It feels like everything is starting over this week: Kids are back to school, and I'm back at work after a late-summer week off.
Let's celebrate by celebrating a new N.C. author. I interviewed Sandra A. Gutierrez of Cary back when I wrote about putting an international spin on potato salad for the Fourth of July.
Gutierrez' first book has just been released by UNC Press: "The New Southern-Latino Table" is a lovely, hardcover book with lots of color photos and recipes that celebrate the overlaps between Latin American and Southern food. Looking through it, I noticed her interesting take on pimento cheese, Pimento and Cheese Chilaquiles, a simple tortilla casserole made with a pimento-cheese inspired sauce. It would be a great recipe to keep on hand during the school year. You can assemble the casserole in advance, refrigerate it and back it when you get home.
Here's the recipe, and your chance to win a copy of "The New Southern-Latino Table." Email me at email@example.com and put "Southern Latino" in the message line. We'll hold a drawing to give away a copy on Thursday.
Pimento and Cheese Chilaquiles
From "The New Southern-Latino Table," by Sandra A. Gutierrez (UNC Press, $30). You can double or triple the recipe, and add cooked, shredded chicken or cooked ground beef.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
12 corn tortillas, each cut in eight wedges
Vegetable oil for frying
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pimento Sauce (see below)
1 1/2 cups shredded queso fresco or Monterey Jack
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
Line two baking sheets with cooling racked. Heat 3 to 3 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a large skillet with deep sides. Working in batches, carefully add the tortilla wedges and fry, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes or until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the cooling racks and immediately sprinkle with salt.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper; bring to a simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in the pimento sauce and remove from heat.
Spread a third of the sauce in the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Top with half of the fried chips. Spread half of the remaining sauce over the chips, then spread with half of the cheese. Repeat layering, ending with the cheese. Press down on the tortillas with a wooden spoon (don't worry if some bread). Drop the sour cream by dollops over the top. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil.
Halve, pit and peel the avocadoes and slice them thinly. Place the slices decoratively over the top of the casserole. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups roughly chopped yellow onion
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 (7-ounce) jars diced pimentos
1 teaspoon aji panca paste or hot sauce such as Tabasco
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onions and saute 3 to 4 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the pimentos, aji panca or hot sauce, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. slightly. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return to saucepan and keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 2 cups.