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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Roasted Tomato, Chipotle Chile and Mango Salsa with Grilled Cheese

Leaves for serving, l. to r., avocado, fig, and hoja santa

Leaves of Mexico and Roasted Tomato, Chipotle Chile, and Mango Salsa with Grilled Cheese
by Victoria Challancin

I like to show the Mexican cooks in my classes new ways to serve common dishes. This recipe is one we prepared yesterday. I chose leaves from my garden and street as a novel way for them to serve this easy hors d'oeuvre, or botana. We used panela cheese, an essentially bland, low-fat, non-melting Mexican cheese that works as a wonderful blank palate on which other flavors can be beautifully painted. If you don't want the extra fat from frying, simply grill the cheese in a grill pan or skillet or even serve it straight from the package. If you have access to one of my favorite cheeses, Halloumi (a non-melting Cypriot cheese), by all means use it.

Roasted Tomato, Chipotle Chile and Mango Salsa with Grilled Cheese

(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

4 plum tomatoes, roasted and peeled
1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, and chopped
Salt to taste
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish

In a blender or food processor puree tomatoes, chipotle chiles, lime juice, and honey until smooth.

Peel mango and finely chop. In a bowl stir together tomato mixture and mango and season with salt. Salsa may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

For the cheese:
400g panela cheese, in cubes or slices
1/2 cup of flour (or as needed)
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten (or as needed)
1 cup breadcrumbs, fresh or dry (or as needed)
Leaves for serving (avocado, hoja santa, fig, or carrizo)

Coat the cubes with flour, then dip them in beaten egg. Finish by coating the cubes with bread crumbs.

After breading the cheese cubes, refrigerate them for ten to fifteen minutes before frying. This will help them to retain their shape in the hot oil, although the panela cheese will not actually melt.

Heat 1/4-inch oil in a frying pan. Cook cheese until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

To serve: Place cheese on edible leaves such as those mentioned above, or on long elegant leaves of carrizo tied in a knot at one end.

Note: To roast the tomatoes, line a heavy skillet with aluminum foil or on a comal. Place the tomatoes in the skillet. Over medium-high heat cook the tomatoes until they are lightly charred all over. Peel away most of the blackened skin before using.

Carrizo is a cane-like plant used in Mexico for making baskets. Any long, thin, non-poisonous leave would work.

The cheese served on carrizo leaves, the only two I picked.

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