I barely get a second in my day where I can just sit, close my eyes and think. That nice and quiet is my opportunity when I do nothing but think and get transported to some other place for a while. Yesterday it was a trip to Mexico that we went on an year back. To the stuffy, noisy but colorful streets of Old Puerto Vallarta.
It was our third day in the city when we finally decided we’ve had enough sun bathing for our Indian skin so we pulled ourselves out of the beach, strapped the kid to her car seat in our tiny rental and headed to the old town. The hotel employees warned us that the we might find a little too much culture that a tourist can take but we were relentless. Later we were glad that we were. Because I am quite sure that we could never have got a better tasting pork tacos, creamier avocados and more refreshing Piña Coladas than anywhere else.
Cars hustling on the streets along with pedestrians, tiny shops lined in a row selling everything from pillows to bird cages, old historic church with tall clock tower whose bell would go off every hour to tell us how fast the time is passing. So much color and so much life everywhere.
And then I saw something which made me jump. I might have shrieked, I am not sure and my family is still too embarrassed to admit. I saw a spice shop! Not your spices-boxed-in-fancy-little-colored-jars kind of a spice shop but the I-can-smell-the-place-from-a-mile kind of spice shop. It was tiny but overflowing with a zillion kinds of spices, half of which I had no idea what they were. I went nuts and bought a little of this, a little of that and couldn’t stop until the “better half” gave a stare. I managed to buy some dried chipotle pepper as well. The smokey-and-sweet-yet-carrying-a-punch kind.
So holding her chubby hands with my eyes closed and brushing her hair with my fingers yesterday, I was thinking of those chipotle peppers. Thinking of ways how I could use them this time. I thought of that chili garlic paste that mummy would always keep in her kitchen just to add an extra punch to any sad dish. I thought why not do it with chipotle pepper and mix them with garlic to make a smokey chipotle garlic paste. Now I do not know about you but there’s something about roasted garlic that I love. It must be the aroma or the depth it adds to any dish but there is something.
So next morning soon after waking up I got busy with the peppers. Cut them, cleaned them, toasted them, rehydrated them and then pulled out my mortar and pestle. Threw in some roasted garlic with those peppers. Then with a little love and lot more muscle a beauty came out. You can use this paste to spice up any bland dish from a creamy pasta sauce to a simple vegetable stir fry. It also adds so much flavor to meat.Add a little bit of salt to your taste and this can act as a good spread for any bread.
I referred this amazing tutorial by Gourmet food editor Chef Ian to educate myself more about peppers and how to use them.
16-18 dried chipotle pepper
1 garlic head (bulb)
1/3 cup olive oil +1 teaspoon
4-5 cups water (to rehydrate the peppers)
Using this video as a reference, I cleaned and prepped my Chipotle peppers. Check it out, you might learn something new about peppers. I know I did.
In order to roast garlic, preheat the oven to 400 deg. F.
To prep the garlic you can either chop about a 1/4″ of its top just enough to expose the garlic or cut it into two across its circumference like I did. I do not think it makes any difference.
Place the exposed side up on a piece of aluminum foil. Pour 1 teaspoon olive oil over it. Bring the two exposed sides back to their place. Tightly wrap the foil making a ball. Place it in the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the garlic is soft.
Take it out of the oven. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then either pinch the cloves out of the skin or take it out using a fork.
Now to make a paste you can either use a mortar and pestle or to make things easier you can use your food processor.
Place the garlic and peppers together and grind them into a paste.
Olive oil here is used only for preserving purpose so you can add it after grinding or if using a food processor add it while grinding to help the blades move smoothly.
Place in an air tight container and store in your refrigerator.