Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 10: Remembrance and Weeknight Wednesday Carne Adovada

Today is a day of remembrance. Twelve years ago I was a freshman in highschool. I still remember hearing the news on the radio while I was getting ready for school, and then walking out to ask my Mom what the twin towers were, because a plane just flew into one of them.

I grew up in Albuquerque, where you can be out of the city and into the vast expanse of the desert in probably under 20 minutes, even from the heart of the city. There are no skyscrapers. I had never even been to the east coast, and while I had been to Los Angeles, the concept of Manhattan, over eight miles of rows and rows of skyscrapers, well, it might as well have been on the moon. You see it in movies, but it doesn't really exist for you because you can't relate to it and you've never seen it for yourself.

Moving to Boston, and then visiting NYC and seeing the new tower being built made 9-11 a little more real. Michelle and I stopped in a Starbucks right next to the tower while we were there, and it was eerie to think about everything that the walls of that building had seen.

And then there was the Boston Marathon. Obviously, Boston was lucky and the loss of life was small, but during that week it seemed as though anything was possible. Daniel was at work downtown when the bombs went off. My neighbor asked to barrow my cell phone to try to reach his wife who was supposed to have been at the finish line. Then there came the end of the week, when I got a late night text from Jess saying a police officer had been shot at MIT, and then the next morning when I would have been heading to Watertown to meet Jess to carpool to class. I woke up to a text saying, "Stay away from Watertown." The bomber was alleged to be hiding out and Watertown, as well as most of Boston, was on lockdown. Later that day, Daniel and I lost all connection to the outside world. We couldn't make phone calls, use the internet, use the internet on our phones, and the power was out so we couldn't watch the TV or listen to the radio. Neighbors were outside in their cars, because the car stereo was the only way to keep up with what was going on. Meanwhile cop cars drove down the street ominously and black hawk helicopters zoomed by overhead.

The feelings I had that week are hard to explain. One was obviously fear. Fear because I did not know how or when it was going to end. The other was a sense of being trapped, because where does one go? Where is safe? If I try to leave will I be stuck on the freeway? But the hardest one was heartbreak. Watching the images on television and not yet knowing what the death toll was going to be, and seeing blood strewn across a sidewalk that I had walked down countless times left a pit in my stomach. Life is impermanent. It is fragile. And these walls we build around ourselves that make us feel safe and secure? They are illusions that can disappear at the drop of a hat.

I imagine that the feelings I had during that week, strong as they were, cannot compare to what those in NYC must have felt.

But there is something important here, beyond the fear. Every 911 we are forced not only to remember the event, but also we renew our resolve in our reaction to the event, whatever that reaction might be. I remember after 911 reading in the paper some statements from religious leaders regarding what the attack meant on a deeper level. Many of these statements focused on the feeling of pain, anger, and victimization. However, there was a response from a Rabbi that stuck with me. He said something along the lines of "God is not in the disaster, God is in the response."

What is important to focus on in these terrible events is not the darkness that led to them, but the light in the responders, the compassion of people to pure strangers, and the strength of a community to pull together and take care of those in need. For Boston, you could see this in the Google doc where people offered their homes to those who were stranded after the bombings and through photographs circulated of extension cords leading outside of peoples' apartments so that anyone passing by who needed to charge their phones could do so. Amidst the fear was compassion and a common resolve to take care of each other. I believe that this is the most important thing to remember.

Many people internalize the fear, pain, and anger, and resolve themselves to retribution and revenge. This makes me sad. The world is dark enough without us reacting to it with anger, fear, and retribution. On some level, every act of violence and cruelty is perpetrated because of a sense of revenge or entitlement. The 9-11 attack was perpetrated because a small number of people had such strong ideological convictions that their humanity was stifled, and they believed that America in some way deserved the suffering and pain inflicted by 9-11. When we turn around and say that Muslims (or any group) deserves to suffer for whatever act they have perpetrated against us, we are taking the darkness of the world and reflecting it back. It is like holding a mirror up to a mirror, and looking through the long corridor that appears. It eventually ends in black. It gets us nowhere new, and certainly nowhere better. It takes true courage to put the mirror down and learn to forgive, but it is the only way that we can find peace, both with ourselves and with the world at large. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

So today, many people will say, "9-11, never forget." This phrase has always struck me, because, well, never forget what, exactly? Everyone will inevitably finish this phrase with their own interpretation. Obviously, never forget the lives that were lost. But there has always been an unspoken element to this phrase, and that is, "never forget why we must get retribution." For this reason I've always been ambivalent to the phrase. So today I would like to add something to it, and that is, "Never forget, but always forgive." The world has plenty of hate, anger, sadness, and fear. What it really needs is compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and love.

