Chiles Rellanos with Escabeche de Cebollas

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This is a very easy and delicious meal that will cover some basic skills that you will use again and again in Mexican cooking; pickled onions, refried beans, and roasted and peeled poblano peppers.

One important thing I need for preparing chilies is a pair of rubber gloves. Otherwise, I get that hot stuff on my hands and then in my eyes,etc. I always have a bag of disposable gloves around. It’s a huge help.
Preparing the Peppers
The peppers to use are fresh poblanos. They are good sized peppers, dark green and beautiful. I’m going to spell this process out for you. Stay with me, now. One step at a time.
Before you can peel the chilies, you have to char them to loosen their skins. This is really easy, you just have to pay attention to what you’re doing. So — I do this over the flame of a gas stove burner. This is a very direct method. You can do one on each burner. (I just make one stuffed chile per person, as they are pretty large). You should end up with the peppers looking pretty burned and charred, which might seem weird to you, but that’s exactly what you want. Unless they are charred, the skin won’t come off. You will scrape off the burned part. Tongs are very helpful tools in handling the peppers while they are on the flame.
Put the charred chiles in a paper bag, or wrap with paper towels. Put the paper bag in a plastic bag. Let them steam themselves for at least 15 minutes.
Use a sharp serrated knife and scrape off the burned skins. You now have a pliable pepper. Leave the stems on, cut a slit in the side of the pepper that goes from the top about half-way down. Hold under cold water and carefully remove the seeds. They are all up at the top, tight under the stem.
After soaking, rinse the peppers really well with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.

Pickled Onions (Escabeche de Cebollas)
Cut 1 large red onion into thin slices. Put in pan with 1/4 cup water and bring to boil. . Let stand 30 seconds. Add rest of ingredients and bring to a boil again. Remove from heat, drain, and chill to crisp.
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 tea salt. 1 T sugar
1/2 tea oregano. Dash of black pepper
These will keep in the frig for several days

Refried Beans
I must brag a little and say I make the BEST refried beans. Now, you can, too.
Well, this couldn’t be easier. I really cheat here and use canned ones. Just make absolutely sure you get the vegetarian version. Of course, I do my own spin on them, as follows:
In 2 T olive oil
Sauté 1 large yellow sweet onion for about 5 minutes. Then add
4 cloves chopped garlic.
1 chopped jalipińo pepper, with seeds removed. Cooking the jalipińo will give you flavor, not heat. Add
A handful of chopped cilantro
1/2 teas hickory smoked salt
1 T adobo seasoning, or chili powder. Then deglaze the pan with
1 T smoked vinegar
Let the vinegar “cook off”
You can buy the smoked salt and vinegar at blvd if you live in Nashville. You can use regular salt and cider vinegar in a pinch.
Add 2 15 Oz cans refried beans. I like Amy’s
Mix well and cook over low head for a few more minutes.
For this particular meal I add some tomato sauce to the beans to thin them down a bit. I just use marinara in a jar.

Avacado Topping
Since there is so much flavor in everything else, I kept this simple. Mashed up avacado with a bit of salt and juice of 1/2 lime.

Assemble by putting the beans into the slot you cut in the peppers to take the seeds out. Top with the avacado and onions, add a sprig of cilantro, and serve.

Chiles Rellenos

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Chiles Rellenos

This is a dish I have always thought was pretty wonderful. When I became vegan and gave up cheese, I sort of forgot about the possibility of these succulent stuffed peppers. I had never made them — only had them in restaurants. When I learned to make the tofu cashew cheese (this shows up a lot on my blog) it opened the possibility for vegan chiles rellenos. Since I am in Mexico with a good deal of time on my hands, this was a perfect time to give it a try.
The intimidating thing about making this dish was dealing with the peppers. I wasn’t sure how to prepare them, even after watching a video or two on You Tube. But, a magic cookbook crossed my path, Mexican Cookery by Barbara Hansen, and it gives very clear directions on just how to get the peppers ready for stuffing, the batter, and frying. I’ve made them twice now and they are very good. The first time I made them was just for Fred and myself. I always do a test drive with Fred when I’m trying something for the first time. The second time I made them (as shown in this picture, taken by Javier) was to have Paco and Javier over for dinner. Since these two guys run what I think is the best restaurant I’ve visited in Mexico, it was a little intimidating to cook for them, especially a Mexican Classic with a vegan twist. But, I never get too worked up over serving people a meal. I figure nothing is really much nicer than cooking for someone, and it’s only dinner.

