Friday, July 18, 2008

¡Hola Vegetarian!

I've been trying to eat several vegetarian meals a week lately. I'd love to tell you it's for health reasons, but really those are just the icing on the cake. The real deal is with the economy being so bad, and everything costing so much more with no raise in my salary, I just need to cut back. Meat made up 1/3 of my grocery bill. Now it makes up less than 1/6. Plus I'm reaping the nutritional benefits!

I have to admit, vegetarian is challenging! I'm finding myself having to plan ahead. I can't just come home and throw something on the grill. And it is really challenging to come up with meals that don't seem like a bunch of side dishes. I love a challenge though, and the results have been tasty. (Not to mention that saving money on meat let me get some slightly more pricey cheeses that are really fantastic).

I've found that some cuisines lend themselves better to vegetarian cooking then others. Thai, Italian, Indian and Japanese have some of the most memorable dishes. Mexican is also extremely versatile and this dish makes the most of it's satisfying flavors. I must admit it is not particularly photogenic, but it is tasty!

Baked Chile Rellenos

5 poblano chiles

2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup long grain mahogany rice (or brown rice)
1/2 packet low sodium taco seasoning
1 Tbsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hickory smoked salt (I get this at an Amish market - you could sub salt and liquid smoke 1/2 tsp each)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 13 oz. can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 large onion, diced
1/8 cup pickled jalapenos, diced
1/4 cup shredded 2% mexican cheese

1 cup shredded 2% mexican cheese

Roast poblanos over direct flame on a grill or gas stove, until skin is charred all the way around. Put directly into a metal mixing bowl sealed tightly with a good lid or plastic wrap (The peppers should steam themselves, making the skin easier to remove). Set aside.

Bring stock and oil to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rice and seasonings and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until rice is cooked (for mahogany it's about 45 minutes).

In the meantime, peel the blackened skin off the peppers. Although this is easier when under running water, I think it washes away the flavor you worked so hard to develop. Split chiles along one side and remove seeds and toughest part of ribs. Lay in a greased 8" square pyrex dish.

Preheat the oven to 400.

When the rice is al dente, stir in black beans, onion, hot peppers and 1/4 cup cheese. Use a spoon to fill chiles. Smother with the remaining cheese.

Bake until cheese is melted. Serve the extra rice on the side.

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