected to the cathedral.) In front stands a sleek sculpture of a native maiden, added in 2002, whose beauty might distract you from noticing that the cathedral builders never got around to putting up spires.

Still, of all the handsome old buildings in Santa Fe, the one that stands out for me is the New Mexico Museum of Art, even though, as I’ve just learned from a $$1 museum pamphlet, it’s a copy of a knockoff of a facsimile.

It stands just across Lincoln Avenue from the Palace of the Governors, its walls bulging like muscles, vigas jutting smartly, shadows collecting in the courtyard, the works inside telling the story of Santa Fe’s growth as an art colony in the last century or so.

Its inspiration was San Esteban del Rey church at Acoma Pueblo (about 125 miles southwest of Santa Fe), which state historians say was built in the 1630s. But the line that connects them zigs to Colorado, then zags to San Diego.

The zig came in 1908, when Colorado businessman C.M. Schenk hired I.H. and William M. Rapp, a sibling team of architects, to use the Acoma church design as a model for a commercial building in Morley, Colo.

They did it, a group of New Mexico boosters saw the result (which has since been demolished), and soon the brothers were hired to adapt Acoma again, this time as a “cathedral of the desert” to represent New Mexico at the 1915 Panama- California Exposition in San Diego.

Again they did it, to great acclaim. Next came Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, an organizer of the San Diego exposition who was also director of Santa Fe’s fledgling museum. Hewett hired the Rapps to deliver yet another variation on the Acoma theme. So they did in 1917, and that, bolstered with expansions over the years, is the building I’ve been gawking at. (The inside is good too; during my visit, it included a witty exhibit on cowboy boots in popular culture.)

Meanwhile, the original church remains at Acoma, and the San Diego version survives as well (in Balboa Park, though it’s been changed dramatically). But my guess is the Santa Fe art museum building gets the most visitors, inside and out. When I hear somebody say “pueblo revival” or “Santa Fe style,” it’s what I see.

It was tempting to do my eating at the tried-and-true Santa Fe institutions — lunch at the courtyard of the Shed, for instance, or breakfast amid the bustle of Café Pasqual’s. And it would have been another sort of fun to tangle with the fragrance police at Trattoria Nostrani (which has been serving upscale Italian cuisine and banning perfume and cologne for several years). But I was most interested in how Santa Fe renews itself, so I focused instead on new places.

At the Hotel St. Francis, whose small rooms and spacious lobby were renovated in 2009, the new Tabla de Los Santos restaurant served me a spicy Pastel de Los Santos (poached eggs, spinach, corn and chile). At Vinaigrette, a salad-based bistro with a pun-intensive menu and metal chairs of fire-engine red, I had a great lunch salad with pears, pecans, bacon and blue cheese.

I had three excellent dinners. The first was pork striploin at Restaurant Martín, in a low-key bungalow with high-end food, placed just far enough from the plaza to feel more local and less touristy. The second was a farmers market sampler from Max’s, another high-end restaurant with a smaller, and even more casual, dining room. Then there was La Boca (which has been around since 2006), where I sat at the bar in back and tucked into a few tapas and a dessert of fresas de Barcelona (strawberries and liqueur).

Now it was time to see about that neighborhood rebirth along the tracks.

To reach the Railyard District, you head a few blocks west from the plaza on San Francisco, then a few blocks south on Guadalupe, passing such nightlife hot spots as the Cowgirl BBQ and the Corazon nightclub. Then look for the tracks, and the buildings that aren’t adobe.

After decades of civic hand-wringing over the area, the Trust of Public Land stepped up in 1995 to help the city buy the land. Now the nonprofit Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp. manages 50 city-owned acres, having attracted 10 art galleries, four restaurants, one big REI store, several nonprofit arts organizations and the city’s main farmers market. A wood-barrel water tower stands in the middle of it all, a long, shaded walkway slices past, and 13 acres of landscaped open space will eventually connect with a citywide trail network.

Most of those spaces opened in 2008, as did the Railrunner commuter rail service, which connects Santa Fe and Albuquerque, charging just $$7 an adult for a 70-mile, 90-minute ride. (If you’re flying into Albuquerque, you can catch a free shuttle from the airport to a rail stop and continue by Railrunner train to Santa Fe.)

