Friday, September 9, 2011

Chile de Arbol Salsa + More

There is a Mexican restaurant a few blocks from my house called Autentica.  Rumor had it that it was a great place, so my parents and I decided to check it out when they were visiting. Everything was tasty, but there was a mysteriously delicious and spicy salsa that was especially striking.  We asked our server about it and despite her thick accent, I gleaned that it was a chile de árbol sauce.  I was determined to find a recipe. I searched through cookbooks and the internet and finally found what seemed like the same salsa. It was easy to make and tasted just like the restaurant version.

This recipe is incredibly simple with just four ingredients: chilies, garlic, oil, and salt.  The trick? You fry everything in the oil. It has a wonderful smoky, garlicky flavor with a seriously spicy bite.  It's great as a dip, on tacos, and in stir-fried vegetables. Dave puts it on popcorn. 

Chile de Arbol Salsa
makes about 6 ounces

You should be able to find these dried chilies at most grocery stores and definitely at a tienda.  I know that my parents buy them at Safeway in Montana.

roughly 1/2 cup dried chile de árbol peppers , stemmed and seeded
2-3 medium sized garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with a knife
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt

Heat the oil in a frying pan (I used a cast iron since it's deep) on medium heat.  Once hot, add garlic and fry until golden brown.  Remove garlic and set aside.  Add the chilies and fry until they are the color of Bing cherries, or a deep red (about a minute).  Remove and set aside.  Let the oil cool.

Blend chilies, garlic, and salt with the oil in a blender or food processor until very smooth.  You can keep the salsa in the fridge for several weeks.  Make sure to stir it well before using.

Corn and zucchini saute and black bean tacos. All with chile de árbol salsa. 

Need an idea for using your newly made salsa? Check this out:

Corn and Zucchini Stir-Fry with Cotija
serves 2-3 as a side dish

This is a quick recipe that uses seasonal ingredients. I like to keep the spices simple so that the flavor of the corn and zucchini can stand out. 

a fresh ear of corn, kernels removed
a medium-sized zucchini, sliced in 1/8 inch disks and then halved
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1-2 tsp chile de árbol salsa (or an 1/8 tsp cayenne)
3-4 tbsp cotija or feta cheese
a small handful of cilantro, chopped

Heat a frying pan with a few teaspoons of oil.  Add zucchini and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally.  When the zucchini starts to become translucent, about 4 minutes, add the corn, cumin, paprika, and salt.  Saute until zucchini is cooked through, about 3 more minutes.  Place stir-fry in a bowl and let cool slightly for a few minutes.

Add the salsa, cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!

You're right. There's no cotija in this stir-fry.  Don't tell anyone.

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