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Author Notes: Autumn is my season. I think it's the most romantic of all. The early nights are filled with hickory smoke and chilly breezes, mojitos and lemonade are traded in for toddies and spicy ciders. Autumn is the warm snuggle preceding winter's long nap, and it always makes me giddy. I've waited all year for this.
This is vegetarian friendly, and I have also made them without cheese which make the vegans happy. —fo
- 6 poblano peppers
- 1 hefty medium butternut squash
- 2 medium-large yellow onions
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 bunch spinach, cleaned well
- 1/4 bunch cilantro
- 4 ounces fontina or another flavorful cheese that melts well.
- 1 handful toasted, chopped almonds (optional)
- preheat the oven to 400 degrees. halve and seed the squash, rub the cut side with olive oil, and place on a sheet tray that you have covered with parchment paper, cut side down. poke the skin a few times with a sharp knife. roast until soft when pierced.
- meanwhile, slice the onions thinly and add them to a cast iron pan with a little olive oil. caramelize. once they are 'almost there', get your garlic in the pan. since it's minced, it will cook quickly. remove from the heat when done and set aside.
- while the onions are caramelizing, roast the poblano peppers over an open flame, turning until completely charred on all sides. transfer the charred peppers to a paper bag and seal it up so that the peppers steam.
- when the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them and remove all of the seeds. try to work through a single naturally occurring slit in the pepper, and avoid making more. the goal is to try to keep the pepper as in tact as possible. as well, try not to rinse the peppers, doing such will cost flavor. it's ok if some of the char is still adherent to the pepper, it adds to the rusticity of the dish. if you must rinse, charge it swiftly under the water to remove some of the seeds, being careful not to unnecessarily rinse away the juices. set aside.
- when the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh into a bowl. then chop the caramelized onions up a bit and add them to the bowl as well.
- heat a pan and add your rinsed spinach with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. not too much. it is easy to over-salt greens in this way. cook till wilted, then transfer to a mesh strainer and press on the spinach to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. chop and add to the squash mixture.
- course chop a good handful of cilantro leaves and add to the squash mixture as well. stir this all together, season with salt. set aside.
- cut the cheese into slivers and set aside.
- working with one pepper at a time: carefully open a pepper at the largest slit that naturally occurred with roasting. stuff half-full with the squash mixture, then layer in a bit of the slivered cheese, top with more of the squash mixture. nestle a couple of slivers of cheese into the top of the squash mixture and repeat the process with the rest of the peppers.
- prepare a steaming system. i used a pot fitted with a steaming basket. you might have bamboo. use whatever you have (you can also pop them in the oven, just brush the peppers - not the filling - with olive oil, place on a sheet tray lined with parchment and bake until the cheese melts). when the water comes to a boil, layer the peppers in a single layer on the basket, cover and steam until hot in the center. you can test by inserting a thin blade and touching it to the backside of your hand quickly. when the blade is hot, the peppers are done. do not over steam (or over roast), or they will become mushy.
- plate and sprinkle with the chopped, roasted almonds; omit the almonds for those who have nut allergies. they will be just as good.
- these peppers would be wonderful served with mexican crema or creme fraiche. i have also made these with queso fresco. in this case, sprinkle the cheese over the peppers once they are done steaming or roasting rather than adding it before. and finally, they are delicious made with no dairy at all, cheese or otherwise.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Most Impressive Dinner Party Side
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