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Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos with Cilantro Chimichurri

29 Apr

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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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Bacon Jam “Mexican Pizza”

23 Oct

As promised, bacon jam is good in everything.  But it is especially good in this.  This spin off of Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza takes the concept to a whole new level.  The sweet and savory bacon-y goodness of the bacon jam works well with the smokey heat of the chipotle, the oozing, creamy cheddar and mozzarella cheese, the brine-y olives, and the bright and fresh tomatoes.  The hardest part of this whole recipe was flipping tortillas, but the flavors are bold, bright, and beyond delicious.

If you are going to reheat this dish, do so in the oven or a toaster over, because it remains delicious in a goop-y mess but part of the appeal here is the crispy tortilla shells book ending the soft but textured jam and cheesy topping.

Bacon Jam “Mexican Pizza”

1/2  cup bacon jam

2 tortillas

1 tbs. canola oil

1 chipotle in adobo, minced, plus 2-3 tbs. adobo sauce

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup sliced black olives

1 small tomato, diced

Preheat oven to 400º.

On a large griddle or in a cast iron pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add tortillas and cook, flipping frequently, until crispy and golden brown.

Place tortilla on a tinfoil lined baking sheet.  Place bacon jam on the tortilla and, using the back of a spoon, spread into an even layer, leaving about 1/2″ on the edges uncovered.  Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the cheese over the bacon jam.

Add the second tortilla on top.  Spoon the chipotle with adobo sauce in a smooth layer, leaving about 1/2″ on the edge uncovered.  Top with remaining cheese and olives.

Transfer to oven.  Bake about 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly and center is heated through.  Top with tomato.  Cut into quarters and serve immediately.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

8 Oct

I was reading a thread on Serious Eats about how the poster was feeling uninspired in the kitchen since going vegetarian.  In many ways, I sympathize.  All the more so because I’m not vegetarian (or pescatarian, as the case is in our household) but economics and convenience tend to force my hand into cooking that way most of the time.  And most of the time, I truly don’t mind.  I eat meat when we eat out (it might contribute to my beef tartar obsession at The Greenhouse Tavern when my dad generously treats me to lunch there every couple of weeks¹), or cook a small serving for myself while Zak fends for himself (duck wings are popular for that).

But sometimes, I just can’t think of anything interesting.  What we end up with might be good, but it’s a good variation on what we’ve made a thousand times, or not-quite-good-enough to share.  That lethargy is compounded once I head back to school and don’t get out of class until late, so dinner either has to be quick or pre-made (or made by my awesome husband, who does his fair share of the cooking).

This, though … this is interesting.  This started with the idea of a simple sweet potato taco, evolved into a sweet potato and black bean taco or burrito, and then in a stroke of madness (genius) morphed into this dish – a cheesy, spicy, sweet, and creamy sweet potato and black bean enchilada.  The enchilada sauce is made from charred green peppers and jalapeños which in one fell swoop uses up my copious green peppers and adds a hint of bitterness and an big punch of spice that tempers the sweetness of the honey-glazed sweet potatoes.  The flavors work really well together, with the sweetness of the potatoes balanced out perfectly with the heat of the pepper sauce, jalapeños, and creamy cheddar and beans.

This was really good both with and without the bacon.  It added a salty, meaty bite but was totally not necessary to the overall effect of the enchilada – in fact, I added it as an afterthought.  I mean, let’s face it, bacon makes almost anything better and this was no exception.  At the same time, it was truly amazing how complex and interesting the flavors were without it.  This really reminded me how fun, interesting, and inspirational vegetarian cooking really can be.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas:

4 medium flour tortillas

3-4 slices bacon, optional

3 medium sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2″ cubes (no need to peel unless you don’t like peels) (yield: 2 cups)

2 tbs. olive oil

1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

2 tbs. water

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp. Arizona Gunslinger jalapeño pepper sauce (or other hot sauce of choice)

1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°.

If using, cook bacon for 5-7 minutes in a microwave on paper towels until crispy.  Cool, and roughly chop. Set aside.

Toss sweet potato cubes with olive oil and season with ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper.  Spread on a tinfoil lined baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes until easily pierced with a fork but not falling apart.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, add water and heat over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise.  Drizzle in honey, whisking continuously.  Once smooth and incorporated, add pepper sauce.  Add sweet potatoes and toss to coat.

Cook, raising heat to medium-high and stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes until a sticky glaze forms on the sweet potatoes.  Add beans and 1/2 cup of cheese and stir to combine.  If using, add bacon.

[Note:  I added bacon to 2 of the enchiladas, so I could have some porky goodness but the rest remained vegetarian.]

Spray a 9″ x 13″ casserole with nonstick cooking spray.  Spoon about 1/4 cup of green pepper enchilada sauce (see below) on the bottom of the pan.

Take a flour tortilla and, using a pair of tongs, dip it in the green pepper enchilada sauce on both sides to lightly coat.  Place in the casserole dish.  Add about 1/2 cup filling to the center.  Carefully roll into a tube shape, careful not to burn yourself.  Position so the seam side is down.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.  Pour any remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Cover with tinfoil.

Transfer to oven.  Bake 25-30 minutes, removing tinfoil for last ten minutes, until cheese is bubbling and golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Green Pepper Enchilada Sauce:

2 green bell peppers

2 jalapeños

2 tbs. olive oil

2 tbs. canola oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup water

1 tsp. ancho chile powder

Preheat broiler.

Coat peppers in olive oil and place under the broiler and broil 3-4 minutes per side, turning frequently, until outside is blistered and flesh is tender, for a total of about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a ziplock bag.  Let cool.  When cool, remove charred outer skins from the peppers and discard.  Remove stems, seeds, and inner membranes.  Dice flesh.

