Dinner:  April 30, 2007

I saw a food and travel show over the weekend that inspired me to try a lighter take on chiles rellenos for our meatless Monday dinner. Chiles rellenos are one of my favorite Mexican dishes, but they can tend toward the heavy side with their coating of batter and rich cheese or pork fillings. The dish I saw wasn’t battered at all – the chile was just beautifully roasted and charred, stuffed with a light filling and served atop a smooth sauce. It looked lovely, and I couldn’t wait to try my hand.

This dish needs a bit more tweaking; it was really good, but I think it’s going to be even better in the summer months, when our garden is producing loads of fresh produce and I can char the veggies over hardwood charcoal on the grill. We lucked out and were able to get some really tasty hothouse stem tomatoes at Marlow and Sons, but if you can’t get good fresh tomatoes or if they’re not in season, I think fire-roasted canned tomatoes would work well in the sauce. All in all, I was very pleased with how this turned out, and I look forward to playing with this recipe again.

chile powder

Black Bean and Roasted Vegetable Chiles Rellenos

4 large poblano chiles
6 medium sized fresh tomatoes, halved
6 whole peeled cloves garlic
Juice of one lime
2 teaspoons good quality chile powder
1/2 teaspoon each ground coriander, ground cumin, and smoked chipotle powder
1/4 cup water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed well
1.5 cups chayote squash cut into 1/2 inch dice (you can substitute zucchini or yellow squash)
1/2 red onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 red or orange bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1.5 cups corn kernels (I used frozen, but use fresh when corn is in season)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Cotija cheese (a salty, aged Mexican cheese that is similar to Feta)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line two small baking sheets with foil. On the first, lay the tomato halves cut-side down, scatter the garlic cloves around them, season liberally with kosher salt and drizzle with olive oil, rubbing it on all sides of the tomatoes with your fingers. Place squash, onion, bell pepper and corn on the second sheet, season with kosher salt and drizzle with olive oil, and toss through to coat. Place both baking sheets into the oven and allow the vegetables to roast for 25 minutes.

Roast the poblanos over an open flame or under the broiler until the skins are blistered and charred. Using tongs, place them into a sip-top bag, seal it and set aside for a few minutes; the steam will soften the chiles and make them easier to peel.

Spoon the roasted tomatoes and garlic, as well as any accumulated juices, into a blender. Add chile powder, coriander, cumin, chipotle powder, lime juice and water and puree until smooth.

Remove the roasted diced veggies from the oven and add the black beans to the mixture. Toss gently and set aside.

When the poblanos are soft enough to handle, peel them, cut a slit lengthwise from the stem to the bottom of each pepper, and carefully remove the seeds and membranes. I don’t mind bits of the charred skin, but some people don’t like the taste or texture. I find that it’s easiest to peel them and remove the seeds in a bowl of water – it also helps keep those hot pepper oils from clinging to your skin. Set each cleaned pepper aside on a tray or platter and wash your hands well after discarding the skins/seeds.

Ladle a bit of the tomato-chile sauce onto 4 plates. Spoon about 1/4 of the roasted vegetable and bean mixture into each chile, and carefully transfer the stuffed peppers to the center of each plate. Grate a bit of cheese over each pepper and serve.

Wine Pairing: People generally think of beer or margaritas to accompany Mexican cuisine, but I like Karen MacNeil’s suggestion of pairing a peppery Zinfandel with it. Mike picked up a bottle of Ravenswood Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel, and its spicy and rich fruit notes worked really nicely with this dish.

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