Chiles rellenos

When I graduated from college I moved back to the Bay Area with my boyfriend, who was from Minnesota. He’d only ever lived in the Midwest and on the East Coast, and I would be totally mortified when he mispronounced the double-l in Mexican food. Unfortunately for my tender 22-year-old sensibilities, chiles rellenos (as in “chilis re-LEN-os”) was one of his favorite foods. Eventually through my gentle (?) corrections he learned to speak Cali-Mex with the best of us, and could cringe right along with me when his parents came to visit and totally mispronounced all those Js and LLs.

The lovely pasillas are in the back left corner of this photo from the farmer's market

I’ve never been that into chiles rellenos myself. They’re just so heavy on the cheese and the fried. ┬áBut the other day at the farmer’s market I saw these incredibly gorgeous, shiny, firm Pasilla peppers and they just cried out to be stuffed. This notion was a pretty radical departure for me since a) I hate peppers, especially cooked peppers and b) I hate stuffed vegetables of all kinds (squashes, tomatoes, etc.). But I found myself putting three of those pretty peppers into my shopping bag nonetheless. I decided I wanted to make chiles rellenos, although the fact that in their traditional form they are basically peppers stuffed with huge hunks of cheese and dredged in an egg-and-flour batter did give me pause on the whole vegan, gluten-free front.

Luckily after I got home and did some internet searching I found a fantastic-sounding vegan and gluten-free (basically) recipe from Terry Hope-Romero, author of the Latin cookbook Viva Vegan that has been getting great reviews from my fellow vegan bloggers. I ended up making my chiles late one night when I came home jazzed from an evening out. I riffed on Terry’s filling (and was also inspired by this yummy but very vegan-cheese-heavy recipe) until I came up with what I can honestly say ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever cooked. The combination of mashed potatoes, vegan cheese, and nuts was the most delicious, savory, mouth-feel-full concoctions ever made in my kitchen. The batter doesn’t replicate the fluffy egg batter of the non-vegan version, but it provides a great, savory shell to hold in all that goodness.

Super Delicious Vegan Chiles Rellenos Filling (for instructions on how to prepare the chiles and stuff and batter them, see the recipe on Terry Hope-Romero’s blog)

For stuffing 3 pasilla peppers:

1 T. olive oil
2 small red bliss potatoes, chopped into 1-in pieces and steamed
5 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup mixed chopped walnuts, cashews, almonds
1/3 cup corn kernels (fresh or thawed frozen)
3 T. vegan cream cheese
3 T. grated vegan mozarella
juice of one small lime
grind fresh black pepper
salt to taste (it may not need any)

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Saute garlic until it becomes fragrant, then add nuts and saute, stirring constantly, until they brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add in corn and saute another 2 minutes. Add in potato, mashing it up and combining it with the other ingredients in the pan.

Remove pan from heat and add cheese, cream cheese, lime juice, and a grind of fresh black pepper and salt to taste (it may not need any salt). Follow instructions on Terry’s blog for stuffing and battering the peppers.