fideos with favas and red peppers

Some people are chef-chasers, meal-collectors. Being at the right restaurant exactly when it’s the newest thing so they can say they ate there first, or knew so-and-so would be the next Top Chef long before anyone else is where it’s at. Some want to be the first in line for Chef’s take on ramps, rhubarb, some adored garlic chive tangle and five different soft-shell crab specials each spring. Some people rank bathrooms (no really, they do) at the city’s best eateries. The thing is, I don’t know these people, and secretly, I’m kind of relieved.

For me, restaurants are about something else. I love to go to great ones, glorious places where each and every dish is perfect in a way you hadn’t considered before. Cranberry beans in an artichoke cup? I’m so glad I’ve met you. Seared quartered baby artichokes with pistachios, mache and manchego cheese? Two weeks without you makes me sad. Tabla’s Indian-spiced popcorn? It’s pathetic, but you can actually make my day. In their own ways, restaurants have become my muse. Thus, I didn’t just want to go to The Little Owl for my birthday Monday night because a friend had raved about it after her Food & Wine holiday party, I wanted to go because one glance at the constantly-changing menu told me I’d be brimming with new ideas when I left.

with roasted tomato, jalapeno and onion puree

And was I! I didn’t even know what fideos was when I walked in there, and in the days since, it’s been every other word out of my mouth. Fideos. Fideos. Fiddle me some fideos! Monday night, they served them with a tomato-y broth-based sauce (yes, I know that’s not exactly the most articulate description, but that’s the way I noted it in my head) with red peppers, barely cooked, fresh fava beans, black olives and wee clumps of cooked-in melted cheese, and there was a squiggle of a smoky red pepper sauce next to it. I loved it to pieces. I ate it embarrassingly fast. I vowed to make it the very next time I cooked, which because no birthday week is complete without a trip to the Bread Bar, brought us to Wednesday.

I resorted to an old Rick Bayless recipe for guidance, which is unfortunate, you see, because I obviously suffered some memory loss around the last time I used a Bayless recipe. Last year, the New York Times had run his recipe for chipotle meatballs, which piqued my taste buds so fiercely that I had to make it that very evening. The following week, the Times printed a correction that no, you were not supposed to use one to two cans of chipotle as they’d originally dictated, but one to two canned chipotles and ha, ha, ha, oh, I’d gotten the memo, but the evil, mouth-searing, food-went-in-the-trash kind of way. Now, the Times blames an “editing error” so I suppose he should get a pass, but, well, there Rick and I were again Wednesday night, his single charred jalapeño* somehow so fiercely over-spiced I thought a single bite would kill me. I ended up adding a cup of tomato puree in hopes to dampen its singeing effect, but in the end it only slightly helped.

fideos with favas and red peppers

It’s a shame, because I think half, or a quarter of that chile would have made for a delicious dish. I love this fideos idea, sauteing fine noodles until they are browned, tangling them up with other seasonal ingredients. I loved it on my plate at the restaurant, and when I could ignore my mouth’s screaming for an ice cube, or any such relief, I loved it at home. But I’d approach that whole jalapeno with caution next time, as even my Tobasco-fiending husband felt the spice was above and beyond.

Speaking of Alex, he has been nudging me for days to please, please please tell you that Smitten Kitchen has been nominated by the lovely folks at for their Grill Me contest in a chance to win a trip to Napa Valley and take a grill master class with two pros, and I get to take a guest if I win. (Yes, that’s where he comes in.) So, um, if you feel like contributing to the effort to send me and Alex to Napa, baby, Napa, just press this wee little button to the right and, well, you know the drill. From the bottom of our grill-obsessed gullets, we thank you.

Update: People, thank you so much for your mind-blowing response to this! You’re so rad. So, you’re not going to believe this but for the second week of the contest, Culinate is letting people vote a second time. For real! So, you can vote again for your favorite blogger and everything, and by golly, well, I think we all know where Alex and I stand on this, but you should go and vote your conscience, okay?

Fideos with Favas, Red Peppers and Black Olives
Inspired by The Little Owl, but no doubt, lacking resemblance to the original

1 large tomato
1 large jalapeno
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic
6 sprigs cilantro
Large handful of fresh beans, in their pods
1/4 cup canola oil
7 ounces short angel hair noodles, or longer strands broken into one to two-inch pieces
2 cups chicken stock
2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks
1/2 to 2/3 cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
Cotija or queso blanco, shredded

Heat a dry cast iron skillet (or ungreased skillet) over medium-low heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Place the tomato and jalapeno in the pan and cook turning frequently, until the skins are blistered all over, about 15 minutes. Remove the tomato into a mixing bowl to catch the juices. Place the chile in a paper bag and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the fava beans. Remove them from their large outer pods, and blanche them in boiling salted water for one to two minutes. Drop them in an ice bath, then remove their light-colored skins, revealing the edible fava bean within. Set aside.

