Chiles Stuffed with Zucchini (Chiles Rellenos Con Calabacitas)

So I have to make this post somewhat quick, as I am about to run 6.6 miles this morning. You see, I am ridiculously running a 10k in three weeks as part of the Big River Run in Mendocino, and, well, I am absolutely unprepared and so thusly terrified. I think that the last time I ran 6.6 miles was two years ago. So this morning, I am giving it my best shot as a woman newly entered into her forties.

But before I do, let me tell you about last night's dinner.

Up here in Fort Bragg, I stopped by an absolutely delightful store, Astoria Home Store, that has been open only a month. I am in love with the owner's collection of Depression-era glass plates and her pretty combinations and platters. So, I swooped in and snapped up the lovely plates in the photos here. Aren't they gorgeous?

And what plates they were for this delightful, exceptionally simple, and remarkably tasty chile dish.

The recipe is renowned cookbook author and Mexican cooking expert Diana Kennedy's adaptation of a 1911 recipe from a book, Recitas de Cocina, that she happened upon in Mexico City. The original recipe was vague, saying to stuff the chiles with "zucchinis, onions, etc." Kennedy took the etc. to mean lime juice and oregano, and her more precise measurements have produced a tasty dish. The fruitiness of the olive oil next to the zing of the lime juice offset with the dusty green of the oregano is just perfect.

And if you weren't in the mood to stuff chiles and fry them, you could easily dice up a poblano, throw it in with the zucchini during the sauteeing process, and then serve the stuffing as a simple and summery side dish.

Kennedy does suggest serving the poblanos with romaine lettuce and radish flowers. I served it with a side salad of red leaf lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes with a sprinkling of queso fresco. All in all, it turned out as a beautiful late summer dish that is light, filling, and perfectly vegetarian. It was a perfect way to eat as I watched the sun go down last night. Not bad at all.

However, I have almost 7 miles to go log this morning. Enough talk. Time to get running.


Chiles Stuffed with Zucchini (Chiles Rellenos Con Calabacitas)

6 chiles (with a salad, it makes a light dinner for 4-6)

6 medium poblano chiles
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup finely chopped white onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 5 1/4 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
2 tbsp wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
6 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (about 1 cup)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
lettuce (optional)
radishes (optional)

1.  To prepare the chiles:  To roast the poblanos in order peel them, you can do this on a grill (charcoal or gas) or directly over a gas stove flame.  Set the peppers on the grill over the flame, turning them frequently, until the skins become wrinkled and loose.  Tongs are the best tool to use for turning.  You can also roast them in a 400 degree oven or under the broiler--just put them on a baking pan and roast until the skin blisters.  For all of these methods, roast until the skins are charred and the peppers have collapsed.  Be careful not to tear the chiles as they collapse.  After you have roasted the chiles, put them in a bowl, set a plate over the top and let them stand for at least 10 minutes, if not longer (the heat and steam loosens the skin).  Once the peppers have steamed, carefully peel or wipe away the skins. Make a slit in the side of each chile and carefully remove the seeds and veins.  Be careful to leave the top of the chile, the part around the base of the stem, intact.  This step can be completed a day in advance.

(I'll admit I did not roast the chiles ahead of time. I wanted some crunch with the chile. You might not. However, cutting out step number one, barring the cleaning of the seeds and veins inside the chile, also cut a good deal of time.)

2. To prepare the filling: Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of the onion and half the garlic and fry gently without browning for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and salt and pepper, and cook until the zucchini is just done--about 8 minutes. (Squash vary in moisture content.  In this recipe, they should steam in their own juices, but if they seem too dry, add a little water; if too juicy, remove the lid and reduce the liquid.)

3.  While the mixture is still warm, add the remaining chopped onion, the remaining garlic, and the oregano, vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, and cheese. Adjust the seasoning.

4.  Stuff the chiles until they are full but will still meet at the opening. There should be about 1/3 cup of the stuffing left over, depending on the size of the chiles. Fasten each opening with toothpicks.

5. Melt the butter and remaining 1 tablespoon oil together in a skillet. Add the stuffed chiles and fry them over medium heat, turning them over gently so the stuffing does not fall out, until lightly browned.

6.  Arrange the chiles on a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining stuffing. They can be served either hot or cold as a first course.  Serve with lettuce and radishes.


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