The Railyard is also home to the Santa Fe Southern Railway, a tourist train that offers round-trip sightseeing excursions Wednesdays through Sundays on a spur between Santa Fe and Lamy, about 20 miles south.

The idea is to preserve the Railyard’s old grit but also to bring in plenty of free-spending locals and visitors. And clearly the project isn’t done yet: Plans for a Railyard cinema multiplex have stalled for lack of financing, and the tiny old depot building could use some sprucing up.

But on Saturdays, the farmers market draws as many as 7,000 shoppers. And on the last Friday of every month, year-round, the Railyard galleries open for “art walks.”

“This is where contemporary art is really happening in Santa Fe,” said Fiona MacConnell of the Charlotte Jackson Gallery, which recently moved from the plaza area to the Railyard.

With that in mind, I spent a few hours browsing galleries and SITE Santa Fe, a nonprofit exhibition space whose biennial exhibitions since 1995 have won international respect in the art world. The current show, up through Jan. 2, is called “The Dissolve,” and it’s all about the joining of high technology with homespun techniques from the early days of animation. In other words: looking back while looking forward.

Of about 25 mostly video artworks in the show, half a dozen grabbed my attention. That’s a good batting average for me and contemporary art. As I reemerged into the bright light of the afternoon, a few preyed on my mind, especially the miniature drama of Oscar Muñoz’s endless efforts to complete a portrait in water on a fast-drying surface.

While the video camera rolled, the artist would add a new line to the water portrait, but as he did, an old one would evaporate. Then he’d add another new detail, as another evaporated. The watery face was forever evolving, like a slow-motion cartoon, or an old city in subtle but perpetual renewal.

Santa Fe Guacamole


  •  2-3 medium to large-sized avocados, halved and seeded
  •  3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  •  1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  •  1/3  cup red onion, finely chopped
  •  1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
  •  1 small tomato, seeded and chopped small
  •  1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cut each avocado in half. Remove the skin and seed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Place all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss until all the ingredients are incorporated and the avocado is lightly mashed.  This guacamole is best when served on the chunky side.

Maria’s 100-Percent Agave House Margarita

margarita on the rocks with saltMakes 1 margarita

  • 1 lemon wedge
  • A saucer of kosher salt (about 1/4 -inch deep)
  • 1  3/4 ounces Jose Cuervo Traditional 100-percent agave tequila
  • 1 ounce Bols triple sec
  • 1  1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Ice

Run lemon wedge around the rim of hurricane-style margarita glass. Dip rim of glass into saucer of salt, rotating rim in salt until desired amount collects on glass.

Measure tequila, triple sec and lemon juice into 16-ounce cocktail shaker glass full of ice. Place stainless steel cocktail lid over shaker glass, tapping top to create seal. Shake vigorously about 5 seconds. Pour, ice and all, into salt-rimmed glass. To serve the margarita “up,” simply strain liquid from ice into flat margarita glass. Serve immediately.


Red Chile Sauce with Meat

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef, preferably coarse ground
  • 3/4 cup dried ground red chile, preferably Chimayò, other New Mexican red or ancho
  • 1 tablespoon minced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Brown beef over medium heat in high-sided skillet until pink color is gone. Add chile, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper; stir to combine. Pour water slowly into skillet while continuing to stir. Break up any lumps of chile. Continue stirring sauce and when it is warmed through, add cornstarch.

Bring mixture to boil; reduce heat to simmer. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Completed sauce should coat a spoon thickly and not taste of raw cornstarch. If it becomes too thick, add more water. Serve sauce warm with enchildas, burritos or other dishes. Red chile sauce freezes well. Add extra water when reheating.

New Mexican hotties: Want your chiles red, green or Christmas?

By Jill Wendholt Silva, The Kansas City Star, posted September 14, 2010
This article was syndicated from the The Kansas City Star, click here for the original article. 

Photos by Richard Swearinger | Association of Food Journalists

Nearly every New Mexican cookbook offers a recipe for both green and red chile sauce. The sauces are used like gravy.
To get to the Saturday morning farmers market from the Eldorado Hotel & Spa, hang a left on South Guadalupe and keep walking until the rail yard.
“You’ll probably smell the market before you actually get there,” a fellow food writer calls after us.