When the chile is cool enough to handle, peel of the charred skin and halve it, reserving the other half for another use. Place the tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro, and half chile in a blender, or food processor, and process until smooth, about 1 minute, set aside.

Pour the oil into a dutch oven or medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it ripples, add the pasta and cook, stirring constantly, until golden. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of oil, add the pureed tomato and chile mixture, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continually. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, ensuring there is a bit of liquid left in the pot. Add the prepared favas, olives and red peppers, stirring them in and replace the lid for another few minutes cooking time, or until the liquid is absorbed. Serve with shredded cheese, giving it a good stir to make sure it has melted and merged with the ingredients.

* Could someone explain to me how I can add a whole jalapeno to a salad or pico de gallo, and the bite is mild at best, but somehow this whole one that’s cooked for a significant amount of time (isn’t that supposed to dull it’s knife-like effect?), it’s fiercely inedible? Because I’d sure like to figure this one out.

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46 comments on fideos with favas and red peppers

  1. I’d love it if you won the grill me contest, I can’t imagine anyone would blog about it better than you. As for the jalapeño question, capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the burning sensation, is found in the white membrane and the seeds, but it spreads to the rest of the pepper when you cook it, so even if you remove the membrane and the seeds after cooking, quite a bit of the fire will stay with the pepper. Also, the amount of capsaicin in any individual jalapeño is unpredictable (genetically speaking), so it’s hard to know how much heat you’ll actually get.

  2. Fideos are amazing! And with the jalapeño, you may have just gotten an abnormally hot one. I’ve found that heat varies greatly between peppers, and that they tend to be hotter earlier in the year.

  3. Hey Deb, have you tried cooking fideos rissotto style? I saw it somewhere and had to do it right away and was amazed with the results. Adding simply water as the spaghetti absorbed it brought out the flavor and they were amazing just with a bit of butter and parmesan cheese. Of course, you can incorporate different flavors like you would do in a rissotto, but I think it´s a great method with lots of possibilities. There´s a Spanish dish you should definitely check out called “fideuá” which is somewhat similar to a paella, but with fideos.
    Oh and for a little linguistic note, “fideos” simply means “noodles” in Spanish.

  4. hillary

    a helpful produce guy once told me that the jalapenos with the little squigly “stretch mark” markings on them tend to be hotter. although i think this was his attempt at scaring me away from them, he got the opposite reaction. it’s proven semi-true, though it may only be a coincidence.

  5. You must have gotten a hold of a really hot pepper if one jalapeno did that. We are big Rick Bayless fans at our house – although we don’t like all of his recipes.

  6. Fideos are amazing — I always have some in my pantry. They can go in any direction — Italian, Spanish, spicy Asian, Moroccan. You will have such fun with them!

  7. what is it about the word fideo that is just so fun also? it rolls around in your mouth – like you can taste it on its own. i love it too.

  8. Becca

    Deborah Madison’s newer cookbook (I think it’s called “Vegetarian Suppers”) has a wonderful, yummy, easy fideos recipe. It’s glorious–canned roasted tomatoes, crema (or sour cream, I think), queso and avocados. Dear lord it’s good. For what it’s worth, I’ve tried the Bayless recipe as well, and it took way more time & didn’t taste as good.

    Thanks for all the lovely blogging!

  9. I’m so glad you found fideos. They’re all over here in Tex. so much so that I didn’t realize they weren’t common everywhere. It’s usually used in it’s singular form as they name of the dish. My husband will say, “Do you want me to make fideo tonight for dinner?” Which he does b/c he was raised on the dish. Fideo (fideos) are wonderfully versatile and used very much like Vietnamese Pho. They can be brothy, dry, casseroley, and even in salads. But you know all that already.

    The best thing about them, here, is that they cost only 10 cents for a package. Did your market have the nesty ones too? Those are really neat. The noodles are longer and they are curled up into little mounds resembling birds’ nests, and they come 6 to 8 ‘nests’ in a package. I have a couple of tried and true fideo recipes (that I could share), but they aren’t fancy – just 4 or 5 ingredients – kind of Tex-Mex homestyle food.

    Have fun con los fideos fabulosos!

    and 1 vote from me

  10. Yvo

    Fiduea ? or however you spell it – was delicious in Spain, never saw it on the menu here… and it was a little different from how you describe as well. Oh maybe it’s just the kind of noodle??? Fisherman’s noodles I think they’re called. Anyway…. yowch on the spicy.
    Good luck on the competition! I’m only #15 right now, but I see you’ve jumped to #2 or so =)

  11. Lisa

    Are you sick of jalapeño comments yet? If not, here’s one: I made a batch of my favorite black bean soup for a friend who just had baby #2, and was disappointed to discover it was MUCH hotter than usual – too hot, I worried, for my friend’s two-year-old. (I used a farmers market pepper, rather than the usual grocery store variety.) Another friend who attended the International Culinary College here in Baltimore suggested I cut the soup with dairy (sour cream), and it would lessen the heat. It worked! I don’t know if dairy would mess with your other ingredients, and you probably won’t try a whole pepper next time, but just a little FYI for you.