Heat canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until translucent, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Add diced pepper flesh and stir to combine.

Add water, ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes to incorporate flavors.

Using an immersion blender or transferring to a blender, puree until smooth.  Set aside.

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Vegetarian Burrito Bowls with Creamy Cilantro Pinto Beans, Corn Salsa, and Fajitas

29 Aug

When we received three different types of peppers in this week’s CSA share, my mind immediately jumped to Chipotle’s fajitas (I had been bemoaning the lack of a Chipotle near school the day before).  I decided to make a burrito bowl with rice, creamy pinto beans, sautéed peppers and onions, and cold esquites as a corn salsa.  I was particularly excited to make this due to the fact that we had received a variety of salts, pepper flakes, and hot sauces as one of our wedding gifts from our friend Diane.  Though I love to cook from scratch, sometimes it is super helpful to use some flavor enhancing shortcuts.  Here, the bacon salt (which was artificially flavored) meant I could make the beans flavored with the smokey, meaty flavor of bacon without actually using bacon – which means Zak could happily eat them.  The jalapeño pepper sauce imparted spicy jalapeño flavor without the need for chopping and deseeding.  I can’t wait to use more of the awesome products she gifted us, especially some of the fancier salts that I would usually not justify purchasing on my own.

Combined together, the separate components of this dish were excellent.  Spicy and sweet, hot and cool, creamy and crunchy.  It was filling from the rice as beans but not overwhelmingly heavy thanks to the fact that it was heavy on vegetables, including the corn, peppers, and onions.  This also reheated really well (I packed the esquites separately and everything else together).  While it wasn’t a dead on knock-off of Chipotle, or anything, it was pretty darn good.

Vegetarian Burrito Bowls

with Creamy Cilantro Pinto Beans, Corn Salsa, and Fajitas

Creamy Cilantro Pinto Beans:

1 lb. dried pinto beans

1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups cilantro, stems included, roughly chopped

1 tsp. bacon salt (or 3-4 strips bacon, roughly chopped)

1 tsp. Arizona Gunslinger Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce (or 1 jalapeño, finely chopped)

6-8 cups vegetable stock

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Pick through beans to make sure there are no stones or deformities.  Place in a pot and cover by 2″ with cold water.  Let soak overnight, or at least 8-10 hours.

Add all ingredients to a medium stock pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium to maintain a low boil and cover.  Simmer 3-5 hours until beans are creamy and tender, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if necessary.  Mine took about four hours.  When done, the beans will be tender and the liquid in the pot will coat the back of a spoon.  Taste for seasonings, adjusting as necessary

Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad):

Follow recipe, posted here

Serve the esquites chilled.

In this recipe, I substituted the jalapeño with 1 tsp. Arizona Gunslinger Green Jalapeño Pepper Sauce.  Additionally, I doubled the cilantro and used both the whites and greens of the scallions.  I used garlic salt rather than garlic (because I had forgotten to chop it when I was adding the ingredients at the end), and chipotle pepper flakes rather than crushed red pepper flakes.  The original recipe, of course, would be fine as is.

Faijitas:

1 green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise

1 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise

1 medium onion, halved and sliced lengthwise

2 tbs. canola oil

1 tsp. chipotle pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a grill pan or cast iron skillet, heat canola oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions and peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until charred and soft.  Season with pepper flakes, salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.

Assembly:

1 cup white rice, cooked according to instructions

Creamy cilantro beans, see above

Corn salsa/esquites, see above

Fajitas, see above

Plain Green yogurt or sour cream, for serving

Starting with rice, then beans, then fajitas, then corn (or however you like it!) layer ingredients in desired amounts.

Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

3 Aug

Thanks to a suggestion in the comments, I remembered I had this recipe bookmarked in my “To Try” list.  I had every ingredient for this except the cilantro (because, hey, fresh herbs do not last that long) and exactly the right amount of ears of corn.  Kismet!  And I am so glad I had that reminder, because this was ridiculously good.

We ate this side dish alongside some simple black bean burritos, eating it as-is and also as a sort of warm “salsa” on the burrito.  Both were extremely good.  The sharp feta contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the warm caramelized corn, and the mayonnaise creates a creamy sauce that is to die for.  The heat from the jalapeños and crushed red pepper flakes works well with the sweet corn and creamy feta and mayonnaise, bolstered by the bright, fresh cilantro, lime, and scallions.  I will definitely be making this again the next time we receive corn in our CSA with no changes other than the fact that I want to double or even triple the recipe.

As an update, I just wanted to acknowledge that I made this dish again with ingredients from Week Four of the CSA.  Because we were bringing it as a side dish to a friend’s house, I decided to serve it cold.  And it was frickin’ delicious both room temperature and cold.  I also added about half a cup of halved cherry tomatoes, which was a great addition that added both color and flavor.

Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

From Serious Eats

2 tbs. vegetable oil

4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed

Kosher salt

2 tbs. mayonnaise

2 oz. feta cheese, finely crumbled

1/2 cup scallion greens, finely sliced

1/2 cup cilantro greens, finely chopped

1 jalapeño, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 lime, juiced

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over high heat until shimmering.  Add corn kernels and season to taste with salt.  Toss once or twice and cook, without moving, until charred on one side, about 2 minutes.

Toss corn, stir, and cook, again without moving, until charred on second side, another 2 minutes.  Continue tossing and charring until well charred all over, for a total of about 8-10 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.  Serve immediately.

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