The peppers to use are fresh poblanos. They are good sized peppers, dark green and beautiful. I’m going to spell this process out for you. Stay with me, now. One step at a time.
Before you can peel the chilies, you have to char them to loosen their skins. This is really easy, you just have to pay attention to what you’re doing. So — I do this over the flame of a gas stove burner. This is a very direct method. You can do one on each burner. (I just make one stuffed chile per person, as they are pretty large). You should end up with the peppers looking pretty burned and charred, which might seem weird to you, but that’s exactly what you want. Unless they are charred, the skin won’t come off. You will scrape off the burned part. Tongs are very helpful tools in handling the peppers while they are on the flame.
Put the charred chiles in a paper bag. Put the paper bag in a plastic bag. Let them steam themselves for at least 15 minutes.
Use a sharp serrated knife and scrape off the burned skins. You now have a pliable pepper. Leave the stems on, cut a slit in the side of the pepper that goes from the top about half-way down. Hold under cold water and carefully remove the seeds. They are all up at the top, tight under the stem.
Now, here’s a little trick I learned from the cookbook…..you can calm down the heat in peppers by soaking them in salt water. Since I personally am not big on heat, I did that. I soaked for 3 hours. Heat is a very personal taste. These guys might have been happier had the peppers had more heat, but I played it safe.
After soaking, rinse the peppers really well with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.
Stuff with the Cashew Tofu Cheese. Recipe below. Don’t overstuff. You don’t want it oozing out all over the place when you fry them.
Once they’re all stuffed you are going to need 4 beaten egg whites, one for each chile. I was somewhat limited in my choice of tools for beating, but the stiffer the better. Mine would be stiffer if I had a proper beater. Have a large skillet ready to go with enough oil (I use olive oil for everything) to cover the peppers so that you only have to turn them once. After you coat a pepper with beaten egg white, dust with Maseca corn flour (these guys are not only vegan, they are also wheat-free), and put in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown.
Serve topped with tomato sauce, which you have made in advance.

Tomato Sauce

In 1 T olive oil in a large skillet, cook a medium onion for about 5 minutes. Add 2 cloves chopped garlic and 3 T chopped cilantro. Add 1/2 teas salt and cook another 5 minutes.
Put in a blender with 5 plum tomatoes, seeds removed. When all ingredients are blended, add 3/4 cup vegetable broth and return to skillet and cook slowly until mixture thickens, maybe 15 or 20 minutes.

CASHEW AND TOFU CHEESE. This is same recipe as with Gorditas.
This makes a pretty big batch. You’ll have some left over to be creative with.
I got this idea from my dear friend, Edward Tomlin, and I use it so much. Great for anything that needs cheese. Creamy and delish. I also use this on my pizzas.
In food processor blend
1/2 cup raw cashews
1T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
When these ingredients are all blended and nuts are well chopped add and blend well
1 package firm tofu, drained and crumbled. My favorite is Mori Nu (12.3 oz.) if you are using tofu packed in water place it between paper towels and press out the water.
1 1/2 tea dried basil
1 tea salt.
Taste and see if you’d like more salt.

Tacos, Family Style. Part 1, the Fillings.

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TACOS FAMILY STYLE. Part 1, the Fillings.

Here is a wonderful vegan/wheat-free meal; a perfect dinner party for six. I am cooking this for a Saturday night supper for Fred and me to share with four friends on our back porch. A perfect meal for a summer evening. I will try to get most of the cooking done early in the day. I always like to shop the day before I cook, so that my energy can stay focused. And, here’s a thought about housecleaning before having people over: don’t do it. Just tidy up and don’t worry. Nobody really cares. Save your energy for the fun stuff. There will be plenty to clean the day after the party.
Over the past few years our home has earned the name Casa Ellis, because usually when we have people over the meal takes a trip south of the border, with tequila being the featured house spirit. This menu will fill your house with wonderful aromas by the time your guests arrive. I plan to serve this meal at the table family style and let everyone build their own tacos. I have become fascinated with making my own tortillas, and after a little practice I am getting the kinks out. I will include the recipe and instructions in my very next blog post, with more photos to be extra helpful. If making your own tortillas seems a bit too much, you’ll be perfectly fine with “store bought” corn tortillas. Shop around for good ones. So, here we go–Tacos Family Style Part 1, the Fillings.
There are several things to prepare for this meal. I would estimate about 2 1/2 hours for preparation time, not counting the tortillas. They will take about 15 minutes to make the dough, 15 minutes to rest the dough, and another maybe 30 minutes to cook. I usually do them at the last minute. One or two of the guests are usually intrigued enough to keep me company in the kitchen, because let’s face it, you don’t get to hwatch someone make tortillas every day.

