Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Chile Rellenos" with Cilantro Avocado Sauce

It's time to post a recipe from my own kitchen! Its inspiration came from a combination of our trip to Cancun a couple of weeks ago and the veggies came my box of organic farm goodies the week we returned. It was as if I was destined to recreate our favorite dish from vacation. I love that. And I put it in ""s because my version is not really a chile relleno, but rather a stuffed chili pepper. Anyway...

The idea came first from the Chile Relleno we had at La DestilerĂ­a, a Mexican restaurant we've come to love in Cancun. We just found out that it's actually a local chain restaurant owned by the same company as Chili's, but this place is on another level. It's delicious. Unfortunately, I don't think I have a photo of the dish, but I can describe it. Take a normal Poblano chili pepper (traditionally used in a chile relleno), stuff it with a mixture of goat cheese, cream cheese, pine nuts, and a few other things that make a creamy consistency. Wrap that stuffed pepper in puff pastry dough and bake it 'til golden brown. Serve it over a creamy cilantro sauce. Sounds pretty good, right? It was so good we went back for a second serving 2 days later.

So, imagine my delight when we get home to Torrance, California, and find that my CSA box of fruits and veggies contained a large bunch of cilantro, avocados, and 5 beautiful sweet, pale yellow chile peppers - perfect for stuffing! Score! Needless to say, the minute I saw those items, I had a plan. Here's what I did:

Out of the oven, cheese mixture has set and the peppers are slightly browned

First, I charred the peppers on my stove's gas burners so that the skin would peel off and the flesh of the peppers got tender and soft. I threw the peppers in a paper bag to let them steam, and got as much of the skin off as I could. I could have charred them a little more, but I got too excited = impatient. You can see in the picture above that they have remnants of burnt skin. Oh well.

The night before, I made the cheese mixture. I used goat cheese, cottage cheese, and neufchatel cheese (a French version of cream cheese with less fat), an egg (to bind it), a little milk, salt, pepper, coriander, and cumin. I just threw things in my stand mixer and let 'er rip.

After all the peppers were stuffed with cheese I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the cheese was set and the tops were a little brown. We're trying to keep our carb intake low, therefore I chose to omit the puff pastry this time. But maybe there will be a grand occasion to pull out the buttery dough in the future.

Then I made a sauce in my new food processor. I've only used the machine twice, but I'm in love. I added the whole bunch of cilantro leaves (no stems), lime juice, a small avocado, neufchatel cheese, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin (see a theme?), and some chicken stock to thin it out (you could also use vegetable stock or milk). Beautiful, tangy, creamy. Mmm. I heated up the sauce, poured it on a yellow plate, and plopped the stuffed pepper on top. Garnished with avocado slices. This is the final product:

Yes, that black blob in the top right corner is the reflection of my cat, Rhett. He likes pretty food too.

I served this with seared salmon and it was pretty delicioso, if you know what I mean. I'll need to test the recipe a couple of times before I hand it out, but this is just an example of how I take something I see in a restaurant and make it my own with things that I already have in my fridge. You can do it too! Have fun with it. :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Denver Food Tour and Review

In May, we managed to make a fun wedding weekend double as an amazing food tour of Denver and Boulder. Unfortunately, my camera didn't get much action in Boulder. I must have partied too hard to remember to snap photos. Anyway, here are my short reviews of the places we got to try in Denver:

Steuben's Food Service. 
This was a GREAT introduction to what Denver has to offer in terms of food. It was our first stop and it did not disappoint! It was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (along with Sam's, below). Steuben's gives a gourmet twist to American hometown favorites. We had fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, macaroni 'n' cheese, hush puppies, and their roasted chicken with veggies. Dinner couldn't have been better. However, dessert -- a caramel apple -- was a little lacking.

My favorite part may have been the hush puppies, which were described by the waiter as fried corn muffin bites. And he was right, they were sweet, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, and rolled in sugar. Not your typical hush puppy!

The Wooden Spoon Cafe and Bakery.
I found this bakery/cafe on Yelp. It's a cute little shop serving coffee drinks and breakfast scrambles, sticky buns and macarons. They have salads and paninis too. We went for one item in particular. The Nutella Banana cake. It may not look like anything too special, but oh my, is it special. I am determined to recreate this bad boy in my own kitchen. I will. And I will show you. What's so special about it? It's two-layers of banana cake with a layer of Nutella and a layer of sweetened cream cheese in between, covered in chocolate ganache. It's brilliant is what it is. Mmm.

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs.
This gem of a food cart is probably the one thing that would bring me back to Denver. Or even convince me to move to Denver. It's SO good. And they have a restaurant. But, you know, being from LA, I love me a food cart/truck. Sometimes I dream of having a food truck of my own. It must come from my childhood dream of traveling the country in an RV mixed with my love for food. Ha!

You'd never believe that a sausage made of such things as elk, reindeer, or buffalo could really taste that great. Well, maybe you would if Anthony Bourdain told you so. I'll admit that's what convinced me to go in search of this wonderful haven of gourmet dogs. For $5 each, you get a sausage made of some exotic meat (or kosher beef, if that's as adventurous as you want to get), sweet caramelized onions, and a delicious cream cheese  mixture on a soft bun that's a little sweet - kind of like a brioche bun - really perfect for the combo of flavors you get inside. I'm salivating as I write.

We tried three because we couldn't just decide on two. 
Here's hubby with the elk, reindeer, and our personal fave, 
the wild boar. Yes, those are the ones that Anthony B. ate too. 
I believe a good celebrity chef for almost everything...
well at least food-related things!

Sam's No.3.
Oh, Sam's No.3. Memories of...melted cheddar cheese and a side o' tots. This place was literally down the street from our hotel. They had a huge Food Network emblem painted on their window and it cried out "I was featured on Triple D!!!" Well, like I said, I believe most celebrity chefs. It might be an obsession.

We gave it a try and it was really quite good. Don't go here if you're on Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet (or any phase of any diet, really). Everything is huge and everything seemed cheesy. I'm almost ashamed to share that we ate everything on the two plates we ordered. It was so much food and so filling that hubby didn't even finish his Blue Moon.

The Kitchen Sink Breakfast Burrito

The Green Chili Mexi-Burger: burger in a tortilla, no bun.

Las Tortas.
Best Torta I Ever Ate. This Mexican sandwich made my top 5 sandwiches I've ever eaten for sure. Best torta, hands down. With a big tall glass of horchata. Seriously, it made my day. If you're in Denver, go here.

Order the "Tejana:" breaded pork cutlet, cheese, avocado, tomato = perfection

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spring Travel and an Inspired Foodie

The beach in Cancun, where the hubby and I spent our days last week

It's been a month since I first posted and haven't been able to get it together until now because I've been traveling. It made me think that I should also use this platform to share my culinary adventures outside my kitchen. After all, I live in Los Angeles County. There are good eats on every corner and in between. Not only that, I love to why not share the loads of photos that I take of my meals out and about with my hubby and friends? I think I will, thanks. :)

It's true, I've been in quite a few airports lately. I started in Colorado, where this blog was born (after a friend's wedding in Boulder), came home for few days and headed for Las Vegas, and then a week later I was on the beach in Cancun, Mexico for another 7 days (can I get a "woot!" for vacation?). Now I'm back to start the summer. Hopefully I will be cooking more, and therefore, blogging more too. I'm really looking forward to it!