Under a cloudless blue sky, I head out with Lee Dean, food editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Nancy Stohs, food editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The 10-minute walk takes us past a park, a knot of day laborers, a church, restaurants and plenty of trendy boutiques with chunky squash blossom necklaces and turquoise bracelets.

On the edge of the market, a man with sun-baked skin roasts Hatch chiles in a latticed metal drum. The pungent, vegetal smell of the green chiles shedding their skins makes me hungry, but it also stings my eyes and throat.

During the first week of September, 54 members of the Association of Food Journalists gathered in Santa Fe. We arrived at the height of the chile harvest. Some years the season lasts two weeks; other years it spans two months. Locals say it has been a long time since the arid scrub-brush landscape has been so green. The bounty of chiles this year is expected to be nothing less than “voluminous.”

But why is it de rigueur to roast chiles?

“The skin of chiles grown in the desert can be texturally unpleasant — like eating celluloid film,” says Rocky Durham, culinary director of the Santa Fe Cooking School.

“When you are here, you are at the epicenter of chiles,” Durham says. “The hotness of chile is what people want to talk about, but there are very deep, profound flavors in chile peppers, and they represent the specific terroir they’re grown in.”

At 7,000 feet in altitude, the sun is hot and the air is dry.

“The whole cuisine is based on dry: drying chiles, drying corn, drying mud,” says Katherine Kagel, chef/owner of Café Pasqual’s, an iconic organic restaurant at 121 Don Gaspar Ave. that has been serving up distinctive Santa Fe fare since 1979.

Christmas combo

Forget state songs, birds, flowers or trees, New Mexico’s unofficial state question is of culinary import and boils down to this: red or green?

To which there are only three appropriate answers: Red. Or green. Or Christmas, a combination of the two.

For a true taste of Christmas, head to Rancho de Chimayò, a restaurant nestled in the mountains 30 miles north of Santa Fe. Run by the Jaramillo family since 1965, the adobe hacienda is decorated with strands of ristras, red chiles hanging from the ceiling to dry. These are fresh chiles (green chiles turn red), not to be confused with the varnished ristras and wreaths sold to unwary tourists. Of course, a varnished one is probably easier to get through airport security.

Both red and green have their merits; just don’t try to judge heat by the color.

Cheryl Alters Jamison, a New Mexico-based award-winning food writer, is better known for writing barbecue tomes with her husband, Bill. They recorded the recipes for the restaurant’s cookbook, their first foray into food writing.

“Ladies from the village used to work in the restaurant,” Jamison recalls. “There were no recipes, so you got various variations, depending on who was cooking. … I had to sit in the kitchen and take notes and make a composite recipe and go back to ask, ‘Does this taste right?’ ”

Jamison notes that the late New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne once visited the restaurant. Claiborne was enamored with the hearty carne adovada, a sassy dish of marinated and baked pork seasoned with chile caribe, a dried chile pod that is ground and cooked down into a fruity sauce with hints of raisin and cranberry.

The restaurant’s combo plate features carne adovada served with cheese enchiladas topped with green chile sauce, pinto beans cooked with chicos — kernels of sweet or tender green corn cooked in a horno, a beehive-shaped earthen oven, then removed from the cob. Sopaipillas, those warm pillows of bread fried in very hot oil, arrive in a bread basket.


2010 marks Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary as a city, but there have been native people living in New Mexico for much longer. The Anasazi, for instance, were apartment dwellers and farmers in the region thousands of years before white settlers.

As Spaniards made their way into the region, Santa Fe was a culinary crossroads. “When the Old World collided with the new, the blend of agriculture and foods was, without a doubt, the most significant blending of cultures in the world,” said William Dunmire, associate professor of biology at the University of New Mexico.

But how does a modern city of 80,000 people support more than 200 restaurants?

In part, by continuing to celebrate indigenous foods.

“I am really done with industrial food. Done,” Kagel says. “I think America is about ready to take a good hard look after this egg scare (when many Americans were sickened with salmonella). We need to go back to the way things were grown before World War II.”

