Spicy Mexican Pasta

Spicy Mexican Pasta

Mexican pasta sounds crazy, but it’s addictively delicious. It’s different than normal pasta, because the noodles are toasted before they’re cooked and then baked with a spicy chipotle sauce. The toasting keeps the noodles nutty and chewy, but still tender. The pleasant bite will keep you going back for…bite after bite. Top with queso fresco and share with friends.

Spicy Mexican Pasta

I doubled this recipe, but to make enough to serve 4-5 people, fill a skillet with 1/4 cup of canola oil, and heat it over medium-high heat. Get 1/2 pound of angle hair pasta, and break half of it into thirds into the oil. Toast the pasta until it turns golden brown, moving it around as needed. Turning the pasta from blond to brunette was my favorite part about making this meal. Once toasted, transfer the pasta to a paper towel-lined plate, and repeat with the remaining noodles.

Spicy Mexican Pasta

Using a blender, puree 4 canned chipotle peppers, 4 garlic cloves, 1 can (15 ounces) of tomatoes, and 1/2 of a small onion. The mixture should be smooth.

Spicy Mexican Pasta

Pour any excess oil out of the skillet that you used to toast the pasta, and then pour in the pureed sauce. Here’s where you can make this recipe the long way or the short (and vegetarian) way. For the short way, heat the sauce, stirring frequently, until it bubbles and warms. For the long way, heat the sauce, stirring CONSTANTLY, for about 18 minutes until it reduces and thickens. If you don’t stir the sauce, it will pop and land on the top of your head. David complimented my chipotle-smelling hair, so it wasn’t the worst thing. Once reduced, stir in 1/2 cup of chicken stock. The benefit of the long way is that you get some extra flavor by incorporating the chicken stock, but I am not convinced that it’s worth the added time or effort.

Spicy Mexican Pasta

While the sauce cooks, heat your oven to 350° F. Season the sauce with salt to taste. Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan, and layer in 1/2 of the noodles. Pour over half of the sauce and coat the noodles as best you can. Layer on the remaining noodles and sauce, again trying to coat them as best you can. It is very difficult to maneuver uncooked pasta this way.

Spicy Mexican Pasta

Cover the baking pan with foil, and bake the pasta for 10 minutes. Then, stir the pasta around to make sure that it is evenly coated with the sauce. Recover the pan, and bake the pasta for another 10 minutes until it is tender.

Spicy Mexican Pasta

Serve the pasta with the mild and soothing queso fresco and garnish with optional cilantro. The pasta tastes a whole lot like my spicy chipotle chicken and rice. But, this addictive side was the perfect pair for our Mexican edition of the Global Supper Club.

Global Supper Club: Mexican Edition

We had all different kinds of tacos, mole, beans, tostones, chicken enchiladas, guacamole, strong tamarind margaritas, and the crispiest, most delicious homemade churros ever. It was a real feast. Ole!

This recipe is adapted from Saveur.

Shopping list:

  • Vegetable oil- 1/4 cup
  • Angle hair pasta- 1/2 pound
  • Chipotle peppers- 4
  • Garlic- 4 cloves
  • Onion- 1/2, small
  • Canned tomatoes- 15 ounces
  • Salt
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Queso Fresco: Simple Homemade Cheese

Queso Fresco: Simple Homemade Cheese

Who knew that making cheese could be so fun or so easy? I took a class on homemade Mexican food a while back, and this recipe was the simplest thing we made. So, when chatter about a Global Supper Club: Mexican Edition picked up, I knew this creamy goodness would make an appearance. It’s really cool to see milk separate and turn to cheese right before your eyes, triggered by nothing more than heat and lemon juice. It would be fun to make this recipe with a kid. Now, on to the cheese itself. Queso fresco is a very simple, mild Mexican cheese that can be used in, or sprinkled on, a variety of dishes (think tacos, enchiladas, salads, etc.). And if you press queso fresco, you’ll end up with paneer (an Indian cheese that frequently stars in curries).

Queso Fresco: Simple Homemade Cheese

To make queso fresco, get a very large pot, and pour in 1 gallon of whole milk and 2 cups of buttermilk. As usual, I forgot to buy buttermilk, so I made a substitute with 2 cups of regular milk and a healthy splash of white vinegar. After about 5 minutes, the milk thickened up, and I added it to the pot. The substitution worked like a charm. Heat the milk, stirring frequently, until it steams. Then, squeeze in a generous amount of lemon or lime juice. Stir the milk in a circular direction to create a whirlpool. You should see the milk starting to separate and form curds.