First….MEXICAN STREET CORN OFF THE COB.
Kernels from 6 ears of sweet corn
1 T olive oil
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I love Vegannaise, the best vegan version)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder or Tajin, if you have it. (Tajin is a prepared mix of chili powder and lime, hopefully available at Mexican grocery stores).
salt and pepper to your own taste
Toss the corn, garlic and peppers with the olive oil. Roast in a 425ºF oven until corn starts to brown a little, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix mayo,cayenne and salt and pepper with the corn. Serve warm.

Second….CASHEW AND TOFU CHEESE
I got this idea from my dear friend, Edward Tomlin, and I use it so much. Great for anything that needs cheese. Creamy and delish. I also use this on my pizzas.
In food processor blend
1/2 cup raw cashews
1T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
When these ingredients are all blended and nuts are well chopped add and blend well
1 package firm tofu, drained and crumbled. My favorite is Mori Nu (12.3 oz.) if you are using tofu packed in water place it between paper towels and press out the water.
1 1/2 tea dried basil
1 tea salt.
Taste and see if you’d like more salt.
Visit Edward’s blog, http:/inthekitchenwithedward.blogspot.com He is a marvelous vegan cook.

Third….REFRIED BEANS
Well, this couldn’t be easier. I really cheat here and use canned ones. Just make absolutely sure you get the vegetarian version. Of course, I do my own spin on them, as follows:
2 15 Oz cans refried beans. I like Amy’s
1 large yellow sweet onion
4 cloves garlic. I really do prefer fresh, but you can buy it in a little jar, already chopped.
2 T olive oil
1/2 teas hickory smoked salt
1 T adobo seasoning, or chili powder
1 T smoked vinegar
You can buy the smoked salt and vinegar at blvd if you live in Nashville. You can use regular salt and cider vinegar in a pinch
Chop the onion and add to hot olive oil. Sauté about 5 minutes over medium heat, then add the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the adobo and salt and cook until it starts to stick to the pan
De-glaze pan with the vinegar and cook low heat for a few minutes.
Add the beans and stir

Fourth…..GUACAMOLE
I hate to boast, but I think I make the best guacamole in the world, and I have tried quite a few. Personally, I don’t like my guacamole spicy. I think it should be smooth avocado wonderfulness, with just a little bit of a tweak. When I’m making it in advance, I do everything but the avocado, which I peel and add at the last minute. This is fast and simple, and is great before a meal with chips (and a Corona). Yes, beach food at it’s finest. This recipe is for 4 to 6 people.
In a bowl mix together
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 bunch finely chopped green onions, or 1/2 large yellow onion finely chopped
1 teas sea salt
Set aside a lime to add after you peel
2 ripe avocados, mashed. Leave them a little chunky
Mix it all together and add the juice from the lime.
You want to serve this as fresh as possible.

Fifth….COLE SLAW
There are so many ways to make cole slaw but this simple version is my favorite.
1 small head of cabbage, finely sliced.
For the dressing:
4T rice vinegar
4T sugar
1/2 tea salt (to taste)
4 T Veganaise

Mix with the sliced cabbage. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sixth. TOMATO SALSA
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1 small jalapeño, stemmed, seeded (if you wish) and finely chopped
12 ounces (about 2 medium-small round or 4 to 5 plum) red-ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces. Take out the seedy part, and squeeze out the juice. You don’t want watery salsa
1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
Scoop the onion into a strainer, rinse under cold tap water, shake off the excess and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the green chile, tomatoes, and cilantro. Stir well, taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.