The Café Pasqual menu offers plenty of New Mexican specialties with chiles, but the restaurant also sources from local farmers such as Talus Wind Ranch, a 260-acre ranch 30 miles southeast of Santa Fe producing heritage meat, including heritage turkey, as well as five breeds of heritage lamb: Navajo-Churro, Finnsheep, Rambouillet, Southdown and Miniature Southdown.

Café Pasqual’s lunch menu features a Talus Wind Ranch lamb burger on a brioche bun with mint-garlic Greek yogurt accompanied by a watermelon salad or field greens.

Native nosh

Chef/culinary anthropologist Lois Ellen Frank sees a Native American Foods Movement on the horizon — one similar to the Slow Foods Movement. The goal, Frank says, is to present modern interpretations of simple, ancient foods.

Born to a Kiowa mother and a Sephardic Jewish father and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Frank grew up in a multicultural world of native seders and Jewish feasts.

Frank began her career as a professional food photographer. When an elder watched her cast a positive light on chicken nuggets, he asked: “Are these the poetry from within?”

Frank had to admit the food she was photographing did not reflect her upbringing. Looking for a new line of work, she contacted iconic Santa Fe chef Mark Miller and together they birthed “The Great Chile Poster,” a popular poster depicting a variety of chile peppers. She has also written the James Beard Award-winning cookbook “Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations” (Ten-Speed Press) and owns the Red Mesa Cuisine, a catering company that combines native foods and contemporary techniques.

Before Spaniards began colonizing the region, the Native Americans had few sweet foods in the diet — watermelon was a treat. Nor did they drink alcohol.

When Navajo and Hopi tribes were later relocated to reservations, they changed their diet from healthy, indigenous foods to government rations, including bug-infested flour. Making do, the women concocted fry bread. “Fry bread is native, iconic food. But you can’t eat it every day and be healthy,” Frank says.

More recently, trading posts on reservations have become food deserts where less than healthful foods are sold. American Indian youth suffer from a high rate of overweight and obesity.

Tequila 101

As owner of Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, Al Lucero sells 3,000 margaritas a week during tourist season. The restaurant’s eight-page list features more than 170 margaritas ranging from $6 to $75 a glass, depending on the quality of the tequila.

After 30 years as a radio and TV broadcaster, Lucero was able to ride the emerging premium tequila trend, becoming an expert on margaritas. His “The Great Margarita Book” (Random House) — with a foreword by Robert Redford — has sold more than 100,000 copies. Yet despite his expert credentials, I was shocked to learn that Lucero makes his margaritas with fresh lemon instead of lime.

“Lemons are more abundant and less expensive,” he says. Plus, “they have the same sugar content, regardless of the time of year.”

At Maria’s they dilute the fresh-squeezed juice with 10 percent tap water to mellow the tartness.

More tequila facts:

•Tequila is made from the blue agave plant. The desert plant is not a cactus; instead it’s related to the lily and takes eight to 12 years to mature.

•Agave is grown primarily for use in tequila; it’s also used as an alternative sweetener.

•If it doesn’t say 100-percent agave on the label, it’s not authentic. “Tequila has to come from Mexico,” he says. “If it’s 100-percent agave it must be bottled at an estate.”

•“Don’t ever hesitate to put a good tequila in a margarita.” In other words, your cocktail is only as good as your ingredients.

•“Be careful not to pay for the shape of the bottle. It should be in a relatively plain bottle.”

•Remember, tequila does not have a worm in the bottle. Mezcal is the “moonshine of Mexico.” It’s made from agave but is processed to take on a smoky flavor — and a worm.

Want to try a tequila tasting at home? We sampled Jose Cuervo Gold Mixto: a blend of 51 percent agave and 49 percent cane sugar dissolved in water; El Tesoro Silver (blanco): 100-percent agave fresh from the still; El Tesoro Reposado: 100-percent agave aged in oak for at least 60 days; and El Tesoro Anejo: 100-percent agave aged in oak for at least one year.

Go to Santa Fe Recipes for Carna Adovada, Red Chile Sauce and Maria’s 100 Percent Agave House Margarita.