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Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

How to Host the Perfect Harvest Party

Celebrate late summer’s bounty with a Mexican-inspired feast featuring fresh-from-the-garden ingredients and delicious recipes crafted by Comida head chef Sandra Banchs and owner Rayme Rossello.

On a sun-kissed morning in September, Rayme Rossello is searching for the plumpest poblanos for chile rellenos in anticipation of an upcoming outdoor soirée at her Boulder home. The owner of Comida at Stanley Marketplace hunts for the peppers in her sprawling garden, where they grow alongside everything from squash, herbs, and garlic to cantaloupe, watermelon, and strawberries. Cooking with fresh produce, particularly in the summer and fall, has always been a vital part of entertaining for her and her husband, Erik Duffy, who owns heritage pork retailer Tender Belly.

Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

To throw the ultimate garden party at their home—which sits on 14 remote acres flanked by views of the Continental Divide and North and South Arapaho peaks—Rossello enlisted her dear friend and Comida chef Sandra Banchs. Together, they curated a Mexican-inspired menu of veggie-topped tacos, spicy pimento cheese, bacon-stuffed chile rellenos, and more. “I was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, but since moving to the States my culinary background has been interlaced with Mexican influences. So I try to always blend a bit of both cultures’ ingredients into my dishes,” Banchs says. “I wanted to make something semitraditional that felt like a comforting family meal between good friends and relatives.”

Menu | Serves 6 to 8 | Recipes by Sandra Banchs and Rayme Rossello


Pimento Cheese

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Because Rayme Rossello and Erik Duffy live about 50 minutes from Denver, getting to their home requires considerable effort for loved ones, like chef Sandra Banchs, who reside outside of Boulder. “We live far away from the majority of our friends and family, so when somebody makes the trek, I want them to feel at home,” Rossello says.

That means having a spread of prepared cocktails and ready-for-sharing appetizers—like guacamole and pimento cheese dip, a decadent dish inspired by Rossello’s Southern roots­—for guests to enjoy upon arrival.

Rossello often uses chopped roasted red peppers in place of pimentos.

Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

Yields about 3½ cups

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
or softened
4 oz. pimento peppers
2 Tbs. mayo
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. cayenne
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper


Chile Rellenos

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Rossello and Duffy, who married in 2016, share a love of being outdoors. In fact, the pair cook, eat, and even sleep outside as often as possible. “Our bed is set up on the porch right outside the kitchen,” Rossello says. “It has the most amazing views.”

In the summer and fall, Rossello and Duffy’s meals are centered around whatever’s thriving in their garden. That commitment to using seasonal produce results in vibrant dishes like chile rellenos, fried in a delicate egg-white-and-chickpea-flour batter, which guests like Dameda Finney appreciate digging into.

To make lardons, slice thick-cut bacon (Rossello uses Tender Belly, of course) into 1-inch matchsticks and fry until crispy and golden brown. The chiles can be roasted and stuffed one day in advance and frozen on a tray lined with wax or parchment paper.

Makes 8

Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

For the chiles:
8 medium-size poblano peppers
2 cups Oaxaca cheese, shredded
1½ cups lardons
For the ranchero sauce:
Olive oil
10 tomatoes
½ medium white onion
3 serrano peppers
4 garlic cloves
10 dried guajillo peppers
1½ tsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. ground cumin
6 cups water
¼ fresh epazote sprig or ¹/₈ tsp. dried epazote
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. kosher salt
For the breading:
4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
4 Tbs. chickpea flour
¹/₈ tsp. kosher salt
Vegetable or peanut oil for frying

