Mexican Pasta Salad

Mexican-Pasta-Salad

One of the things I love most about writing this food blog is that I get to try foods I’ve never had before. So when Hodgson Mill sent me boxes of their new Whole Wheat pasta to experiment with for their Summer Pastabilities contest, I couldn’t wait to start playing with it!

I have to admit that up to this point, I haven’t been a huge fan of  whole grain pastas and I’ve tried quite a few – they were either tough or doughy or just downright unappealing so I was a little skeptical. But this Mexican Pasta Salad  is  different –  tender and flavorful, with just a hint of nuttiness – in short,  it’s delicious!!

After narrowing down my ideas I decided to try my hand at a pasta salad – another dish that isn’t always high on my “favorites” list despite the fact that I  love pasta. My objection? For the most part I’ve found them to be bland and well.. boring, which is a shame, since pasta salads are perfect for summer eating and are a great choice for  picnics, barbeques and potlucks.

Since I love the flavors of chile, lime and tomatoes I thought that would be a great base to start from – and if my “taste testers” are to be believed, I was right. To add a bit more flavor, I roasted corn, tomatoes and peppers  and then added a little avocado and sliced green onion, finishing it all off with a  zesty lime and chile dressing . Now this is a mexican pasta salad!!!

If you like this pasta salad and have a few minutes, I’d truly appreciate it if you’d pop on over to Pinterest and “like” my pasta salad!

Mexican Pasta Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 8 - 10 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 – 10 oz. box Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pasta – bowtie or medium shells
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • 6 roma tomatoes, cored and cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch dice
  • 3 scallions, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp. corn oil
  • Corn Strip garnish (optional_)
  • 2 small corn torillas, cut into ⅛ inch strips (optional)
  • 1 cup canola oil (optional)
  • Dressing:
  • Juice of two limes
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar or honey
  • ½ - 1 jalepeno seeded and minced
  • ¼ tsp. chile powder
  • large pinch of salt
  • ¾ cup corn oil
Instructions
  1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the chicken stock and water in a large saucepan or stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and stir until the water is boiling vigorously. Cook for 7 to 9 minutes until desired tenderness. Drain pasta and set aside.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, combine the corn, tomatoes and bell pepper on a sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle with the 3 Tbsp. corn oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 15 – 20 minutes until vegetables are nicely browned. Remove pan from the oven and set aside.
  4. To make the dressing, combine the lime juice, white wine vinegar, jalepeno, agave nectar, chile powder and salt in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the corn oil. Set dressing aside.
  5. Corn strip garnish (optional): Heat the canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. When oil just begins to simmer, drop one of the tortilla strips in the oil. Cook for 2 minutes until nicely browned. If browning too quickly, reduce heat. Add the tortilla strips in small batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove the strips from the oil and drain on several layers of paper towels. Dust with chile powder and salt while still warm. Set aside.
  6. To make the salad, place the pasta in a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables and drizzle the dressing on. Toss to thoroughly mix and taste, adding more dressing if desired.
  7. Gently mix in the avocado, scallions and cilantro. Garnish with the tortilla strips if using.

 

Chili Con Queso

Hatch-chilisbc3

Buenos Dias!!!

This week, we’ve been having a bit of a “fiesta” around here… the occasion being the arrival of an ENTIRE case of Hatch chiles from Melissa’s Produce!

If you haven’t become acquainted with Hatch chiles, let me introduce you….

Hatch chilisbc3 Chili Con Queso

These my friends are Hatch chiles. Now, you might not think these are the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen – but remember, looks can be deceiving. These  famous southwestern chiles  are named after the original growing area of Hatch, New Mexico and are prized not only for their meaty flesh but also for their typically mild- medium heat. When roasted, they have an almost floral aroma and a touch of sweetness to them – and let me tell you they are the BEST roasted chiles you will ever have.

End of discussion.

So, why all the fuss and bother now? Well, these chiles are only in season for a very short time – and so “those in the know” buy up a bunch, gorge themselves on them and, if they are smart, freeze some of the roasted chiles for later.

Which is exactly what I did – in that order.

Now, if the idea of roasting a caseload of chiles is NOT on your top 10 Favorite Things to Do in the World list well… you are going to love me for this one… there are  “chile roasts” going on all over the place where you can buy already roasted Hatch chiles.The wonderful people at Melissa’s Produce have even put together a list of various “chile roastings” around the country for your convenience.

Uh huh, you heard that right – you can buy FRESHLY ROASTED Hatch chiles and then can get right down to the best part – the cooking and eating!!!

Chili Con Queso BC2 Chili Con Queso

I decided to start with the classics – or in this case Chile Con Queso – which to my mind is one of the best ways to start off any fiesta. But this is NOT your Velveeta and canned tomato version. No siree. These chiles deserve something much better – and that is exactly what they got. This just “might” be the best Queso I have ever made and although it requires a few more steps then cutting up some cheese, opening a can and nuking it in the microwave I can promise you it is worth the effort.

Really.

Chili Con Queso
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 4 - 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (do not use pre shredded)
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 3 Hatch chiles
  • 3 Tbsp. minced cilantro (optional)
  • Tortilla chips or fresh tortillas for scooping and eating
Instructions
  1. Pre heat the broiler.
  2. Line a sheet pan with foil.
  3. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place cut side down on foil lined pan.
  4. Place chiles on pan and place pan under the broiler.
  5. Broil for 5 - 7 minutes until skin is blackened. At this point the tomatoes will probably be done. If so, remove them and place them in a ziploc bag. Turn the chiles over to roast on the other side.
  6. Roast for an additional 5 - 7 minutes or until chiles are dark brown and the skin has blistered.
  7. Remove chiles and add to the ziploc to steam.
  8. When the tomatoes and chiles are cool enough to handle, remove them from the ziploc.
  9. Skin and de seed the tomatoes and chiles and cut into bite size pieces. Set aside. (This can be down a day ahead. Refrigerate chiles and tomatoes separately(.
  10. In a medium saucepan heat the canola oil over medium heat.
  11. Add the onions and cook - if onions start to brown lower the heat. Cook for 4- 5 minutes or until the onions are softened and translucent.
  12. Increase the heat to medium high and add the flour and cumin, stirring until a paste forms.
  13. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened.
  14. Reduce heat to low.
  15. Add the grated cheese a tablespoon at a time stirring to melt the cheese. When the cheese has melted, add another tablespoon of cheese. Don't add the cheese all at once - the key to a smooth, luxurious queso is cooking it over low heat and adding the cheese gradually.
  16. When all the cheese has been incorporated, add the chiles and tomatoes.
  17. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. If the queso is too thick, add a little milk to thin it out.
  18. Serve hot with tortilla chips and/or fresh corn tortillas.