Sunday, October 28, 2012



The Rustic Delight

One of my favorite things on this Earth is guacamole. I'm quite certain I could eat it every day and never get tired of it. It's such a simple and easy thing to make. Not too easy to mess up but stranger things have happened. I've have some pretty funky guac in my day.

I'm always dumbfounded when I hear people say they hate it. Or that it tastes gross. I don't know why that shocks me but it does every time. I always think there's something wrong with that person. I wouldn't think that if they said soup or cereal or lasagne. But guacamole? Come on man! I know, it's kinda weird, but I yam what I yam. A ga ga ga. (sorry for the lame Popeye reference). On my way home the other day, I was listening to the radio and there are these two deejay's in the afternoon that were going on about how they hate it. Both of them. That's downright un-American, if you ask me. I actually switched over to the pop station. And if you know me at all, that's a pretty powerful statement. 

In days of old, I was the type of guy who'd buy of those guacamole flavor packets they usually sell right next to the avocados in the supermarket. And they served their purpose for the times I used them. But I've always had a much greater sense of accomplishment when I was able to create something on my own, without the assistance of a flavor packet full of a mysterious powdery substance. Yeah, it takes longer, there's more effort, it requires thought, etc. But in the end, it's so much better. 

Before writing this post, I scooted about the internet to see if I could find any interesting tidbits regarding this amazing treat. But alas, I wasn't able to dig up anything too remarkable. From what I was able to gather, and I'll make this quick, it was invented by the Aztecs and dates back over 500 years. Several sites mention that the Spaniards first came across it when they paid their little visit to the Aztecs. Curiously enough, that too was about 500 years ago. Who knows how long the Aztecs were making it before then. Oh yeah, and the word guacamole is derived from two Aztec words meaning "mashed testicles". Mmm mmm good!  

For the record, I like my guac a little more rustic. I like it chunky and I like the occasional crunch of a green onion or a little piece of jalapeno (which I totally forgot to put on the plate in the photo above, duh). I've had the guacamole that is mashed completely smooth and it's ok but I think a superior guac has texture. It's mashed but only about halfway. And then there's the question of lemon vs. lime. Me? I prefer the lime. I like the flavor a bit more and it gives me an excuse to make margaritas with the leftovers. Of course, the 28 limes I bought may have been a bit of overkill but hey, my blender sports 3 horsepower. Grunt grunt (sorry for that lame Tim Allen reference).

Now, before you make this guacamole, throw out all your other guac recipes because this will be your new "go to" recipe. Trust me. 


6 medium avocados (5 if they are larger) 

juice from 1 half a lime
1 tsp of salt (I use a seasoning salt called Johnny's. Better flavor than salt and less sodium) 
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp of hot pepper sauce (Tabasco, Tapatia, etc.)
1/2 cup of cilantro leaves, chopped (from about 10 sprigs)
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced

To make the guacamole: 

In a bowl, add chopped avocados, lime juice, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Using a potato masher, mash the contents into a rough mash. Leaving the mixture half mashed and half chunky. 

Add the remaining ingredients and fold them in using a spoon, being careful not the mash the avocado any further. 

Serve with chips you stole from the Mexican restaurant.  


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Stuffed Pepper: A Story of Quinoa

Oven Roasted Stuffed Poblano with Chipotle Asado Sauce

People tend to take two steps back when I tell them I am a vegetarian. There was one woman that looked at me literally from my head to my toes, back to my head, then back to my toes again before exclaiming "You are a vegetarian?!!" While I can admit, I don't fit the physical profile, I do find it humorous that some folks think it's so truly odd. When I told my doctor, however, he maintained his composure. A true professional. Although, his eye did flutter a bit as he held back his surprise. His advise was to see a dietitian to discuss how to be a vegetarian and still get all the good things I need in order to eat a more balanced diet. Cool.

After my visit with the very nice dietitian lady, I came away with all kinds of good info, booklets, pamphlets, and ideas. One of which was quinoa. Quinoa, she told me, is an excellent source of protein and it seems I'm not getting enough of that based upon the food diary she requested I bring with me to the meeting.  Now, I've heard of quinoa. Saw it on some random vegan website or maybe it was a cooking show on Food Network. Don't really remember. But I figured what the hell? Worst case scenario, it sucks. And then I don't buy it anymore. Man, was I surprised. Not only do I dig, I really dig it. And trust me, this isn't the poor sad vegetarian trying to convince himself that quinoa is good. I truly mean it from deepest sub cockles of my heart. 

So now I'm excited, right? I find this recipe for Stuffed Poblanos. Stuffed with what you ask? My new bff, quinoa. So I make the recipe and love it. When my wife and I try a new recipe, we always ask each other if it's a "do-over". In other words, will we make this again? This one is definitely a do-over. Aside from my new found love of quinoa, the chipotle asado sauce was one of favorite parts. It takes on a nice bite from the chipotles and the whipping cream gives it just the right level of richness. In fact, the base of this sauce, has the potential to grow into a nice salsa. I'll definitely have to play around on that one on another post. 

I had to laugh because the next day, I was telling a friend about this dish and she crinkled her nose at me when I said the word quinoa. Then I said the word poblano and her nose crinkled even more but this time she added the tilted head, similar to how a puppy looks at you when it's thinking "huh?" I quickly changed the subject as I knew this one was a lost cause. Not everyone is ready to take on quinoa. Apparently, and I say this facetiously, it's only for the connoisseurs. The true foodies. And those in the know...know. Quinoa rocks. 

This recipe is an adaptation of the one I found on the Food Network website. I made some simple changes to make a few of the ingredients easier to find and also to try to make it a bit healthier. I was able to drop quite a few calories per serving with this version and it's just a tasty as the original.  


For the Stuffed Poblano

5 fresh poblano chiles

1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and remainder julienned
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup egg whites
leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Chipotle Asado Sauce

6 ripe Roma tomatoes, quartered

1/2 small yellow onion, julienned
3 clove garlic, peeled
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
saltfreshly ground black pepper
leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 chipotle chiles in adobo
1/2 cup heavy cream 

To make the Stuffed Poblano:
Preheat oven to "broil" and roast the chiles until skin blackens, making sure to turn frequently. Remove chiles from the oven and place into a stainless steel mixing bowl. Peel the outer skin, being careful not to tear the flesh of the chile. With a sharp paring knife, make a long slit the length of each chile and then gently remove and discard all of the seeds. Set the chiles aside while you make the filling.
Heat the oil in a 4 quart saucepan over medium high heat and saute the onion until translucent. Add quinoa and toast for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water to the quinoa. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Turn out onto a baking sheet and allow to cool. In a clean pan, saute the mushrooms in butter over high heat. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper and allow to cool. In a bowl, combine the cooled quinoa and mushrooms with pepper jack cheese, eggs, thyme leaves, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stuff each of the chiles with the filling mixture until they are very full and then set aside while you make the sauce.
To make the Asado Sauce:
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.
Quarter the tomatoes and then place into a stainless steel mixing bowl and combine with the onions, garlic, oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Turn onto a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven about 15 to 20 minutes or until the tomatoes and onion start to turn black. Remove from the oven and process mixture in a food processor along with the chipotles. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the processed onion-tomato mixture with the heavy cream and heat over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to low and keep the sauce warm until you're ready to serve.
To serve:
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the stuffed chiles into the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until heated through. Ladle enough of the warm asado sauce on 5 dinner plates to form large pools and then place 1 stuffed chile on each plate and serve.