Roasted poblano chiles are one of the most distinctive scents and tastes of the Mexican kitchen—irresistible when combined with cream or cheese. Look for chayote in Mexican markets, or substitute zucchini.
Esquites relies on the balance of sweet, creamy, tart, spicy, and herbal—dno't skip any of the ingredients. Roasting the corn under the broiler adds a little smoky flavor and also a "meatier" texture, more like the corn used in Mexico, which is less sugar-sweet than ours. You can also grill the corn over high heat. This snack is a popular street food in Mexico, and it's made inroads in the U.S. in recent years, popping up everywhere from county fairs to ballpark concession stands.
The salsa's smoky flavor comes as much from the tatemado technique of charring the vegetables as from the smoked chipotle chiles. Charring the veggies brings great complexity to this simple sauce. You can also blacken them in a dry cast-iron skillet set over high heat, turning occasionally. The tomato skins will be easy to remove once they're charred.
Chiles en nogada is a patriotic dish: It evokes the Mexican flag by drawing on green, white, and red elements. Traditional chiles en nogada use a pork filling, but hibiscus flowers—typically used in a tart drink—make a surprisingly hearty filling. You can find them at Mexican grocers and specialty stores like Trader Joe's. Mexican cooks often use fresh green walnuts, briefly available in autumn, which have a creamier texture and less bitterness; standard walnuts work well, too. We add touch of sugar to the sauce here to balance the slight bitterness of the nuts.
The salsa verde that flavors the purslane would make a terrific table salsa; just leave out the leaves. While purslane's gently tart flavor and soft, slightly succulent texture makes it distinct, a mix of torn watercress, spinach, and chard in equal portions will give you a similar taste.