Make Ahead

Chile Colorado Tostadas with Pumpkin Seed and Cilantro "Pesto"

February  3, 2012
4 Ratings
  • Serves at least six hungry people
Author Notes

My New Mexican grandmother and my mother both made versions of this chile when I was growing up. Despite the long ingredient list, it is truly a chile that can be put together in a hurry -- there are no spices to grind, no chiles to soak or pulverize, no tomatoes to add. Many of the ingredients (other than perhaps the red chile powder) can easily be found at any supermarket. I have tried to stay close to the recipe's roots but I have adapted it for more modern tastes. I roast the bell peppers rather than sauteing them with the onions to bring out their smoky, sweet flavor. I use ground bison rather ground beef for a slightly more gamey flavor. I cook my own beans because the broth that they cook in is a wonderful addition to the chile. Time-harried cooks can use canned beans and add beef or chicken broth instead. The main flavoring ingredient is pure New Mexican red chile powder (NOT the chili spice). It comes in medium-hot and mild versions. I like to mix the two. To enhance the flavor of the chile powder, I toast it in a dry skillet and add a small amount of ancho chile powder for sweetness.

This chile can be served as is -- as a stew or a thick soup or even a burrito filling. It is warming and comforting on a cold, winter evening. But I wanted to elevate this chile to party fare, so I went in a fusion direction, and I have to say that I was both surprised and pleased with the results. I created a southwestern-inspired "pesto" to serve as an accompaniment to the chile. This is not your typical pesto -- it has a thick, chunky texture and there is no cheese added to it. But it has a lovely nutty flavor (all those pumpkin seeds). It also gets a little sharpness from the raw garlic, a fresh hint of citrus from the lime zest, and a generous amount of cilantro adds a herby, vibrant note. These flavors really compliment the earthy., rustic red chile. I like to serve this chile on little bites of crisp tostadas, with a tiny spoonful of pesto on top. Some chopped tomato, avocado and grated cheese are also nice additions. And don't forget some minced pickled jalapeno. They add a jolt of heat for those of us who like our chile spicy.


