Mexico has proven a fickle lover. After I last left, Mexico and I had an incredibly explosive row in which I came back poisoned by its tainted water as punishment for having left. Now that I’m feeling a bit better and have to return to Mexico for another week, I intend to win my way back into spurned Mexico’s heart through food, the only way I know how. One of Mexico’s most alluring powers is its incredible cuisine. I thought I’d seduce it with its own magic. It’s an abusive and passionate tryst, as these things go.
One of my favorite restaurants in Mexico City, El Cardinal, has a version of this dish on their menu that I keep ordering. It’s a wonderful roasted poblano pepper, filled with cheese and a delicious crema. I wanted to make a version of it, but more hearty and less cheesy. After looking around, I found the perfect recipe over at the Bojon Gourmet. I adapted it slightly by adding mushrooms and changing up the cheese, but seriously, this woman doesn’t mess around. The pepita crema is so good. The recipe is a little component-heavy, but not hard. You can make most of it the day before so that the day you want so serve it all you have to do is put it together and roast. The nuttiness of the quinoa combines with the pumpkin seeds and the squash perfectly. The heat is offset by the crema while the cheese acts as a binding agent. Each component is its own and works well together. A perfect balance.
Ever since I started my traveling to Mexico for work balance like this has been so important. After coming home I needed a few days of rest. My focus became watching the shadows creep slowly across the walls and observing the light at different angles. I took my work calls on mute and listened rather than speaking. I noticed how the tree outside my window has a hint of nascent buds and how the three o’clock light is strong. I felt the fabric of my blanket against my face. When I slow down like this it makes it a little hard for me to embrace the city and life as I had it before. And yet, as I slowed down, the people around me slowed around too. You are the master of the way the world reacts to you. When you come back from an intense trip it feels for a while that coming home is like you’re living someone else’s life. I felt like an impostor. Everything from my favorite Pandora radio station to my gym classes felt like something I had set up for myself in another time and I was just trying it on for size. Lucky for me, I liked it all again. I started to think, “at least the woman who set this stuff up was cool.” Now I remember, “oh yes, that woman was me…IS me.” Sometimes when you change the world changes around you and sometimes your priorities shift to tell you what you need. But either way, you slowly come back to yourself. And that’s a wonderful thing. And so is the idea that my kitchen is still mine and a beautiful convex lens through which I view the world.
As an aside, I know that I dropped the story line about my amazing neighbor/cook who moved out because I’ve been hoping to tell you about it with a post. I certainly will when I have the time to recreate the wonderful meal she created for me using the butchering skills she taught me and when I start doing some catering with her! But I have a new neighbor story. A new woman has moved in and she (I think she’s a she) has two boxes of Calphalon kitchenware waiting for her in the hallway. They’ve been there for DAYS! I told my husband that I’m going to steal them if she doesn’t claim them in 36 hours. As you can see from the pictures here, I need a new saute pan. 36 hours went by and the pans still sit there. I’m not a thief, but I thought enough about hauling these boxes up a bunch of flights of stairs that it finally threw me over the edge. If this woman can move in and care so little about her boxes of expensive kitchenware, I certainly could get a new pan. Tomorrow it should be here! I cannot wait.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
STUFFED, ROASTED POBLANO CHILIS W/ CHEESY BUTTERNUT SQUASH, MUSHROOMS, QUINOA & PEPITA CREMA
Adapted from The Bojon Gourmet Check out her website. It’s beautiful, down to earth and her cooking is off the hook!
For the quinoa:
- 1/2 cup quinoa (white or multi), soaked 1 hour in cool water, rinsed well, and drained
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the peppers and stuffing:
- 6 medium-sized, meaty poblano chiles (or other sweet or mildly spicy peppers, such as bell or Anaheim/Hatch)
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved, and diced
- 1 cup mushrooms (mixed or portobello)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) crumbled fresh goat cheese
- 1 cup (3 ounces / 85 grams) grated dry jack cheese (or other tasty melting cheese such as sharp cheddar)
- cilantro leaves, extra goat cheese and pepitas, lime wedges, and avocado slices for garnish (optional)
For the pepita crema:
- 1 cup pepitas, raw or lightly toasted, soaked 4-12 hours in cool water and drained
- 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds
- juice of 1-2 limes
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1 1/4 cups water