Chiles Seco

When I began writing VSVEVG, food was a major theme. I adopted the phrase– Very Simple, Very Easy, Very Good, a saying of Dean Zanella, a grand Italian chef I had the honor of working with, as a component of my basic philosophy, and the name of my blog. When my tastes boiled down to radishes—pretty much just radishes (vsvevg, but not very interesting) the foodie portion of the blog dwindled. But recently, I discovered a recipe I was inspired to share.

Though at times my life revolved around my next meal , I thought, cooked, talked, dined and dreamt about it, the obsession wasn’t enough to make me a meticulous cook; it’s not my nature. Gourmand or no, I have always been a lazy cook, loath to use a measuring device, or think of a recipe as anything but a guideline, or reading material while I sip wine and wonder if my dinner will turn out because I ignored most of the instructions.

When I began cooking in Mexico I was dismayed by the laborious task of cooking with dry chiles. To make a sauce, or chilitio as we call it here, a catch all for eggs, cheese, meat or vegetables, a sauce made of guajillos, cumin, garlic and cloves, that will stretch four eggs to feed ten or more, the chiles must be: seeded, toasted, boiled, blended, sieved and fried! I do this when there are no other chiles available, but generally I use ancho chili because it doesn’t have to be sieved (the most tedious part of the process).

When I came upon this recipe and noticed you only have to toast the chilies I knew it was for me!

Salsa de Chili Pasilla *
4 chili pasilla, whipped clean, left whole
1 clove garlic
¾ cup water
¼ tsp cider vinegar
1 tbles finely chopped onion
Toast the chiles over medium heat. (It’s important not to burn chili, it makes them bitter. Turning frequently toast until they’re rich brown and smell like good pipe tobacco. It takes about 30 seconds per chili.) Blend the chiles with salt, garlic and water. Don’t over blend, it should have some texture. Stir in the vinegar, and top with onion.

I added vinegar to the recipe. I adhere to the Thai belief, the best food is a balance of sweet, picante, salty and sour. Pasilla’s aren’t very spicy, they’re nutty and sweet with a subtle after burn. It’s a good sauce for sensitive palates. Still, Felipe, whose seldom eats anything without also munching whole Serrano’s thought it delicious. It’s a perfect table sauce, smeared in a tortilla with a simple meal of eggs, or grilled meat, and it makes a tasty taco with a piece of queso anejo.
A delicious and impressive (muy authentico) salsa for lazy cooks, definitely, VSVEVG!


*From Diana Kennedy’s The Essential Cuisines of Mexico

Welcome to very simple, very easy, very good

our little house

our little house

Hello, my name is Abby. I live on a mountain in Mexico in the middle of nowhere. One of the reasons I live here is that I wanted the proverbial simple live. A consequence of living in Mexico and being broke is that I haven’t enough money to get resident papers and so must leave the country every six months, which I have been doing for the past seven years. Often kind friends and family help me with a ticket for a visit, thus my travels have taken me to Iowa, Illinois, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Texas, and Michigan. A common thread that runs through my travels is hearing about people’s interest in living more simply, downscaling, treading more lightly, buying locally, sustainability ……  there are so many ways to approach this concept. Because my husband Felipe and I are on our way to achieving this, debt free, low impact, back to the land status  people often ask me where to begin. Followed by the statement, “It is so overwhelming”. This I  understand. I was so beleaguered by the prospect when living in Chicago I felt retreat was the only solution, and though I am happy with my choice, I now understand that life can be VSVEVG, anywhere. In this blog I write about life in rural Mexico, and what we’ve learned through trail and error (mostly error). I hope to relay information that can make your lives easier, cheaper and kinder to the planet. Ideally, I’ll make you laugh along the way.

A bit about us:

Felipe and I live on 7 hectares of land near his small home town in Morelos. Our home is one story, nine by four meters, made of concrete block. We have a well (six meters) that Felipe dug by hand, it provides sufficient water for our home, livestock and a small garden year round. At present we have 8 pigs, 3 horses, 2 ducks and various chickens, dogs, and cats. We have electricity which is a blessing, but our goal it to be solar-powered. We own outright everything in our domain, our income is approximately 100 dollars a week, with occasional windfall  (gifts, odd jobs, art sales). We farm about 5 acres, mostly organically, by hand. We are in the process of weaning our land off chemical dependence. Our goal is a zero waste, self sustainable life.


Very simple, very easy, very good is how Chef Dean Zanella describes his dishes to his wait staff during pre-shift meetings. I am proud to have worked with Dean and thankful for everything he taught me about the concept.