These days it’s rare to find yourself at a dinner party where everyone eats everything, since food allergies and different dietary preferences abound. To take the stress out of cooking for a crowd, Anna Thomas has a new cookbook: “Vegan, Vegetarian, Omnivore: Dinner for Everyone at the Table.” She shares her recipe for Poblano chiles that can be made veggie, vegan or with meat.
Thomas’ stuffed Poblanos can easily be made two ways, keeping the Red Quinoa & Pumpkin Seed Pilaf filling vegan, or you can add pork to the recipe for any omnivorous eaters. ork loin, diced and quickly sautéed with onion and garlic, is a good match for her savory-and-sweet filling with corn.
Rather than frying her stuffed Poblanos like chiles rellenos, Thomas bakes them in a gratin or baking dish of fresh tomato sauce and serves them with hot cornbread.
Poblano Chiles stuffed with Quinoa & Corn
Yield: Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish
1 recipe Red Quinoa & Pumpkin Seed Pilaf (recipe follows below)
2 large ears of sweet corn
8–10 large fresh Poblano chiles (3 lbs)
3 cups Cumin-Scented Tomato Sauce (recipe follows below)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
4 oz fresh, creamy goat cheese or queso fresco (optional)
Prepare the filling: Begin by preparing the Red Quinoa & Pumpkin Seed Pilaf. While the vegetables are cooking, slice the kernels off the ears of sweet corn; you should have 2 cups. Stir the corn into the vegetable mixture when you add the cooked quinoa. You should have at least 7 cups of the quinoa-pilaf and corn mixture, enough to fill 8 to 10 large Poblano chiles.
Char the Poblanos: Char the chiles under a broiler or on a grill until they are blistered all over, then sweat them in a covered bowl for 10 minutes and peel them (see below for detailed charring instructions).
Stuff the Poblanos: Working with one pepper at a time, make a single vertical slit down the length of the Poblano from slightly below the stem to just above the tip. Remove the seeds, leaving the stems intact. Spoon enough of the filling into each pepper to plump it up; about ⅔ of a cup does it for an average Poblano, a bit more for larger ones. Try to close the edges of the slit together so that they almost meet over the filling.
Optional: You can also dot the top of the filling with fresh goat cheese or queso fresco, if you like.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Choose a large gratin dish or baking dish, that allows you to arrange all of the peppers in a single layer, or use 2 smaller baking dishes.
Bake the poblanos: Pour most of the prepared Cumin-Scented Tomato Sauce into your oven-safe dish; there should be a thin layer of sauce covering the bottom. Use a spatula to transfer the peppers, arranging them on top of the tomato sauce, close together but not overcrowded. Drizzle a little olive oil over the peppers and sauce.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake the peppers until they are hot all the way through, about 35 to 40 minutes. The peppers can be prepared hours before serving and kept in the refrigerator, in which case you will need to increase the oven time to about 50 minutes.
To serve: Serve the stuffed peppers in wide, shallow bowls (e.g. risotto bowls) and spoon the remaining Cumin-Scented Tomato Sauce around them.
Red Quinoa & Pumpkin Seed Pilaf
1½ cups (10 oz) red quinoa, rinsed
1 (8 oz) medium yellow onion, quartered
1 (6 oz) small red bell pepper, trimmed and seeded
1 (8–10 oz) large Yukon Gold potato, cleaned and diced finely
1–2 fresh jalapeño peppers, minced
3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup (2½ oz) pumpkin seeds, hulled and unsalted
1–2 tbsps fresh lime juice
3 tbsps vegetable broth or water
1 cup (2 oz) fresh cilantro, chopped
Sea salt, to taste
Prepare the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa by rubbing it lightly with your fingers in a bowl of water, then drain it in a sieve and run fresh water through it for a moment. Bring 2½ quarts of water to a boil, add 1 tsp of salt and the rinsed quinoa. Let the grains boil gently over medium heat for 14 to 15 minutes, or until the little white rings are breaking free and the grain is tender but still crunchy. Drain the quinoa and set aside; you should have about 4 cups of cooked quinoa.
Prepare the vegetables: Slice the onion quarters thinly. Cut the bell peppers into 1″-thick strips, then cut the strips crosswise into thin slices. Dice the potato and mince the jalapeños. You should have 3 to 4 tablespoons of jalapeños, but be sure to test the for heat before adding them.
To cook: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat and add the onion, potato and ½ a teaspoon of sea salt. Toss for 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin seeds and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes until they turn golden brown and the onions have begun to wilt. Next, add the bell pepper and jalapeño, another pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of water. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook covered for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring and turning the ingredients a couple of times. All the vegetables should be tender.
Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice to the vegetables as they cook and stir to allow the liquid to evaporate. Then add the cooked quinoa and the vegetable broth or water, giving everything a stir before covering. Let it sit for another 5 minutes and stir. The quinoa should be steaming hot and moist.
To serve: Toss the hot pilaf with the chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon of lime juice and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
An omnivore’s variation: Red Quinoa-Pumpkin Seed Pilaf with pork and corn filling
8–9 oz pork loin, diced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion (5 oz), finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
A pinch of crushed red chile flakes
½ recipe of Red Quinoa-Pumpkin Seed Pilaf with corn filling (see above)
Trim the fat from the pork loin and dice the meat into small cubes.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt for 6 to 7 minutes until it begins to color. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and garlic, stirring for a minute. Then add the diced pork and the remaining salt, cooking for about 4 or 5 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
Next, stir in the red wine vinegar, agave nectar and crushed red chile flakes. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer for about 2 minutes, allowing the glaze to flavor the pork.
Combine the cooked pork with the Red Quinoa-Pumpkin Seed Pilaf and corn filling, mixing to incorporate.
Cumin-Scented Tomato Sauce
The addition of toasted cumin seeds and oregano to this easy sauce makes the perfect condiment for Anna Thomas’ stuffed Poblano chiles.
5 lbs tomatoes
2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
6–8 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
Remove the tomato skins: Cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato hit a sharp knife and drop them into boiling water for 60 seconds before transferring them with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. You should be able to slip off their skins easily. Then core them and cut them into wedges or chunks, reserving all the juice.
To make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and sear the chopped garlic for a minute, until it colors and releases its fragrance. Then add the tomatoes with their juice and the salt. Simmer over low heat until the tomatoes turn a deep red and you have the consistency that you want. This should take about 20 to 30 minutes or a little longer if you want a thicker sauce.
Transfer 3 cups of the tomato sauce to a blender and purée.
A word about charring and peeling peppers
Anna Thomas says the process of roasting your own peppers is simple and worth the 20-minute investment. Once you’ve charred them, sweat them in a covered bowl for a few minutes and peel off their thin skins. Pay careful attention not to over-char your grilled peppers or they’ll come apart as you peel them. Remember that brown and blistered skin is good enough, so handle your peppers gently, and you will have beautiful whole peppers to fill and bake.
For the broiler method: Preheat your broiler and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange the peppers in a single layer and place the pan on the middle rack of your oven. Check the peppers every few minutes. After 7 or 8 minutes, their tops will be speckled with charred spots and blisters. Use tongs to turn them over and check them every few minutes, turning as needed until the peppers are blistered all over. This usually takes 12 to 15 minutes.
For the grill method: Place the peppers directly on a hot grill. Watch carefully and use tongs to turn them occasionally until they are blistered and lightly charred all over. The time will vary with the heat of your grill.
Put the charred peppers in a paper bag or a covered bowl. After a few minutes they will have cooled slightly, and you should be able to pull off their cellophane-like skins easily. If the skins stick, a few seconds under a gentle stream of cool running water can help.