Queso Fresco: Simple Homemade Cheese

This process happens quickly and is finished when you have cheese curds floating in a clear, greenish liquid. If your curds aren’t forming properly, you need more heat, more lemon juice, or both. Play around with these two variables until you’re left with curds and whey. Seeing what curds and whey really look like makes me wonder what the hell Little Miss Muffet was thinking.

Queso Fresco: Simple Homemade Cheese

It’s time to strain out the cheese curds. Line a strainer with cheese cloth, and pour everything from the pot through. Obviously, I didn’t have enough foresight to buy cheese cloth, but my fine mesh strainer was an acceptable substitute. Gather up the edges of the cheese cloth, and squeeze out as much liquid from the cheese as you can.

Queso Fresco: Simple Homemade Cheese

Transfer the cheese curds to a bowl, and season them to taste with salt. Try to avoid over-mixing them. If you did, I think you’d eventually end up with mozzarella, but I am still working to confirm that potentially-delicious hypothesis.

Queso Fresco: Simple Homemade Cheese

Lightly press the cheese curds into a shaping device. Metal rings work well, as does a muffin tin. Refrigerate the cheese so that it cools and sets, then pop it out to eat! The cheese can be spread or crumbled on anything you choose! Has anyone else had fun making cheese before, or know the answer to my mozzarella query?  I’ll tell you about the fiesta that was the Global Supper Club: Mexican Edition next time.

Shopping list:

  • Whole milk- 1 gallon
  • Buttermilk- 2 cups
  • Lemons or limes- 2-3
  • Salt
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Charred Cauliflower & Shishitos in Loaded Olive Oil

Charred Cauliflower & Shishitos in Loaded Olive Oil

I came across this recipe in Saveur and thought little of it because I didn’t realistically foresee myself buying shishito peppers. In fact, I flagged just about every other cauliflower recipe included in the magazine but this one. And then, browsing the aisles at Trader Joe’s, I saw them- shishito peppers! No coincidence, this cauliflower beauty was meant to be. And get this…the sauce has chocolate in it.

Charred Cauliflower & Shishitos in Loaded Olive Oil

To make this stunning side, get a head of cauliflower (about 24 ounces) and break it up into large florets. Toss the cauliflower with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread it on a baking sheet. Char the cauliflower under your oven’s broiler, flipping it once, until it is slightly blackened and tender. My terrible oven took about 30 minutes to char the cauliflower this much, and I would have liked more. While the cauliflower is cooking, prepare the rest of the recipe.

Charred Cauliflower & Shishitos in Loaded Olive Oil

Chop up 1/2 cup of almonds, and toast them in the oven with the cauliflower, but away from the broiler. Once you can smell them or hear them start to crackle, they’re done (5-10 minutes).

Charred Cauliflower & Shishitos in Loaded Olive Oil

Chop up 8 garlic cloves, and heat them in a skillet with 1/2 cup of olive oil over medium heat. As soon as the garlic starts to brown, transfer the garlic and all of the oil to a side bowl to cool. Garlic oil…yum!

Charred Cauliflower & Shishitos in Loaded Olive Oil

Fill the skillet with about 2 centimeters of vegetable oil, and heat it over medium high. When a small droplet of water sizzles nicely, add in 12 shishito peppers. Cook them on both sides so that they blister and very lightly brown. Transfer them to a paper-towel lined plate to drain, and season them with salt. Shishito peppers are crunchy but hollow, more like a skinny bell pepper than a jalapeño. Some of them are spicy and some of them are mild (the bag said 1 in 10 are spicy, but I’d put the number closer to 2 in 10).

Charred Cauliflower & Shishitos in Loaded Olive Oil

To your bowl of garlic oil, add the toasted almonds, 1 cup of chopped parsley, and 1 tablespoon of finely grated dark chocolate. The chocolate adds a really nice depth of flavor. The recipe also says to add 2 teaspoons of sherry, but I didn’t have it. Without it, the sauce needed a hit of acid, so I added a squeeze of lemon juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, then spread it on a large serving platter.

Charred Cauliflower & Shishitos in Loaded Olive Oil

Top the sauce with the cauliflower, followed by the shishito peppers, and then more chopped parsley. It’s really gorgeous and it tastes delicious too. With the olive-oil based sauce, I found that this cauliflower paired nicely with couscous. I even turned it from side dish to main course by amping it up with crispy roasted chickpeas and shrimp.

Shopping list:

  • Cauliflower- 1 head or 24 ounces
  • Almonds- 1/2 cup
  • Garlic- 8 cloves
  • Olive oil- 1/2 cup+
  • Canola oil
  • Shishito peppers- 12
  • Parsley- 1 cup+
  • Dark chocolate- 1 tablespoon
  • Sherry- 2 teaspoons
  • Salt and pepper
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