One of my favorite memories from living in New Mexico, was going on morning runs along the Rio Grande during the fall while taking in the aroma of roasted chiles from nearby farms. It is one of the most pleasurable smells you will ever encounter, with the roasted chiles warming your heart both literally and figuratively.
With fall just around the corner and chile roasting season now in full swing, I decided to create a New Mexican Salsa Macha incorporating Hatch Green Chiles, piñon nuts, and Chimayó Chile Powder as a tribute to the Land of Enchantment.
Salsa Macha is usually made with roasted peanuts or sunflower seeds, but I wanted to instead use one of New Mexico’s most prized delicacies, roasted piñon nuts. These nuts come from Piñon Pines, which are the state tree of New Mexico. Piñon Nuts possess an immensely fresh taste with a bit of sweetness, but after roasting them you will also fall in love with their smell. I found it easier to roast them over the stove on a skillet, rather than in the oven, as I could continuously stir them as they browned while also enjoying their aroma. The piñon nuts are also important in helping tame the heat of the chiles.
For this salsa to have some true New Mexican flair, I had to include some chiles that were “Christmas Style.” If you have ever eaten at a restaurant in New Mexico, you’ve likely been asked the question “Red, Green, or Christmas?”, referring to if you want red, green, or a combination of red and green salsas. So for New Mexican Salsa Macha, I went with the Christmas style of Hatch Green Chiles combined with the red Chimayó Chile Powder.
Chimayó Peppers are named after the town of Chimayó, New Mexico, which is well known for its El Santuario. The chiles are similar to a jalapeño and when grounded up have the smokey flavor of a chipolte. What makes the Chimayós distinct is the additional sweetness and a slow build up of heat. Trust me, that late kick is definitely evident in New Mexican Salsa Macha. Chimayós are commonly used with other New Mexican cuisines like Carne Adovada and Pozole.
Last, but definitely not least are the Hatch Green Chiles. The addictive smell, the fiery taste, everything about these chiles is special. You can become mesmerized watching these chiles turn back-and-forth in a chile roaster. Last weekend while I was at the Rillito Park Farmers Market I could smell Red’s Roasters sizzling a new batch of Hatch Chiles, and I was instantly reminiscing of those morning runs along the Rio Grande. I just had to buy a bag so I could create this new salsa with some fresh roasted chiles.
Not only are the Hatch Green Chiles a crucial ingredient for the salsa, but if you have any chiles leftover you can use them to make chile rellenos or New Mexico’s famous Green Chile Cheeseburgers…and while you’re at it you can try the New Mexican Salsa Macha as a topping for them!
3 New Mexico Hatch Green Chiles, roasted, stemmed & seeded
2/3 cup Piñon Nuts, roasted
1 tsp Chimayó Chile Powder
2 Roma Tomatoes, roasted
5 White Onion slices, roasted
2 Garlic Cloves, roasted
¼ tsp Mexican Oregano
¾ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
¼ tsp Vinegar
Roast chiles until charred on all sides. Then carefully remove the charred skin, the stem, and seeds. Transfer the chiles to a blender. Roast the tomatoes, garlic, and onions until lightly charred on all sides. Once they have completed roasting add them to the blender.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, add the piñon nuts and roast for about seven minutes. Stir frequently until the piñons are lightly browned.
Transfer the piñons to the blender and purée for 30 seconds. Then add the seasonings to the ingredients in the blender. Blend for one minute. Add the vinegar and blend for an additional minute before serving.