  1. Prepare the chiles: Roast the poblanos over an open gas flame (or under your broiler, turning them often) until their skins blister on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the chiles from the fire and place them in a sealable container or a bowl covered with plastic to sweat for at least 20 minutes. Gently peel off and discard the skins, then rinse each pepper, cut a small slit down one side, and remove and discard the seeds and veins.
  2. Combine the Oaxaca cheese with the lardons and carefully stuff each chile with 4 to 5 tablespoons of the mixture. Set aside.
  3. Make the ranchero sauce: Heat your oven to 425°. Lightly coat the tomatoes, garlic, serrano peppers, and onion with olive oil; roast until golden, about 30 minutes. Add all the roasted ingredients to a heavy-bottomed pot with the guajillo peppers, cumin, and tomato paste; stir and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add water and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and blend until smooth with an immersion or countertop blender. Strain through a mesh strainer and season with salt and more lime to taste.
  4. Make the breading: Whip egg whites until soft peaks form; beat in two yolks at a time, until just incorporated, while ensuring the batter doesn’t lose its volume. Fold in the chickpea flour and salt. Heat 3 inches of oil over medium heat until a small drop of batter sizzles when you add it to the oil (or to 350°). Dredge the chile rellenos (no need to thaw them if you froze the stuffed chiles beforehand) in the breading and fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  5. To serve: Spoon ranchero sauce onto each plate and set one relleno on top.

Sandra’s Dirty Rice

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Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

Banchs’ cumin-scented variation of the popular Creole dish is studded with pico de gallo.

Yields about 5½ cups

For the seasoning oil:
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup minced garlic
2 Tbs. dried oregano
For the rice:
2 Tbs. seasoning oil
4 cups cooked white rice
1 cup black beans
½ cup store-bought or homemade pico de gallo
2 Tbs. salt
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ cup chopped cilantro
Your favorite hot sauce

  1. Make the seasoning oil: Add the minced garlic and oregano to the olive oil.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the seasoning oil over medium-high heat in a deep skillet; once the garlic is fragrant, add the rice and beans. Stir until combined, and then add salt, cumin, and oregano. Stir continuously so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the skillet.
  3. When it is warmed through, add pico de gallo and cilantro and serve immediately with hot sauce.

Elote

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Mexican crema has a richer flavor profile than sour cream, and Tajín is a spice blend of chile peppers, lime, and sea salt. Both are available at local Mexican grocery stores like Mi Pueblo Market.

Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

Makes 8

For the lime crema:
1 cup Mexican crema
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup fresh lime juice
For the corn:
8 ears of corn, husks intact
2 Tbs. Tajín seasoning
1 cup crumbled queso fresco

  1. Make the crema: Combine the Mexican crema, mayonnaise, and fresh lime juice; store in a squeeze bottle or jar.
  2. Prepare the corn: In a large stock pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Parboil the corn in batches for two minutes and transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Let the ears dry on a plate for about 10 minutes. Heat your grill to medium-high and char the husked corn for 12 to 15 minutes, turning often.
  3. To serve, peel the husks back or remove them entirely, depending on your desired presentation, and top generously with tangy lime crema before sprinkling with Tajín seasoning and crumbled queso fresco.

Spicy Hummingbird Cocktail

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Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

Rossello and Duffy named their garden Hummingbird Haven after the large flock of speedy winged beauties that frequent the patch of greenery. Rossello’s refreshing, eponymous cocktail gains spicy, sweet, and tart flavors from a blend of jalapeño-infused tequila, strawberry-hibiscus shrub, and hibiscus tea. “It’s a beautiful, highly slammable cocktail,” she says. “The agua de Jamaica also makes a great nonalcoholic drink.”

The Spicy Hummingbird’s floral and fruity notes are perfect paired with Mexican fare like charred elote coated in lime crema and any type of taco.

Cool Hand Co. shrubs—concentrated syrups made from fruit, sugar, and vinegar—are available online, and dried hibiscus flowers are sold at local Mexican grocery stores. Any blanco (white) tequila will work for the recipe, but Rossello recommends Boulder-based Suerte Tequila.

