The Mexican dish “Fideo” first came to my attention several years ago, when my grandmother spoke of it while reminiscing about the dishes her mother used to make for her as a child. I’d never had it, but recently my grandma reported that she’d tried making it for herself and her youngest grandchild, and that it had been a hit with both of them. I filed it away in the “things to cook one of these days” section of my brain. (It’s right behind the amygdala.)
I’m not sure what brought fideo back to the forefront of my consciousness this month, but suddenly I was obsessed with preparing this dish I’d never even tried.
I quickly read through a few traditional recipes and saw how basic their flavor profiles were. (Broken-up dried noodles, (“fideo” means “noodles” in Spanish) toasted in oil, and then cooked in tomato, onion, and Mexican chicken bouillon, were the mainstay ingredients and methods, with ground beef being a common addition.) I had almost everything I needed– or wanted to substitute, such as chicken stock for the bouillon– on hand.
As I stood at the stove toasting the noodles, I thought of how the pilaf method (more on that in another of my posts) must have come to Mexico with the Spanish, on whose cuisine the Arab peninsula (original home of pilau) had an enormous influence, since the Moors had occupied Spain and brought their cuisine with them. The pilaf method (in which you toast your grain in fat– usually oil– before you introduce liquid) is big in Mexican cuisine; it’s the first step in creation of the ubiquitous “Spanish rice.”
Wanting a lighter, more vegetable-oriented dish than the traditional introduction of ground beef would allow, I decided to pull a bit more from the Arabian Peninsula-by-way-of-Spain pantry instead and swap chickpeas and olives for the meat. I added cumin, (now also a popular spice, “camino,” in Mexican cuisine), to the spice profile, and because I’m on a Tuscan Kale kick, (and because it’s in season here in coastal California for great swaths of the year), I added that, too.
Topped with shredded jack cheese, the dish is warm and creamy and comforting. (Even the toasted noodles seem creamy; even risotto-like.) It’s the perfect choice, (did I mention one-pan and easy?) for a cold night after a long day at the office, as winter transitions to spring.
- One box dried angel hair pasta
- 32 ounces crushed tomatoes in juice
- 8 ounces chicken stock or broth
- 1 white or yellow onion, diced
- 2 jalapenos, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 cup large, pitted black California olives
- 2 heads Tuscan (dino) kale
- 8 ounces jack cheese, shredded
- A few good glugs of olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Cover the bottom of a large stainless-steel pan with a few good glugs of olive oil; bring to medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, break your dried pasta into thirds and drop it into the oil.
- Stir the pasta frequently as it begins to brown.
- Once lightly browned, push to the side of the pan and add diced onions and jalapeno to the vacant side.
- Stir each side frequently; once the onions and peppers are softened, incorporate with the pasta and continue stirring frequently as the pasta becomes a toasty brown. Add the cumin and oregano and stir to incorporate.
- Once the pasta and aromatics are browned, add the crushed tomatoes with juice, the minced garlic, and the chicken stock. Stir to make sure the pasta is submerged.
- Leaving that to simmer, remove any large middle ribs from the bottoms of your Tuscan kale leaves; then cut the leaves into inch-wide horizontal strips.
- Stir the kale, chickpeas, and olives into the simmering pasta dish.
- Taste, and add salt; as much as necessary. (Amount can vary based on the saltiness of your other components. Be sure to taste, rather than guess.)
- Once the pasta is tender and the kale wilted, the dish is ready. Serve in bowls with generous helpings of shredded jack cheese on top.