By Catherine Fortin
Special to the Charlotte Observer
All of these would be combined to form a Mexican staple: Mole sauce.
Forty fresh ingredients faced us down in chef Iliana de la Vega's El Naranjo restaurant kitchen.
Fat emerald green chiles, voluptuous tomatoes and snow-white onions stood in pyramids in green-glazed dishes. Garnet-colored dried ancho chiles and green chiles poblanos filled pottery bowls.
Then there were lime-green tomatillos, pecans, sesame seeds and blocks of Oaxacan cheese, fat cinnamon sticks and umpteen fresh herbs.
Mole (say "MOE-lay") is a culinary hybrid that combines ancient Mexican ingredients such as chile, chocolate and pecans with the tomatoes, garlic and spices that the Spaniards brought to Mexico.We get the process and even a recipe for the sauce which is often "principal dish of a meal, while the meat serves a supporting role."