What You'll Need
  • Red Chile Colorado
  • 3 cups dry beans (I used a mix of black, pinto, and cranberry)
  • 2 onions (1 small onion and 1 large onion, both roughly chopped)
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon lard
  • 10 cups water, plus more for soaking the beans
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 red or yellow bell pappers, sliced in half through the stem, and deseeded
  • 2 pounds ground bison (grass-fed ground beef would also work well)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pure red chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 cups broth that you cooked the beans in (or you can sub chicken or beef broth)
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth (preferably homemade or low sodium, if canned)
  • 1 ripe avocado (for garnish)
  • 6 cherry tomatoes (for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese or Queso Fresco cheese (for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (low fat is fine)
  • Crisp tostadas (torn into 3-4 big pieces) or large cut, sturdy corn chips
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pickled jalapenos
  • Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto (recipe below)
  • Pumpkin Seed and Cilantro "Pesto"
  • 1 1/2 cups washed and dried cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • Salt to taste
  1. Red Chile Colorado
  2. Begin by soaking your beans: The night before (or 6-8 hours before) you are going to make this dish, put beans in a big bowl. Add enough water so that beans are covered by at least four inches. Let beans soak in water for about 6-10 hours.
  3. Cooking the beans: When you are ready to cook the beans, drain soaking liquid from beans. Put beans in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add water, lard, 1 small chopped onion, and oregano. Turn burner on to medium high. When bean liquid starts to boil, turn heat down to low, and simmer for two hours. Add salt, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until liquid and beans taste well seasoned. If beans are not tender and taste somewhat al dente, keep simmering them on low heat. When beans have finished cooking, remove from heat. (If you are using canned beans, proceed to step 3. Just make sure to drain and thoroughly rinse your beans.)
  4. Beginning the chile -- roasting the bell peppers: After the beans have been cooking for about 1 1/2 hours, you can begin the chile preparations in earnest. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put both bell peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast peppers, turning with tongs, until skin is completely blackened and blistered. (This will take about 10-15 minutes per side). If you are lucky enough to have a gas stove, roast peppers directly on the burner. After peppers are roasted, remove from heat and put peppers in a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for ten minutes. Remove plastic wrap and peel peppers, then slice into thin strips.
  5. Preparing the spices: While peppers are roasting and beans are simmering, heat small skillet over medium low. Add red chile, ancho chile, cumin and oregano to pan. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until chile powders have released their fragrances. When the chile smells pleasantly toasty, remove from heat.
  6. Making the chile: In large dutch oven or big saucepan/stock pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add ground bison and ground pork. Break up with a wooden spoon and cook meat, stirring occasionally, until it is a lovely brown color. Add large chopped onion to meat and cook until onion has softened (about 10-15 minutes). Add roasted peppers and garlic. After about a minute or two, when you smell the heady garlic aroma, add 2/3 of spice mixture. Coat meat, onions, and peppers with spice mixture, then add broth from beans (remove it a ladeful at a time) from pot and beef broth. Add beans to pot. It is okay if they are not finished cooking. They will continue to cook in the chile.Turn heat up to medium high. When chile begins to boil, turn heat down to low and let chile simmer. After chile has been simmering for about 30-40 minutes, taste and add salt, 1/2 teaspoon at a time until well seasoned. If chile does not seem spicy enough to your taste, add reserved spice mixture. Chile can keep cooking until you are ready to eat or you can serve it now. This makes a perfectly wonderful red chile bowl stew that you can serve in big bowls with lots of warmed corn or flour tortillas. But if you want to make chile tostadas for a party, proceed to the next step.
  7. Make tostadas and prepare garnishes: While chile is cooking, make pesto (below) and get your garnishes ready. Finely dice avocado and tomato. If you haven't already done so, grate cheese. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. About fifteen minutes before your guests are ready to eat, place tostada pieces on baking sheet. Heat tostadas in oven for about five minutes. Top each tostada with a small spoonful of chile and about a tablespoon of grated cheese. Add two or three pieces each of tomato and avocado to each tostada. Top with about a teaspoon of pesto and a teaspoon of sour cream. Add a few pieces of jalapeno. Put them on a nice ceramic platter, serve them to your guests, and watch them disappear!
  1. Pumpkin Seed and Cilantro "Pesto"
  2. Combine cilantro, garlic and pumpkin seeds in a food processor. Pulse about five times, and then begin adding olive oil, 1/4 cup at a time, to the food processor, drizzling in a little bit at a time. After you have added a 1/2 cup, check consistency. You want it to be rather thick and not too oily. Add more oil if mixture seems too stiff. Add lime zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the processor. Pulse a few more times, and then taste to ensure that flavors are balanced. Add additional salt or lime zest if needed. You should taste a hint of sharpness from the garlic and the citrus should also be prominent. When the flavors are to your liking, set aside.
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  • aargersi
  • cookinginvictoria
In 2009, after living more than twenty years in NYC, my husband, young daughter and I packed up our lives and embarked on a grand adventure, moving to Victoria, B.C. There are many things that we miss about New York (among them ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh ravioli and New York bagels), but, I have to admit, that living in the Pacific Northwest has been pretty amazing food-wise. Now we have a yard with plum and apple trees, a raspberry and strawberry patch and a Concord grape arbor. I have a vegetable and herb garden, so I can grow at least some of our food. And we have an amazing farmer's market a block from our house. I love cooking (and eating) seasonally and locally. And it's been very rewarding introducing my daughter to cooking and eating, and teaching her where our food comes from.

2 Reviews

aargersi February 6, 2012
LOVE the pesto. And anything with New Mexico chili :-)
cookinginvictoria February 5, 2012
I just realized that I somehow forgot to include "3 tablespoons vegetable oil" on the ingredients list. I will fix the recipe once it is out of the test kitchen and I can edit it again.