It’s interesting how a dish presents itself to me. If the produce is not in the house, nothing will manifest. I mean really, nothing. I can’t come up with an idea if my life depended on it. Jeff will say, “I’m going to the store. What do we need?” and I can’t think of a thing. I hate cooking recipes that involve all kinds of store foraging as I’m not really that much into shopping. On the other hand, I’m happy to pluck from the garden or if the kitchen is well-stocked, things start to speak to me. That’s why I love my CSA box. I never have to think of what to cook. The box dictates a directive and I follow. How will I survive until June?
Since a trip to the local market last Wednesday here in Mexico, I’ve had these lovely little zucchini haunting me from the fridge, and at times I could also hear green peppers in the crisper screaming out for attention. I knew they wanted something, but what? Yesterday it came to me, a subtle scent wafted off the ocean, and as a vision, I saw charred green peppers stuffed with diced zucchini all on a bed of ranchera sauce with a little drizzle of cilantro lime crema to cool the heat.
The ranchera sauce was really quite an accident…I mean experiment! I figured I’d slow roast some onions, garlic, jalapeno and diced tomatoes and then zing them all together with an old tortilla to help thicken the sauce a bit. This worked out beautifully and with a little cumin, delivered a lovely deep flavor, but unlike the rich brownish red of my inspirational image, the sauce was carrot orange. Now, being that I am in Condolandia with a limited kitchen, I have no spices other than salt, pepper and few cumin seeds. How was I to turn the sauce brown? Well, that’s when the idea of mole came to mind. I could add chocolate. I don’t have any chocolate laying around, but we do have a giant jar of Nutella, so in went a big blop, and the most amazing sauce resulted. It’s got a slow burn heat with a sweet chocolate finish, and with the charred green peppers is quite the compliment.
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 jalapenos, cut into rings
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 6-8 large Roma tomatoes, cut into circles
- 2 large tablespoons Nutella
- 2 Tbs. adobo sauce from chipotle peppers
- salt and pepper to taste
The prep work for this is really easy because everything will get blended, so don’t take much care in cutting the veggies. Start with a hot pan and heat the oil, add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the jalapenos and cook until soft. Add the garlic and let everything cook on medium heat for three or four minutes. Add the tomatoes and let the whole thing cook down. Empty into the blender with a ripped up corn tortilla, the Nutella, adobo, salt and pepper. Zing until smooth. Return to a pan and simmer for a few minutes.
- 3 medium zucchini, diced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- olive oil for saute
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup black beans, pre-cooked
- salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onions on a slow heat until they are nicely wilted. Add the cumin and allow the seeds to toast with the onions and oil. Next add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute. Then add the zucchini and cook until just tender. Add the black beans and salt and pepper to taste. Remove zucchini mixture to a bowl.
Cut green peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place them cut side down on a heated skillet. Cook them until they blacken and then turn to blacken the skin side. Cover so they can steam a bit to soften. Do not overcook to soften, but allow then to get nice and black. That’s where the wonderful roasted pepper flavors comes from.
Cilantro Lime Crema:
Add finely chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice to 1/2 cup of fresh crema. If you are using American sour cream, thin it out with a little dash of milk.
Fill the bottom of a plate with a thin layer of ranchera sauce and place a green pepper open on top. Fill the pepper with the zucchini stuffing and top with a little melting cheese (manchego, provolone, cheddar, whatever you have). Next, garnish with guacamole, chopped tomato, cilantro, queso fresco and crema. Serve with warm corn tortillas.