When chef Brendan Mahaney moved Belly--his popular restaurant in Eugene, Oregon--to larger, swankier digs last spring, he had to find a new concept to take over his old space. His solution: Belly Taqueria, a casual eatery that’s now known for its authentic tacos, spot-on margaritas and this unexpected pepita (pumpkin seed) and habanero dip. The addictive appetizer bests both guacamole and standard salsas with its creamy texture, nutty flavor and gentle heat. Serve it with fresh tortilla chips at your next Mexican-themed dinner party and watch guests crowd around the bowl waiting for their turn to dig in.
Recipe adapted from Brendan Mahaney, Belly Taqueria, Eugene, Oregon
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 to 2 fresh habanero chiles
4 large Roma tomatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh chives
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Tortilla chips, for serving
1. In a large skillet set over medium-low heat, toast the pumpkin seeds, stirring frequently, until puffed and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pumpkin seeds to the bowl of a food processor and set aside to cool.
2. Add the habaneros to the skillet and toast, turning occasionally, until they have softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Let the habaneros cool slightly, then halve them lengthwise and discard the seeds and stem. Set aside.
3. Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut a small, shallow X into the bottom of each tomato. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the skins loosen and the tomatoes soften, about 10 minutes. Drain the tomatoes, cool slightly and then remove and discard the skins.
4. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt to the bowl of the food processor and grind the pumpkin seeds and salt into a coarse powder. Add the habaneros, tomatoes, chives and cilantro and blend until smooth. (If the dip appears too thick, add water by the tablespoon until the consistency is similar to that of a loose nut butter.)
5. Season the dip with additional salt, if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips for dipping.
It's the details that count! Try these tips
Find yourself in Eugene? Go casual at Belly Taqueria one night, and then splurge at the original Belly on the second night--and don’t leave town without trying Mahaney’s signature pork confit.
Try another Mexican-inspired recipe, such as Alma Cocina’s tortilla soup.