“Wait aren’t you the woman who just told us all to go to a meat conference?!”
Why, yes. Yes, I am. I am also a woman with a job that requires de facto vegetarianism at lunch during the work week. I may have mentioned recently that my current cooking muse is whatever is in my refrigerator/cupboard. I am not someone who finds foods and then stocks up on her favorites. Instead I prefer to have a constantly inspiring (read: changing) pantry based on ingredients I need for particular recipes. There are few things I try never to be completely out of: fresh fruit, fat, the Allium family, sea salt, tri-colored peppercorns, gluten-free pasta, brown rice, popcorn. Lack of one of those is grounds for an immediate trip to the grocery store. But otherwise, when I decide to cook, I look around at what I have, and let it spark my imagination.
I made a lazy lady’s ragú recently so I had some Muir Glen Fire Roasted whole tomatoes left over and I decided to make them in a molé. I started with David Lebovitz’s recipe because it was the amount of complication I thought I could handle.
Mol-ish Adapted from David Lebovitz
1-ounce dried ancho dried chiles
1/3 cup slivered blanched almonds
1 small onion, chopped
5 Muir Glen fire roasted whole tomatoes and sauce
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1 tablespoon toasted, salted pepitas
4 cloves garlic, smashed with a knife blade
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, dried oregano, powdered cumin, ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
freshly ground pepper
water or chicken or other broth (and more as needed).
3 Tablespoons unsweetened (non-Dutched) cocoa
Soak the chiles and the blueberries (together) in the chicken broth (or water) for 30 minutes. Keep them submerged by putting a lightweight bowl on top
Heat a skillet to medium-low. Add a neutral vegetable oil (safflower or other), cook onions and almonds in skillet until clear. Add 2 cloves of the garlic, saute about a minute more. Add all the spices, salt, pepper, and cocoa powder to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes. The spices should smell toasted. Do not let them burn.
Take the stems and the seeds out of the chiles. Rough chop them. Reserve the broth or soaking water.
*Purée the chiles and the blueberries with 1/4 C of the broth. Add in the spice mixture and the other 2 cloves of raw garlic. Purée until smooth. Add a little more broth/water if necessary. Add the tomatoes. Purée. Taste. Adjust (see below). If the molé is not pourable add more broth/soaking water and blend until it is a smooth, easy pouring (if thick) liquid.
Adjusting: You should be able to taste almost every element in the molé. With a background of pleasant whole-mouth heat. Both the chiles and the raw garlic add kick. The blueberries (or raisins or dates) add sweetness. The almonds (or almond butter) add an unmistakable almond-ness. The chocolate adds a rich, chalky, somewhat charred flavor.
Do not add too much sweetness. It is too hard to counter if you go too far. Do not add more heat until you have let it sit for a day. Do not add salt again until you are using it in a dish, then season the whole dish.
Otherwise add whatever note you feel is missing.
*I have a very hardy, but old, and rather small blender so I did this in many small batches. Doing this in a bowl or pot with an immersion blender would also work (after you have puréed the spices and the chiles).
As noted, I put this on tofu that I drained then compressed for about 20 minutes to drain it some more (elevated a small cutting board to drain into the sink, placed the tofu on it, placed another small cutting board on top with a 6 inch cast iron skillet as a weight), then froze and defrosted. I let it sit in the molé overnight. If you eliminate the chicken broth this recipe is vegan.