Makes 12

For the jalapeño-infused tequila:
1 750-milliliter bottle 100 percent agave blanco tequila
6 jalapeños, halved and quartered with seeds intact
For the agua de Jamaica (sweet hibiscus iced tea):
½ cup hibiscus flowers
1 qt. hot water
¼ cup sugar
For the cocktail:
1½ oz. infused tequila
¾ oz. Cool Hand Co. Strawberry Hibiscus Jalapeño Shrub
4 oz. agua de Jamaica
Ice
Sugar
Lime, sliced into wheels

  1. Infuse the tequila: Add sliced peppers to the tequila and let it sit for three to four days; the longer you leave the peppers in, the spicier it will get. Strain.
  2. Make the agua de Jamaica: Mix the hibiscus flowers, hot water, and the sugar in a pitcher or carafe; let it sit for about 20 minutes before straining. The tea will last up to two weeks stored in the refrigerator.
  3. To serve: Shake the tequila, strawberry hibiscus shrub, and agua de Jamaica with ice; pour over fresh ice in a sugar-rimmed glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Calabacitas Tacos

Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

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In Mexico, calabacitas tacos are traditionally made with their namesake green squash, along with corn and onions—but Rossello and Banchs say you can use whatever is coming out of your garden. Here, a blend of zucchini, carrots, and watermelon radishes is sautéed in a fragrant oregano-garlic oil and smoky chipotle wine butter to make a hearty tortilla topper.

If you don’t have Vinho Verde, a Portuguese wine, any light, dry white wine will work. The leftover chipotle wine butter is a delicious coating for proteins like chicken.

Makes 16

For the chipotle wine butter:
¼ lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature or softened
¹/₈ cup Vinho Verde
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 Tbs. minced red onion
1 Tbs. minced red peppers
1 Tbs. minced poblano peppers
¼ cup chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, puréed
For the tacos:
2 Tbs. seasoning oil (see Sandra’s Dirty Rice recipe above)
2 Tbs. chipotle wine butter
1 lb. of your favorite garden vegetable blend, such as squash, carrots, zucchini, and watermelon radishes
Salt and pepper
1 can black beans, drained and puréed
16 4-inch corn or flour tortillas
Chopped cilantro
Lime crema (see elote recipe above)
Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

  1. Make the chipotle wine butter: In a standing mixer, beat the butter at a low speed using the paddle attachment until smooth, then slowly pour in the wine. Add in the garlic and mix for 1 minute before slowly incorporating the onions, chopped peppers, and chipotle purée. Blend until the butter is smooth; it should be a light burgundy color.
  2. Slice the vegetables into uniform 1- to 1½-inch pieces; heat a large skillet over medium-high and add the oil and chipotle butter. Once the butter is melted, add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are lightly brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. To serve, lightly char the tortillas on the grill. Smear a spoonful of the black beans on each warm round and top with vegetables. Garnish with lime crema, cilantro, and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Churros with Serrano Honey

Photo by Aaron Colussi, styling by Natalie Warady

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For a sweet finish, honey harvested from Rossello and Duffy’s beehive (the couple also has three dogs and 14 chickens) tops Banchs’ rendition of churros: light and fluffy fried wonders coated in cinnamon and sugar.

The serrano honey must be made seven days in advance.

For the serrano honey:
1 cup honey
2 serrano peppers, sliced
For the churros:
4 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs. cinnamon

  1. Make the serrano honey: Add the serrano peppers to the honey; let it sit at room temperature for 7 days before straining. Store in a jar or airtight container.
  2. Make the churros: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil with 1 cinnamon stick; lower the heat and simmer until the water turns golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add flour and salt to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. With the mixer at a low speed, slowly add in the hot cinnamon water until the dough is sticky but smooth; it will resemble wet cement (you can also just mix it with a wooden spoon). Cover the bowl with cheesecloth and let it sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Empty the dough into a pastry bag with a standard (medium) star or round tip attached.
  4. Heat 3 inches of oil in a deep pot to 350°; pipe strips of dough into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Mix the cinnamon and sugar on a large plate and coat each hot churro with the mixture.
  5. To serve: Drizzle the hot, sugar-coated churros with the serrano honey.

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