Quelites (or Lamb's Quarters)
* Breakfast at Rancho Gordo In the kitchen Ingredient Spotlight Vegetarian
Here in Napa we have a Sunday flea market. I've passed it many times but this last weekend I decided to actually go and it's a wild market. It's about 95% Mexican and it reminds me of a very well-organized tianguis. There are computer parts, auto tires, work boots, but most importantly there is food. A lot of it is the type of thing you'd see in a well-stocked Mexican grocer but a little digging revealed quelites and papalo, two greens I've never seen in a store. Technically, queliltes can be any edible green but normally it refers to what we call lamb's quarters. They really are delicious and I'm sure they're also very healthy but I don't have any information on that. You find them growing wild sometimes and you also see a purple type in the seed catalogues. Papalo, or papaloquelite, is a very strong green that's almost a succulent. It's required for a cemita, the famous sandwich from Puebla but it's also nice chopped up on grilled meats. It's very strong and it almost tastes like gasoline and mint. Sounds fine, doesn't it? But back to the quelites, I wasn't quite sure how to cook them although I do remember Rick Bayless writing that they take longer than you'd think to cook. I pulled off the more tender greens from the thicker stems and then rinsed them. They were pretty muddy. I then sauteed onion and garlic in olive oil and when soft, I added the wet lamb's quarters. As the liquid cooked off, I also added a few spoonfuls of chicken stock and a large spoonful of a guajillo chile sauce I'd made earlier in the weekend. With just a little salt, they were incredible. Just as a vegetable they were fine. The stock and chile sauce weren't necessary. The next night for dinner, I reheated some of the queliltes and added some previously cooked Sangre de Toro beans. These are fast becoming a new favorite and they were great with the greens. Now, you know I'm obsessed with corn tortillas but I had a pack of flour tortillas from La Palma. There are very thick and crude and not the type of thing I normally go for, but I had them, along with some Oaxacan string cheese and the next thing you know I have a sort of quelites quesadilla. I folded it over so the cheese would melt and then sliced it up. I was rather happy as I ate away. Of course corn tortillas without the cheese would also make a nice little taco. I love reinventing leftovers so for breakfast I was determined to have more. I ground a couple of very hot but flavorful dried chiltepin peppers in my mini molcajete. The ground pepper when into some scrambled eggs, along with the quelites and it was a great, robust breakfast. I love spicy food in the morning when I have strong, sugared coffee as well. The combination of the warm, sweet milky coffee and the intense heat from chiles is fun for me. There are just a few more spoonfuls left and it dawns on me this might make a nice sauce for rigatoni if I can thin it out with a little more chile sauce.