autumn is my season. i think it's the most romantic of all. the early nights are filled with hickory smoke and chilly breezes, mojitos and lemonade are traded in for toddies and spicy ciders. autumn is the warm snuggle preceding winter's long nap, and it always makes me giddy. i've waited all year for this.
today i made chiles rellenos, and while i do not profess to be the queen of such, these came out so smashingly that i made a second round to share with my good friend jen. rellenos are, for me, one of those things that i always want to do, but never seem to get around to. i think it took me 3 whole autumns to finally get around to making membrillo, and now it's something that just happens without effort when the market turns from plum to quince.
it all began with a market trip, and lo, first of the season butternut squash. they were so petite, i scooped up a couple at once. a bundle of spinach and a couple of onions later and i had the makings for dinner.
i have a feeling that these are going to be a regular in my autumn kitchen, and for this i'm glad that the season has just begun. i'm already thinking of what other goodies i can fit inside these spicy little pockets; the possibilities are as endless as the market, really. the most lovely thing about chiles rellenos is that they are beautiful as a side dish, and can easily be the star of the show. perhaps with a salad of chicories and roasted pears. perhaps, perhaps...
i made these when the evening light began to grizzle, soft and pale. the smell of the peppers perfumed the house and commingled with the sweet of the squash. the kitchen was warm from the oven, and i felt grateful for the moment.
i'm thrilled to be back here at the page, in the kitchen, feeling inspired by the market, and sharing these few things that i discover along the way!
THE RECIPE IN LOW DEF
chiles rellenos, in autumn
1 medium butternut squash
2 medium-large yellow onions
1/2 bunch spinach, cleaned well
1/4 bunch cilantro
4 oz. tomme de savoie or another good flavorful cheese that melts well
handful of toasted, chopped almonds
1) preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a cast iron pan inside; halve and seed the squash, rub the cut side with olive oil, and place in the hot pan, skin side down. roast until soft when pierced.
3) while the onions are caramelizing, roast the poblano peppers over an open flame, turning until completely charred on all sides. transfer the charred peppers to a paper bag and seal it up so that the peppers steam.
6) heat a pan and add your rinsed spinach with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. not too much. it is easy to over-salt greens in this way. cook till wilted, then transfer to a mesh strainer and press on the spinach to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. chop and add to the squash mixture.
7) course chop a good handful of cilantro leaves and add to the squash mixture as well. stir this all together, season with salt. set aside.
8) cut the tomme de savoie into slivers and set aside.
9) working with one pepper at a time: carefully open a pepper at the largest slit that naturally occurred with roasting. stuff half-full with the squash mixture, then layer in a bit of the slivered tomme, top with more of the squash mixture. nestle a couple of slivers of the tomme into the top of the squash mixture and repeat the process with the rest of the peppers.
10) prepare a steaming system. i used a copper pot fitted with a steaming basket. you might have bamboo. use whatever you have.
11) when the water comes to a boil, layer the peppers in a single layer on the basket, cover and steam until hot in the center. you can test by inserting a thin blade and touching it to the backside of your hand quickly. when the blade is hot, the peppers are done.
12) plate and sprinkle with the chopped, roasted almonds; omit the almonds for those who have nut allergies. they will be just as good.
these peppers would be wonderful served with mexican crema or creme fraiche. and finally, they are delicious made with no dairy at all, cheese or otherwise.
mangia bene, vivi felice!