Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vegetarian Chile Rellenos

I do believe that I am of a generation where almost all of my cohorts in Life have at one time or another felt the desire, need or duty to try vegetarianism.  For Big Mary it was the summer of 1974, when through some sort of cosmic hiccough I was awarded a 1 semester scholarship in modern dance.  Now understand, I was no stranger to a show tune by this time, but I had neither the physique nor the inclination to persue such close contact with leotard & tights ... not to mention a dance belt. 

Nevertheless the gods of chance decided it would be too much fun to resist, and so it was that my path crossed that of Margit Heskitt, a lunatic and questionably talented choreographer who was down to her last 24 hours to fill a spot in Bowling Green State University's Summer Arts Festival.  A quick handwritten note to the registrar and before I knew it, I was lunging and stag leaping with real "honest to god" artistes. Or so it seemed to this freshly hatched high school graduate.

Desperate to fit in on some level,  I found the holy trinity of coffee, cigarettes and vegetarianism was going to be a much more successful bonding experience, than graceful jetes or a perfect 5th position.  And so it was that I learned to drink my coffee black, switch to low tar cigarettes and substitute veggie burgers for beef.  I will spare the reader any further details of that less than graceful summer.  My pas de deux with Modern Dance is best remembered with the haze of these 30+ years.  These days I am happily free of nicotine and unreliant on caffeine, but I do still enjoy meat free cuisine on a regular basis.

Goddess knows there are plenty of reasons for us all to consider vegetarian options when it comes to planning a weekly meal plan.  There's cholesterol, there's methane gas, there's the horrors of the industrial farming of animals, there's the inefficiency of grain to flesh protein ration, it's a karmic and social dilemma.  For Big Mary, the most persuasive point is that sometimes I just get so weary of chicken, beef or pork.  Seafood always tempts, until I see the price tag.  And there's only so much disguising one can do with tilapia or swai.......

So lately, I've been having a lot of fun with grains, tofu, seeds and nuts; and most all of the experiments have been succinctly praised and enjoyed by the Handsome Venezuelan and I.  Here follows one such recipe. 

Vegetarian Chiles Rellenos

½ cup brown rice, raw
4 large Poblano peppers
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, 1/4 inch dice (1 cup)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped *
8 oz extra firm tofu, small dice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon canned chipotle chiles en adobo, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon salt
6 oz mixed vegetable juice (like V-8)
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Mexican crema** (or substitute sour cream)

Bring about a quart of lightly salted water to a boil. Add brown rice, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain rice and return it to the pan, cover, and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 475*. Lightly rub poblanos with vegetable oil. Place on foil lined baking sheet and roast until skins begin to darken and blister. Approximately 10 minutes. Remove from oven and gather foil to completely enclose poblanos. Set aside to cool. When cool, carefully remove as much skin as possible from poblanos. Make a lengthwise cut on each poblano starting at stem end. Remove all seeds, while keeping the pepper as intact as possible. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan. Add onion and garlic. Cook until soft and add cumin, chipotle and salt. Add V8 juice and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 375*. Combine rice, walnuts, onion mix, tofu and 4 oz cheddar cheese. Gently fill the 4 poblano peppers. Place peppers into a lightly oiled baking dish that holds them fairly tight. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 2 oz shredded cheddar. Return to oven for an additional 7 - 10 minutes.
Serve with Avocado Tomatillo Salsa and drizzle with Mexican crema.* to toast walnut, place nut meats on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 375 degrees.  Toast for 5-7 minutes, until nuts just begin to darken and are aromatic.  Set aside to cool.
** Mexican crema is often available in the dairy secion with Latin American cheeses

Tomatillo Avocado Salsa

1 pound Tomatillos, husked
3 medium garlic cloves
1 medium jalapeno
1 med/large onion (12-14 oz), peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ large Haas Avocado, ripe
¼ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, packed

Put all tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno and onion in a medium pan. Add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until tomatillos change color to a duller green. Remove from heat, drain, seperate jalapeno and transfer to a blender container. Cut stem from jalapeno and add to blender. Add salt and pulse until mixture is a rough puree. Chill in blender container for 30 minutes.

Add half avocado and cilantro and pulse until smooth. Serve room temperature.

You should know that this Tomatillo Sauce is crazy delicious, not only on these peppers, but chicken, pork, hell even Tilapia!

Text and recipe - Edward Magel
Photos - Yder Leon Laya
© 2011 Big Mary's Kitchen

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