It all started with a culinary tour of Mexico several years ago with Rick Bayless. This trip turned her career around. I've watched that love affair with Mexican cuisine blossom. Back when we both were members of Les Dames des Escoffier's San Diego chapter, she did a cooking demo for us that made it clear how besotted she was. Then she took a position as consultant executive chef for The Blind Burro in East Village. Sara has continued to travel regularly to Mexico—and a journey last year to Oaxaca again changed her life. There she met Chef Susana Trilling of Seasons of My Heart. Trilling, an American who has lived in Ozaxaca since 1988 and owns a cooking school of the same name, led a 10-day culinary extravaganza marking Day of the Dead that Sara joined.
The two chefs stayed in touch and when Trilling traveled to Los Angeles, Sara brought her to San Diego to join her in a Galaxy Taco Taco Tuesday Takeover. They got to talking, Sara said, about business and websites and before she knew it Sara decided she wanted to launch her own import company featuring Trilling's artisan, handmade Mexican gourmet products.
Sabor Imports launched last October, selling moles, pepper jellies, sea salt, and chocolate. Sara visited Trilling's factory in Oaxaca to see how the products were produced.
The moles are stunning. There are four varieties. The Red Mole Paste is a complex layering of chile flavors (ancho, guajillo, chipotle, and morita chiles) melded with cinnamon, sesame seed, lard, garlic, chocolate, peanuts, almonds, Mexican oregano, raisins, salt, and sugar. Enjoy this with pork, chicken, or beef, or as a base for a marinade. You can as reconstitute it with ripe tomatoes and create a sauce for tamales or enchiladas. I thinned it a little bit and used it as a rub for a strip steak and it was divine. It would be just as wonderful for kabobs, a pork tenderloin, or turkey.
The Black Mole Paste is a type of mole you may already know. Mole Negro is also a blend of chiles, spices, and chocolate. Sara has create a label that explains how to reconstitute it so you can enjoy it with proteins. But, hey, you can also add the paste as a secret ingredient to stews or soups or marinades.
The Chintestle, or Smoked, Mole Paste is, I think Sara's favorite. It's made with smoked pasilla chile, garlic, and sea salt. You don't even have to reconstitute it. Just use it as a marinade ingredient or a salsa ingredient. It's a great flavor surprise in beans and stews, sautéed vegetables, or even a mayonnaise.
Finally, there's the Coloradito Mole Paste, which is a sweet, rich sauce, popularly enjoyed with chicken, pork, game, shrimp, and even vegetables.
Then there are the jellies, all made with chiles from Oaxaca. I love these and have been using them in vinaigrettes, with cheese and toast, and—thinned a bit with fresh lime juice—as a glaze on chicken. Any of the three flavors—Chile Canario, Red Chile, or Jalapeño—will make you happy. Yeah, they're spicy, but they won't blow off the top of your head. They're just the right blend of heat and sweet.
I also fell in love with the sea salt, harvest by a collective in Mexico. Sara is passionate about the salt, which she insists is not a finishing salt. "This salt notes so beautifully into food, it can be your regular salt," she said. I took her advice and tried it first sprinkled on top of mashed avocado on toast. She's right. It brings out the sweetness and flavor of food.
Finally, the chocolate. This is not your traditional dark chocolate. This is traditional handmade Oaxacan chocolate—a blend of three types of cacao beans with Mexican cinnamon, and turbinado sugar. It's not made for tempering. Instead, add it to your mole as a finishing note, make a delicious cup of hot chocolate with it, use it for baking, or enjoy it as a decadent snack.
The Sabor Imports site is filled with recipes. Here's one for roasted chicken using the Chintestle Mole Paste.
Roasted Chicken with Chintestle, Orange and Honey
From Susana Trilling
Serves 6 or more as mini tacos
- For the poultry rub:
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon Seasons of My Heart Sea Salt
- 2 teaspoons Chintestle Paste
- 2 tablespoons honey or agave
- Juice of 1 orange
- Olive oil, to coat chicken
- For the assembly:
- 1 whole chicken, cleaned and split in half
- 1 ½ medium white onions, sliced into ½" thick slices
- 1-2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½" pieces
- 1 small young squash, cut into ½" pieces
In a molcajete, mortar and pestle, or on your cutting board, grind the garlic cloves with the salt until it makes a smooth paste. Add the chintestle paste, honey, orange juice and olive oil. When it is well incorporated, rub it on the chicken. Toss the chopped vegetables with the remaining chile paste marinade and place them in a roasting pan with the chicken.
Roast 375˚ F for 10 minutes, uncovered , then lower the heat to 350˚F and continue to bake, for 25 -30 minutes more, until the chicken is cooked through.
Serve as is or remove the meat from the bones and chop it with the vegetables. Place any remaining sauce in a saucepan over medium heat and reduce the sauce until slightly thickened, add back to the meat and vegetables.
Serve with fresh corn tortillas.
NOTE: You can also substitute turkey, duck, or rabbit.
You can find the products on the Sabor Imports site, as well as Specialty Produce, Seaside Market, and Sprouts in Eastlake in San Diego County, and in Oakland at Market Hall.