What time of year? you might ask, if you don't live in the Southwest. Back to school? Football season?
No, it's Hatch chili season!
Ta-da! The Hatch chilies in all their glossy, spicy glory.
Hatch chilies, like Vidalia sweet onions or Washington apples, are a local item that's hit the big time. Known to be "the best chilies" in the world, Hatch chilies come in red and green varieties and are filling the bins at fancy grocery stores all over the Southwest. Outside the Whole Foods, you can see the annual tradition -- a store employee standing outside, turning a chili roaster over a flame in the burning Southern sun.
Fresh Hatch chilies are only available for a short time in the late summer/early fall. Which means their season overlaps with fresh figs. Add goat cheese, and you've got a quesadilla that will make regular ol' quesadillas hide in shame. These babies combine salty, sweet, and spicy for a sublime mouthful. They are easy to make, but hard to forget.
If you can't get Hatch chilies, you could use another large, mild-to-medium chili like an Anaheim or poblano. The Hatch chilies have a real kick, however, so they are particularly good in combination with the figs.
Beautiful figs. Some say that these were the "forbidden fruit" in the Garden of Eden.
And really, who could resist?
Roasted Chili, Fig, and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
For every two quesadillas you will need:
1-2 large chilies
2-3 fresh figs
1 oz. goat cheese
2 small flour tortillas (you could make your own, or get some from a local taqueria or a grocery store with a tortilleria - but use the best quality you can get)
Step 1: Roast chilies.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (I used my toaster oven). Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with foil and place the chilies on it. Stick it in the oven, and after about 15 minutes, turn the chilies a quarter turn and place them back in the oven. Be very careful when you handle them, as the insides are filled with steam. Keep turning a quarter turn every 15 minutes or so, until the skin is charred and the chili is mushy.
The chilies should look like this when they are ready to remove from the oven.
Take them out of the oven and let them cool until you can handle them. Then, gently slit the chili down the side. Remove the seeds. The skin should peel right off. (You can freeze the roasted chilies with the skin still on or save them in the fridge in an airtight container).
Step 2: Chop stuff.
Chop up the chilies. Then chop the figs (you can eat all the parts of the fig except the stem). Your pieces of both should be about a 1/2 to one centimeter.
Step 3: Mix stuff.
In a bowl, mix the chilies, figs, and goat cheese. Put a skillet on the stove over medium-high heat and add a little oil or non-stick spray.
Step 4: Make quesadillas.
Spoon filling (the stuff you just mixed) onto half of a tortilla. Fold tortilla and slap it on the skillet. When it's golden-brown on one side, flip it over.
The finished quesadilla. So goooood. Pardon - I think I got a little drool on you.
Once the chilies are roasted, these make a quick lunch that's better than anyone deserves. Cut them into triangles, and you've got a sweet little appetizer to impress your mother-in-law.