So with that, I'm going to move onto today's recipe. Carne adovada. Carne adovada was one of my favorite dishes growing up. My Mom made it really delicious by putting it in a tortilla and serving it up with guacamole and sour cream. What is it? Traditionally, it is pork that is marinated and cooked in red chile sauce. Red chile sauce is made from red chile pods or ground red chile. This is red chile:

You will often see these hanging red chiles, called ristras, in New Mexico, especially during the fall and chile harvest season. This picture happens to be from our wedding. They're everywhere.

A note about red chile. Having recently been to New Mexico, I picked up a bag of hot, ground red chile at a farmer's market in Santa Fe. Somewhere along the lines I vaguely remember seeing a disclaimer that said not to use this red chile for making sauce as it was too hot. Yeah right, I said. I can handle it. I'm a New Mexican at heart.


I loved it and worked through the pain. My nose ran, my eyes watered, and I got the hiccups. And I enjoyed it because I am a New Mexican at heart. But most normal people are not going to enjoy their dinner if it tortures them and makes them cry. So with that in mind, I'll say one thing. Know your chile tolerance. If you're outside of New Mexico, it's likely that "hot" chile won't even be available to you. If this is your first time making red chile sauce, or your first time with New Mexican food in general, I suggest starting with a bag of "mild" red chile, which should be easy to find. I can find it at my Whole Foods with no problem. If you eat this and have no problems, maybe try "medium." But whatever you do, don't start off with the one labelled "hot" because chances are you will regret it.

Anyways, because I wanted to veganize this favorite, I opted for seitan instead of the pork. As an added bonus, this makes this dinner much faster to make because it doesn't require marination, and it doesn't require a long stewing time to become tender and edible. I basically made the sauce and then cooked the seitan in it until I felt that the seitan had absorbed enough flavor. The sour cream is made from raw cashews.

Okay. Here's the recipe, finally:

"Carne" Adovada Burritos
Serves 4
Time: 30 minutes

For the "Carne" Adovada
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped (reserve 1/3 cup for garnish)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup red chile powder (see note above)
2 tablespoons flour
6 cups seitan broth (or veggie broth)
1 tablespoon oregano
1 pound seitan, cubed

Before starting the carne adovada, prepare the cashews if making the sour cream from scratch. Simply place the cashews in a microwave safe bowl, cover with water, and microwave on high until the water is bowling. Set aside until ready to use.

Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 30 seconds. Add the red chile and the flour, stir, and saute for another 30 seconds. Add the broth, stirring to combine, and then add the seitan. Turn the heat up to high. Bring to a boil and then continue to cook at high heat until the sauce is thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes.

Sour Cream 
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

While the carne adovada is simmering, strain the cashews and place in a blender. Add the water, lime juice, and vinegar. Blend until smooth. 

1 avocado
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro 

Mash the avocado with the back of a fork. Add garlic, lime juice, and cilantro and combine.

To Serve
1 cup chopped tomato
1 1/2 cups chopped lettuce
1/3 cup chopped onion (reserved from making the carne adovada above)

1 cup Daiya cheddar cheese
4 flour tortillas

To serve, place the seitan into the tortillas using a slotted spoon. Roll the tortillas, and then using a ladle top each tortilla with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the cheese and broil until melted.

Top with the sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and onion, and enjoy!



  1. Beautiful remembrance and thanks for the shout-out on the adovada--we'll have to give your version a try (at least substituting the seitan for the pork) jury is still out on the sour cream.

    1. You really should just give the sour cream a try. You have a vitamix! It's so easy and so much healthier for you! :)