    Good luck with the contest.

  12. Jelena

    I’m so sorry I missed your birthday! I hope you had a smashing great time! My computer was in for repairs for the third and I hope last time.
    I’m voting for you from way across the border (Canada that is, not Mexico). Now I have to go google where Napa is (California?).

  13. Ebony

    I grew up eating fideo, also a Texas kid of Mexican heritage, and my grandma and mom taught me how to make them very simply as a side dish. Just toss a couple big handfuls of the fideo in a skillet with some vegetable oil, chopped onions and a little mash of cumin seeds, garlic cloves and water (use a mortar and pestle for that) and some salt a pepper. Once the fideo are brown add in a small can of tomato sauce, half a can of whole tomatoes squished and cover with water or chicken broth. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and your’e all done. Fantastic as a side dish to any spice-rubbed meats or in place of spanish/mexican rice with your next Tex-Mex feast. Enjoy!

  14. Your Fideos looks delicious! It’s quite similar to the Valencian dish Fideuá, which is a paella dish made with short vermicelli noodles instead of rice, and served with aioli. Super-yum!

  15. Sue

    Hey there from Los Angeles. Pepper tips I have : Just take the seeds and the white inside part of the pepper out before you incorporate it – it will take the spice down a notch or 3, or you could also use a chipotle (in adobo sauce – rinse the sauce) as all you are really after is that smokey taste. You might have gotten the wrong type of pepper too – some, such as scotch bonnets, are really fierce, while jalapeños are usually not that bad. But hey, everyone eventually has a jalapeño war story, so welcome to the sisterhood :) Glad to hear that Fideos have made the East coast, Mexican food in NYC used to be scary bad. Good luck with the contest!

  16. Larry

    Deb, I would attibute the heat of the jalapeno to the specific pepper rather than a change from roasting it. I use more than five a week and there is a lot of variation from one to another. This is even more prevalent in poblanos. On the flip side, a can of chipotles lasts us over a month in the frig.

  17. ann

    I’m voting for you because, well, I’m already going to Napa once this year and I have no more vacation time, so I figure I should spread the Napa-love around!

    There’s a Middle Eastern version of fideos that I love to death, where you mingle them with tiny bulgur and lots of olive oil and garlic. It’s rid-IC-ulously delicious. I love tiny noodles!

  18. ella

    Deb, have you seen the movie “Waitress”? It’s a great movie on its own, and then there are the pies. It’s like pie porn.

  19. deb

    Ella — Oh, how I have tried! This otherwise-lovely husband of mine keeps murmuring stuff like “chick flick” and blah blah and I can’t get him to go with me. He’ll come around soon. I mean, I don’t think that a man who loves “Titanic” really gets to sneer at chick flicks, right?

  20. Jenni

    About the jalapenos…are you including the seeds in your fideos? If so, that could be the culprit as the majority of the chili oil in a chili is in the seed. I usually err on the safe side, removing the seeds before adding the chillies, and then serving it with hot sauce for those who want it spicier.

  21. Oh, I finally realized what those small short pastas are for. Duh. Can you believe I actually like eating that type of pasta, boiled in salt water as normal, with butter and parmesan for breakfast? Mmmmmmmmmmmm. Reminds me of a hot cereal for breakfast. I do the same thing with alphabitz and star shaped pasta too.

    Very interesting dish though – will definitely be trying this

  22. Ed

    I was wondering if you or anyone else had tried this recipe with dried fava beans. I can’t seem to find any fresh ones around here but would love to try this recipe.

  23. akaellen

    I tried it(gourmet recipe referred to above) with some success I think – I used the wrong chorizo (mexican instead of spanish) and I omitted the wine and parsley due to lack of having those items on hand. And breaking up the noodles ended up with little pieces of noodles flying everywhere (to the delight of the puppy) but overall –yummy and this def. falls into the category of comfort food.

  24. lola

    Hello from Spain! I recently discovered your blog, and I love it!
    Here in Spain we have a meal similar to paella called fideua. The “fideos” we use for fideua are pretty thick with a tiny hole inside along their length. You can cook any kind of “paella” with fideos instead of rice (with seafood, chicken…). The kind of fideos that you used in your recipe are the ones we put on the “cocido” soup.

  25. Ok, can someone explain to me what exactly a “fideos” is? You mention that you didn’t know, but it doesn’t really explain it. I’m assuming its a Spanish dish?

  26. Diane

    Hi There! You can use the whole jalapeno IF it has a “rounded” point. The pointier they are, the more capsium is in there. I have to use short fat ones instead of skinny, pointed ones if I want to use the entire jalapeno. Hope it helps.