Category Archives: Sides

skinny chiles rellenos

plated_chile_relleno

One of my favorite things to eat is a Tex-Mex chile relleno. Even in the tackiest of Americanized Mexican restaurants, you can count on a roasted poblano, filled with cheese or ground beef, fried to crispiness, then smothered in tomato sauce to ensure sogginess by the time it hits the table. Even the laziest of kitchens produce a fine, if bland, version of this dish. I thought I could do better.

Since I’ve been on a bit of a health kick lately, I wanted to make these at home, creating a version that would be both healthy and delicious. That meant no batter and no frying. It also meant that the pepper had to be stuffed with meat – cheese would be too heavy, and we all need protein. To boost the flavor, lean ground beef is sauteed with onion and cumin.

ground_beef_onions

The tomato sauce that ties everything together is enlivened with dried chiles. I use two guajillos, which packs some heat. Feel free to use just one if you’re sensitive to spice, or substitute something milder like puja chiles. They can be found at many Mexican grocery stores.

The recipe is complex because there are many steps, but it’s easy to multitask and execute. You’ll need your broiler to roast the poblanos and add a smoky flavor to the onions and garlic. If you’ve never rehydrated chiles before, now’s the time to start. You’ll toast the dried peppers in a hot skillet, then cover them with water. After they soak, they will be soft, pliant, flavorful, and ready to add that extra touch to your sauce.

Use a pan large enough to hold all the chiles, but compact enough that the sauce covers them during baking.

Poblanos all ready to be stuffed

Poblanos all ready to be stuffed

If you use lean ground beef (96/4) and little to no cheese, this recipe could be considered healthy. With the explosion of flavor from the sauce, I promise you won’t miss cheese-stuffed chiles.

Ready for the oven...

Ready for the oven…

Recipe: Skinny Chiles Rellenos

2 dried guajillo chiles
2 small onions, one peeled and quartered, the other diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
6 poblano chiles
6 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded (or 1 14.5-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound lean ground beef
Monterey Jack cheese, grated, to taste
Cilantro to taste, for garnish

In a small skillet over high heat, toast the guajillo chiles, flipping frequently, until puffy. Add enough water to cover them and let the water come to a boil. When it boils, turn off the burner and allow the chiles to soak for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse and place in a blender.

Meanwhile, over a gas burner or under the broiler of your oven, roast the poblano chiles until blackened on each side. Place the chiles into a plastic bag and close tightly, allowing them to steam for 10 minutes.

Under your broiler, roast the tomatoes (if using whole ones), onion quarters, and garlic cloves until they blacken a little bit. Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic into the blender with the chiles. Add 1 teaspoon of cumin, coriander, and oregano, half of the salt, and a splash of water. Blend on high until smooth, adding a little more water if necessary to get things moving around in there. Remove sauce to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes, until it thickens slightly.

Meanwhile, grab the poblanos. Carefully peel off the blistered skin, being careful to keep the flesh intact. Cut a slit down the side of each pepper and pull out the seeds. Arrange in a baking dish.

In a saute pan, cook the ground beef with the diced onion and the remaining cumin. Salt to taste if you’d like. Drain off the fat.

Carefully spoon the ground beef mixture into each poblano pepper, using your fingers to push the flesh back together after you’re done. Cover generously with tomato sauce, sprinkle with a little cheese if you’re using it, and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese on top melts and browns a little bit.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice and a salad on the side.

Serves two or three as an entree; six as an appetizer.

Chiles_Rellenos

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jalapeno tortillas recipe

 jalapeno_tortillas

Okay, okay, it’s another Sciabica recipe. I can’t help it. This is seriously good oil. I received their product through 37 Cooks, and it was free. But I’m just about to go for broke buying more of their products. I’ve never been so obsessed with olive oil before, but I truly feel like this stuff has been making my recipes taste better.

While the bottle of Mission Spring Harvest oil is long gone after being used in muffins, ice cream, and artichokes, I still have jalapeno oil remaining. This is no insult to the flavored oil. It’s just that a little goes a long way. The stuff is so packed with heat and jalapeno flavor that I’ve been using just a tablespoon or so per recipe.

