Toritos or Little Peppers Stuffed with Garlic, Shrimp and Oaxaca Cheese
So for the last four years, and for four of the five years during which I've been in NYC, I've lived in East Harlem, sometimes called Spanish Harlem because of its high latino population. Only in East Harlem can you walk into the corner store looking for some diet Pepsi and find nopalitos (cactus palms) and epazote (an herb common in Mexican food) chillin' out next to the limes and tomatillos. It has long been my intention to delve into more cuisines from South America, since their ingredients are so easily available to me. So when I was asked if I'd like to review Deborah Schneider's new book Amor y Tacos, of course I said yes.
It's a beautiful little book, this one, with color pictures for most of the recipes. Don't be fooled by the titles, there's much more here than just tacos. (Although there are plenty of tacos as well, and they get a chapter all to themselves.) The entire first chapter is devoted to drinks like Tangerine Ginger Margaritas, Watermelon Agua Fresca and even Hibiscus Margaritas. I think some kind of Margarita party ought to be in my future this summer.
But for my first recipe from the book, I chose something out of the Antojitos (or snacks) section. And man, these Toritos were seriously, seriously delicious. Here are a few hints as far as ingredients go. You can use any peppers you like, from hot and spicy jalapeños to mild miniature sweet peppers. I used mini bell peppers because I found a bag full and they were just so pretty, and sometimes I'm not great with very hot food. I also used shredded Oaxaca cheese because of my proximity to those wonderful latino markets. But if you can't find it, the recipe suggests Jack cheese or mozzarella, which would be closer in spirit to Oaxaca (the mozzarella that is).
Toritos, Little Peppers Stuffed with Garlic, Shrimp and Oaxaca Cheese
Adopted from Deborah Schneider's Amor y Tacos
8 small pointed peppers, like jalapeños, güero or mini sweet peppers
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 green onion, white and light green parts thinly sliced
4 ounces (about 10) medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, then chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shredded oaxaca (or Jack, or mozzarella) cheese
Mango Habanero salsa (follows)
Wash the chili peppers, then dry them, but leave the stems attached. If you're using very hot pepper, used gloves as you cut a slit down one side and pull out the seeds, use a spoon if you need to. If you're using sweet peppers, the cloves won't be necessary. Try not to break the peppers or crack off the stems.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat and add the garlic and green onions. Saute until fragrant, but not quite browned. Add the shrimp, season with the salt, and cook until the shrimp is pink and no longer translucent. Remove this mixture from the heat and let cool as you prepare the salsa.
For the salsa
1 ripe mango (still firm), peeled and diced
1 small roma tomato, cored and diced
2 tablespoon diced red onion
1/2 teaspoon minced habanero chile (remember to wear your gloves!)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Combine all the ingredients and taste for seasoning. It will be very hot, but may need more salt or lime juice. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Returning to the pepper mixture, mix the cheese into the now cooled shrimp mixture. The cheese and shrimp mixture should stick together. Use a small spoon to fill each pepper generously with the stuffing. The recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated to this point, although you'll want to make the salsa just before serving.
Heat a large pan over medium-high and lay a sheet of foil over the top. Set the peppers on the foil and roast them until they begin to brown in places and start to soften.
Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is hot and bubbling. To serve, spoon some of the salsa over the top.