Ancho Chile Pesto with Queso Fresco

Queso fresco is a mild, soft, crumbly cheese from Mexico; farmer cheese or feta is a fine substitute.

Yield: MAKES ABOUT 2/3 CUP
Recipe from Food & Wine

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Ingredients

  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • Boiling water
  • 4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
  • 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and bake for about 2 minutes, or until they are lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely.
  2. 2. In a small heatproof bowl, cover the anchos with boiling water and let soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain the chiles, reserving 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid.
  3. 3. Meanwhile, in a small skillet (not nonstick), cook the garlic cloves over moderate heat until softened and blackened in spots, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then peel.
  4. 4. In a mini food processor, combine the garlic cloves, reconstituted ancho chiles, reserved chile soaking liquid, pine nuts and oregano. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. With the machine on, add the peanut oil and process until a chunky paste forms. Add the queso fresco and the heavy cream, season with salt, pepper and cayenne and pulse to blend. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
  5. Applications: Spread on the inside of softened corn tortillas when making enchiladas or fajitas. Toss with steamed or sautéed vegetables. Use as a condiment with grilled steaks, chicken or pork. Add to sour cream or Greek-style yogurt for a quick dip. Mix with ground meat as a seasoning for meatballs.
  6. Make Ahead: The ancho chile pesto can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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