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Meat Lite: Bean and Steak Fry Bread with Roasted Jalapeño Salsa

This time of year in Santa Fe–chile-roasting marks the beginning of the end of summer with smoky aromas of charred skins nearly everywhere around town. Giant gas-fueled chile-roasters are situated in grocery store parking lots, along roadsides, and in the town center, doling out bags of just-charred and peeled chiles to customers. On a recent visit, the Santa Fe Farmers' Market was host to several of these portable on-site roasters, selling chile varieties from producers within about 80 miles of the city. The smell of the roasting peppers floats through the air and sticks with you as an integral ingredient while you browse the bounty of possible accompaniments.

New Mexican cuisine is distinct beyond its annual chile-roasting season. Its dishes are rooted in history and culture, telling stories at the table. Fry bread, for instance, is a Native American recipe created in the late 1800s, when the U.S. government forced Native Americans to relocate from Arizona to New Mexico. The government supplied flour, sugar, and lard to prevent the population from starving. These ingredients were not otherwise part of the Native American diet (which consisted mostly of beans and vegetables), but the people learned to make bread from them and it quickly became a staple and a distinctly New Mexican dish.

This fry bread with roasted jalapeño salsa is easy enough to make wherever you are but tastes markedly like New Mexico. Roasting chiles over an open flame on a gas stove doesn't flaunt the same novelty as enormous rotating drums of charring chiles. But the smell is decidedly the same, and enough to remind you that swim suit season is almost over so you shouldn't fret over enjoying a piece of fried dough piled with steak, beans and fixin's.

Bean and Steak Fry Bread with Roasted Jalapeño Salsa

The salsa is hot, so serve it on the side if you're not sure where your dining companions' tastes fall on the Scoville Scale.

About the author: Tara Mataraza Desmond writes about, cooks, and eats food for a living. She blogs about food and life through words and pictures at Crumbs On My Keyboard.

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