How to Use My Mellow Santa Fe Rub
My version of the Mellow Santa Fe Rub recipe emphasizes flavor rather than heat. I wanted to re-create the distinctive flavors I remember from growing up in Southern California, where the “hole in the wall” restaurants run by real first-generation Mexican immigrants were not focused on chilis (the way Tex-Mex tends to be) but on a range of more subtle flavors. For me, the essence of the Southwest taste is to be found in that Mexican heritage: It’s the cumin and coriander, and even the cinnamon that are common to the authentic “people’s cuisine” of Mexico that I think gives this blend its unique regional flavor.
I also thought it would be fun to try to reflect the laid-back mystique of contemporary life in hip New Mexico. That meant keeping the spices in decent balance and skipping the salt – which allows the spices become a bit “muddier.” The result is a delicate, flavor-rich rub to go on your food that also works wonderfully as an ingredient in your favorite dishes. Here are a few of mine, to stimulate your culinary imagination.
Tasty Grilled Chicken
Here’s a Southwest grilled chicken recipe that makes great chicken tacos or fajitas!
1. In a small bowl mix 1 package of my Mellow Santa Fe Rub with 1 packed tablespoon brown sugar and 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil. Mix until crumbles form.
2. Thoroughly and generously coat 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts with the mixture and place in a baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
3. Grill at a medium heat 6-8 minutes on each side until cooked through.
4. Rest for 5 minutes, then slice into strips and serve as is, or with soft tortillas and taco garnishes such as: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, grated Monterey Jack cheese (perhaps with jalapeno peppers), salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.
Side Dish Suggestion: Corn Salad
Ahead of time, cook 6 ears of corn. Let cool, then cut the kernels off the cobs.
In a large bowl, mix the corn kernels with 1/2 cup finely diced red onion, 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half, 3 tablespoons red wine (or apple cider) vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and ground black pepper. Cover and chill.
When ready to serve, mix in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves.
Southwest-and-Maple Baked Pork Chops
This dish is delightful when made with local, field and forest raised pork chops with a rich strip of fat still attached!
1. Mix 1 package of Mellow Santa Fe Rub in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon real maple syrup. Stir until a thick paste forms.
2. Coat one side of 4 center cut pork chops, using a basting brush, and place them in a baking dish, coated side down. Then throughly coat the tops, letting the paste drizzle down the sides, too. Cover and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
Tip: Thicker pork chops (1″ or more) retain more moisture; thin chops dry out quickly. Chops with up to 1/2″ fat attached will have more flavor, and will retain more moisture.
3. To cook, preheat oven to 350 F, place pork chops on a center rack and bake until the internal temperature is 160 F (35-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops).
4. Reposition the rack for broiling, turn oven to Hi Broil and quickly broil for 5-10 minutes to form a crusty top surface. Serve immediately.
Serve with a side of young, thin stalks of asparagus lightly sauted with 1 teaspoon butter in a covered skillet until just tender. Remove from heat, drizzle with a light touch of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and use as a side or garnish.
Seasoned Ground Beef
Here are 3 ways to spice up your ground beef dishes!
For a delicious Southwest flavor, thoroughly mix 2-3 teaspoons Mellow Santa Fe Rub into one pound of ground hamburger. Then make one of the following 3 options.
1. Hamburgers: Shape into 4 or 5 hamburgers and grill as usual.
Note: Adding a rub will cause a normal “blackening” effect on the meat’s surface. Be sure to check for doneness by temperature or by slightly opening the burger to see if the center is at its desired level of cooked.
Hint: Meat flavor is in its fat. That’s why grilled meats taste best when they include 10-15% fat. (Fat also keeps grilled meats from drying out.) The higher the heat during cooking, the more fat will be lost; a slower cook will help seal in the flavor – and the blackening effect of the rub will contribute to the sealing.
2. Meatballs: Form into 2 oz meatballs to top your next pasta dish. Or use this easy 3-step white sauce recipe:
a. In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt 1/2 stick (4 oz) butter, then sprinkle on 4 tablespoons flour and whisk or stir to form a thick, lump-free paste.
b. Add 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until the sauce thickens.
c. Pour over cooked noodles and top with meatballs.
3. Meatloaf: Make meatloaf according to your usual recipe, or use this one (this family-sized recipe uses 2 lbs ground meat; cut it in half to serve one or two persons):
a. Mix 2 pounds ground beef with 2 tablespoons Mellow Santa Fe Rub.
b. Sautee 1/2 cup finely diced onions and 1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper in 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil, or butter.
c. In a bowl, mix 2 seasoned pounds of ground beef with 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats, 1 large lightly beaten egg, 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes with juice, and the sauteed onions and peppers.
d. Press into a bread loaf pan and bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 F for 1 hour. Rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Santa Fe Summer Vegetable Chowder
Great with tortilla chips, pretzels, or seasoned crackers!
1. In a large pot, saute 1 cup diced sweet onion with 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chilis, and 1 tablespoon of my Mellow Santa Fe Rub in 2 tablespoons olive oil until onions are translucent.
2. Add 2 cups diced white or red potatoes (or 1 cup each), 2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup diced carrot, and 3 cups water or (better) chicken broth.
3. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer 10 minutes.
4. Add 1 cup each diced red (or green) bell pepper, zucchini or yellow summer squash, corn kernels (fresh or frozen), and fresh tomatoes. Cover and cook on medium until vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).
5. Put 3 cups of the vegetables and liquid in a blender. Add 1/4 cup (2 oz) cream cheese, 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, and 1 cup milk. Blend until smooth.
6. Return blended mixture to the pot. Stir to combine, and reheat as needed.
Serve with tortilla chips, pretzels, or herbed crackers.