Moments of Joy

A Home Chef ‘Travels’ to Her Beloved New Mexico in Her Kitchen

Online classes at the Santa Fe School of Cooking are helping her through the pandemic.

By Ilene Denton August 14, 2020

Image: Shutterstock and Staff

Margaret Pennington can’t spend this fall in Santa Fe, New Mexico like she’s done for so many years. But she can capture all the wonderful flavors of its world-class cuisine thanks to online cooking classes at the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

“I love Santa Fe, I love Santa Fe cuisine, so I thought ‘why shouldn’t I take advantage of the cooking school being online,’” says Pennington. “They offer lots and lots of different classes, from cooking with [the late famed New Mexico painter] Georgia O’Keeffe to Farm-Fresh Journey, which is the cookbook of the Santa Fe farmers market, to classes with chefs from different backgrounds: Bolivian, American Indian. It’s a lot of fun.”

This is northern Mexican cuisine, not the Tex-Mex fare we Americans are familiar with, she is quick to point out. “It’s a blend of Spanish, Mexican and Indian,” she says. “It’s a lot of pork and corn, certain specific kinds of wheat. I love it because it’s so interesting, so flavorful; it has great emphasis on spices and ingredients that are bright and shimmering on your palate.”

Cooking her way through the quarantine, Pennington has made “fabulous jalapeno corn muffins, green chili mac and cheese, wonderful corn and chorizos with red chili sauce,” she says. “They have a fabulous recipe for fresh corn cut off the corn; you chop up red onions, a small poblano pepper, serrano chiles and sweet red chile and put it together with New Mexican spices and a whole stick of butter. It’s really good.” (Editor’s confession: she had me at “whole stick of butter.”)

If she doesn’t have an ingredient, she orders it through the cooking school. That’s how Pennington got her red chile honey, fresh ground red chiles and red chili olive oil.  And she also ordered “a very clever steel-framed grill that can fit on the top of my gas stove,” she says. “You grease your poblano pepper or eggplant, roll it around on the grill, put it in a paper bag and it’s cooked.”

Pennington says she yearns for the day when she can return to her beloved Santa Fe, but until then she’ll "travel" there through its tastes and smells.

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