Eating Sci-Fi

Every now and then I hear something on the Food Network that I want to try.  And every now then I think I’m going to regret it.


That was my dinner several nights ago when I decided that I wanted to try a mocahete, which I was pretty sure was a fantastic Mexican dish (in actual fact, it’s name for a mortal and pestle-like device, but that’s another story.)

I had to admit, when the waitress brought me the above dish, my first thought was the scene in Return of the Jedi with the pit creature.

What you may not be able to see is that I was served two very well charred banana peppers, a generous serving of cactus, and some nice mild white cheese along side beans, rice, and pico de gallo.  And in the middle of the deep serving bowl (which is how the dish got its name) is some of the most fiery sauce I’ve yet to encountered outside of Thai food.

And it looks like something a Klingon might enjoy.

The problem was that I always get frustrated when people don’t try things just because of the way they look.  So I dug in and I found the entire experience to be very enjoyable.  The charred banana peppers were just a little spicy, but had a nice mild pepper taste.  The cactus had a slight avocado taste, but was chewy and cooling next to the spicy sauce.  My wife found the cheese to be very mild and just a bit sweet.  And the fire sauce was fantastic, but only because I like going away with smoke still rising from my ears.  The thing that surprised me was that the sauce was not smoky, which meant that it used few, if any, chipotles.

All in all, this dish would be pretty easy to make at home.

You would need:

  • 2 fresh banana peppers per person
  • 3-4 large spring onions per person
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • cactus (preferrably fresh, washed and drained if not)
  • 2 serrano chilis
  • 2 14 oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  1. Cover the banana peppers and spring onions with olive, salt, and pepper.
  2. Get a three second fire going on your grill OR set your gass grill or gas stove  to medium high OR set your oven to broil and roast the banana peppers until their outsides are mostly charred.  The onions should be done by then or perhaps a bit before. Set aside.
  3. If using fresh cactus, remove the spines and salt lightly.  Boil for 10-15 minutes until soft.  If using canned, remove from the jar and rinse thoroughly.   Warm in a skillet.
  4. In a separate skillet over high heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil and saute the serranos and 1 teaspoon of salt until the chilis get soft.  This should take 4-5 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients, turn the heat to medium and cook until the tomato sauce bubbles.
  5. Blend the sauce or strain out the large pieces of serrano chilis.

Serve with tortillas, rice, beans and good Oaxacan cheese.  A grilled breast of chicken or pieces of steak would also complement the sauce nicely.

So, are you ready to eat sci-fi?

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