Taco night is a huge hit in our house, and these were a welcome substitution from the typical bagged flour tortillas. They were surprisingly easy to throw together. There’s enough jalapeno flavor that you taste a little heat, but not so much that the spice is overwhelming.

IMG_4095 - Version 2

Jalapeño Tortillas (adapted from http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/2007/03/and-end-to-my-quest-flour-tortillas.html)

9 ounces flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Sciabica Jalapeno Olive Oil
3/4 cup warm milk

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and jalapeno oil. Add the warm milk and stir until the mixture forms a shaggy ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the ball comes together. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes have passed, divide the dough into eight equal balls. Place them on a lightly floured or greased surface (I just use the cutting board) and cover. Let them rest for another 10 minutes. This resting time is important because is allows the dough to soften. If you don’t let it rest, they won’t want to flatten out! Meanwhile, preheat a skillet over medium-high.

Using a rolling pin, stretch each ball into a disc as flat and wide as you can make it. Cook them on high for no more than one minute on each side. The tortillas will develop brown spots when they’re done. Try to keep warm, and serve them as soon as possible.

artichokes francaise recipe

As a college senior, I waitressed at an Italian restaurant and gained ten pounds almost instantly. It was hard not to: the food was great. I lived for the staff meal at the end of each shift, a small dish of pasta with gravy and a single meatball. And more often than not, servers would order additional food from the kitchen. We spent hours around those delicious plates. Cravings would build up over the course of an evening, usually to be satisfied in the darkened side dining room towards the end of a shift.

My first few months at this restaurant were an educational experience. I learned how to tie a tie, to uncork wine with grace, to reel off ten cuts of pasta from memory. And there was always something new to try. One night, another server had ordered Artichokes French after her shift. She was enjoying them in the darkened side dining room when I wandered in to chat.

“How are those?” I asked.

“Oh, they’re amazing,” she told me around a mouthful of artichoke.

“I’ve been serving them a lot, so I was wondering,” I replied. “I’ve never even had artichokes.”

“Well, you’ve got to try these,” she insisted, holding out a forkful.

I chewed. Wow. The artichokes were a little crispy at first bite. They had been battered in egg before a quick pan-frying. Within, they were tender and delicious. Their flavor was great by itself, but I loved the buttery sauce they were doused in. There was definitely lemon in there, and some white wine, but it was perfectly balanced. The artichokes were phenomenal.

(Side note: this took place in 2007, and I’d just met that girl. I didn’t know it then, but she would eventually become a very good friend. And if you try these, you’ll understand just how generous she was to share: if I had ordered these, I’d want every bite for myself).

Artichokes French became one of my favorite dishes when I worked at that restaurant, but the chef refused to give away his recipe. Since I’ve left, I’ve tried to figure it out on my own. I’m not sure how these would compare to the original, which I hadn’t seen before and haven’t seen since. But you know what? They’re pretty good on their own.

I call my recipe Artichokes Francaise in the original spirit of the dish. (I suspect that restaurant went with “french” to ease pronunciation difficulties; their patrons had enough difficulty ordering “pasta pollo”).

artichokes_francaise

Artichokes Francaise

2 cans whole artichoke hearts, drained and halved
1/4 cup Sciabica Mission Spring Harvest olive oil, or extra virgin oil of your choice
3/4 cup flour
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, divided
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Splash of chicken stock (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper

First, you’ll prepare the artichokes for pan-frying by battering them. In a medium bowl, mix the flour with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, Parmesan, 1 tablespoon of parsley, and a few pinches of salt and pepper.

Roll the artichoke halves into the flour, then dip them in egg.

Next, cook them. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium. Pan-fry the artichoke halves, flipping once, until crispy and golden brown on each side. Do this in batches if necessary so you don’t crowd the pan. Let them drain on a paper towel.

When the artichokes are done and the saute pan is empty, you’ll make the sauce. Deglaze the pan with white wine. When almost all of it has bubbled away, add the lemon juice, and chicken stock (if using). Stir everything together and let it cook down to almost nothing. At that point, add the butter bit by bit, then parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.

Place the artichokes in a serving platter, pour the sauce on top, and serve as a side dish or appetizer.