Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos with Cilantro Chimichurri

29 Apr

P1040036

These lightened-up chile rellenos were so darned tasty I had to come out of hibernation to post them.  Although I love classic chile rellenos, dripping with cheese and stuffed with meat, I decided to lighten them up a bit and make a version both Zak and I could enjoy.  So I dialed down the cheese, adding just enough for that creamy, cheesy element that is distinctive of a chille relleno, but not so much it overwhelmed the dish.  I substituted quinoa for a meat product, adding some texture, nutty flavor, and healthy protein.  Instead of deep-frying the chiles, I pan fried them in relatively heart-healthy canola oil.  Served with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and a bright, fresh, and flavorful chilantro chimichurri, these were absolutely excellent.  The crunchy exterior gives way to the slightly spicy pepper and cheesy, nutty interior that is bursting with spices.

Rather than traditional poblanos, I used a mixture of cubanelles, which are relatively sweet and not very spicy, and Hungarian hots, which vary in spiciness depending on the pepper and range from relatively mild to pretty hot.  You can, of course, use poblanos – they did not have them at the store we went to, and I decided to throw caution to the wind and make some substitutions.  I was very pleased with the results, and liked having one sweeter and one spicier chile per plate.

Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos with Cilantro Chimichurri

Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos:

3 large cubanelle peppers

3 medium Hungarian hot peppers

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

4 oz. cream cheese

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. New Mexico chile powder

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup canola oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Non-stick cooking spray

Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, for serving

Spray a cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat for about two minutes.  Using a pair of tongs, add the peppers, working in batches if necessary.  Cook the peppers about 3 minutes per side until skins are blistered and blackening.  Transfer to a ziplock bag, and immediately shut the bag to allow the pepper to steam.  Let sit for 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are softened.  Carefully peel the skins from the peppers.  Set aside the peppers, discarding the skins.

While peppers are steaming, add quinoa and water to a medium-sized sauce pan.  Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.

Transfer quinoa to a large mixing bowl.  Add cream cheese, cheddar cheese, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and chile powder.  Using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

Place egg whites either in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a glass mixing bowl.  Using either the mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  (You can do this by hand, I suppose, but it took me a good 10 minutes using my electric hand mixer, so I do not recommend it unless you are a glutton for punishment as well as chile rellenos.)

Gently fold the egg yolks into the egg whites.

Place flour and egg whites in two separate shallow pans.  Add canola oil to a cast iron frying pan and heat over medium high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Cut slit lengthwise down each of the peppers, removing seeds and stems if desired.  Do so carefully, so as not to tear the peppers.  Stuff the peppers with the quinoa and cheese mixture so that you can close the peppers by folding edges of the slit over one another by about 1/8-1/4″.

Take a pepper and dredge lightly in the flour, then in the egg mixture.  Transfer directly to the oil.  Fry the peppers about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy, working in batches if necessary.

Serve with cilantro chimichurri and sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

Cilantro Chimichurri:

2 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

5 cloves garlic

1 tsp. dried ancho chile powder

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Add garlic to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until roughly chopped.  Add cilantro and pulse until also roughly chopped.  Add chile powder and red wine vinegar and pulse a few times to combine.  With machine running, slowly drizzle in olive oil.  Taste for seasonings, and add salt and pepper as necessary.

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