The first few times I watched Mexican Made Easy with Marcela Vallolid, I was not bowled over. Reminded me of every cookie cutter cooking show the Food Network was showcasing as their weekly daytime lineup.
Over time, I would watch Barefoot Contessa and then switch over to PBS, TNT and TBS. I missed the shows that taught you how to cook a cuisine, even The Nudge could chop an onion but he had no clue what to cook with them. I quickly became bored and put all the daytime cooking shows into one category....."useless".
As time dragged on and many shows came and went, I noticed a few chef's starting to rise above the ordinary, showing that they had substance. When The Nudge is impressed with a chef, I tend to take notice. Marcela totally impressed us both.
While her early days of Mexican Made Easy were uninspiring, as she gained popularity I noticed her format changed and she was getting creative with Mexican spins on America classics (like Lidia did in her Italy in America series). Go Marcela! The other day she was making a Mexican Meatloaf and it was the fresh roasted salsa topping that caught my eye. I could do that with Italian Sausage as a pasta dish. It was low fat (turkey sausage), high fiber (whole wheat pasta), diabetic friendly and so, soooo easy. Of course, you could omit the sausage and make it vegetarian.
Two whole tomatoes, half an onion, quartered with root end, three cloves of garlic, skins on, half a jalapeno, seeds removed and one ripe bell pepper.
I love the simplicity of this recipe. Two pots (one for the pasta, the other for the sauce), a processor, penne pasta and sausages (optional). The deep flavor is obtained by dry roasting all the vegetables in a cast iron pan, then pureed and returned to simmer. It was then that I added the sliced sausage. A final toss with pasta and Parmesan and dinner is served.
Perfect for dining al fresco and just enough leftovers for lunch.
I think it's time for a little more Mexican research.
Pan Roasted Tomato Salsa
makes 2 heaping servings
* 2 medium whole tomatoes
* 3 cloves garlic, peels on
* 1 sweet onion, peeled and quartered with root end intact
* 1 sweet pepper, red, yellow or orange, quartered, seeded and ribbed
* 1 small whole jalapeno, stemmed
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 2 cups dried penne
In a dry heavy bottomed pan (cast iron or Dutch oven), place the tomatoes, garlic, onion quartered, jalapeno and quartered pepper flesh (skin side down) in one layer. Turn the pot on medium high and blister the vegetables until they start to get black all over. Remove the vegetables as they blacken, peel the garlic, cut off the onion root ends and top the jalapeno. Place everything into a blender or processor and puree to a thick salsa consistency (not a smooth sauce). Return the puree to the iron pan and simmer, adding the white wine and simmer, covered while the pasta cooks.
Drain the pasta, saving some of the water, and toss with the salsa. Add enough water to allow the pasta to flow. Shut off the heat, add the Parmesan and ladle into a large bowl.
Serve with additional cheese (optional).