When I went vegetarian in 1998, I did so for ethical reasons, not because I was a fan of tofu. I washed down steamed broccoli with water and reminded myself a future of bland meals was a small sacrifice if my plant-based choices respected animals, reduced carbon emissions, and supported sustainable agriculture.
Four years of bland meals until I went on a taste-bud trip of a lifetime to China. Meat is eaten daily in the People’s Republic, but I learned that with a creative use of sauce and spice, I didn’t need to harm an animal to satiate my appetite. Balance the FASS (fat, acid, salt, and sweet), as food guru Rebecca Katz suggests in her amazing cookbook The Longevity Kitchen, and even the most unassuming vegetable will sing with flavor.
Today’s post features a quick chile relish with the perfect amount of fat, acid, salt, and sweet. While this relish might be your mother’s go-to condiment recipe, I can assure you we didn’t eat much Mexican or Southwestern food in the Middleton household. I didn’t taste salsa until I was in high school, and not until a friend in Oregon brought home a backpack full of free avocados (FREE FOOD) did I muster the courage to try guacamole.
The recipe only makes 3/4 cup of deliciousness, so if you have enough of your ingredients, I’d double the recipe. Not only will it go great with traditional Southwestern cuisine, but you can add a dollop to your favorite non-meat protein or virtuous veggies to remind yourself that vegetarian meals are not a sacrifice but a gift to your taste buds.
Ancho Chile Relish (adapted from a Longevity Kitchen recipe)
Makes 3/4 cup
1 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder (the original recipe calls for 2 dried ancho chiles, reconstituted in hot water for 15 minutes)
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 TBS freshly squeezed lime juice
1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 tsp Grade B maple syrup
In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Stir to combine. Add another squeeze of lime juice if you want more zing.