And Then There Were The Rellenos
So, like I said, we were in Oregon, at Susy’s and Barry’s place on the Rogue River and they have this fabulous garden and I mean that – it’s truly fabulous and abundant and absolutely full of gorgeous vegetables and fruits. Let me tell you what’s in there – I just have to. First, there is celery when you walk in through the gate (although it’s gone to seed but it’s beautiful) and around the edges there are grapes growing up the fence and cucumbers on the ground - a couple different kinds. There are scores of tomatoes – heirlooms of many varieties – oh so many tomatoes and an amazing abundance of color, size, shape, and flavor. There are at least four different kinds of onions, white, yellow (sweet and regular), and purple (red). There are bell peppers of various colors and Anaheim and Poblano and Jalapeno peppers. There are potatoes, potatoes, potatoes (so many, so fun, so delicious, so pretty), at least three different kinds of cucumbers that I saw. Zucchini and other kinds of squash including pumpkin and butternut in different colors (which may make them some variety that I’m not familiar with). There is eggplant, beans of several varieties and colors including white, green, and black (which steam up as gray/green if you didn’t know).
There are a few different kinds of carrots. There is watermelon and strawberries. And this was really cool, there are a bunch of different kinds of sunflowers that are like 14 or more feet tall and there are beans growing right up the sunflower stalks. Beautiful. I know I’m missing some stuff but that’s what I can remember. Then there are the fruit trees that grow in the chicken area including pear and beautiful, plentiful apple trees (since they weren’t ripe I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the varieties).
They also have an herb garden in a raised bed near the kitchen – handy. And then finally and of course, sweeping the property are the BLACKBERRY BUSHES. Needless to say, I was in heaven.
Morning ritual, check out the hen house/chicken coop and collect eggs.
Wander through the vegetable garden to decide what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Take a walk to the river, the long way. Come back and cook breakfast (a shared responsibility). Float the river. Cook dinner. Have a drink or so. Wait for night fall. Stare at the night sky looking for meteors, satellites, falling stars. Chat. Read. Go to sleep. Not a bad life. I’m just saying. Not a bad life. When I started feeling a little glum about having to come back to my other life I just reminded myself that it was summer in Oregon and that after that’s over it will start to rain and it won’t stop until it’s summer again. Perspective is everything. How lucky were we to be able to spend a long, languorous weekend with Barry and Susy and friends.
Back to food. Barry wanted to make chile rellenos. I was thrilled. I’ve been curious about them for a while and well aware of the huge range in quality that you get in restaurants. So off we went on a relleno adventure. Barry researched and found the relleno recipe. I found a recipe for tomato sauce that looked good and I also made my guacachile (see recipe previously posted) to serve with the rellenos. Barry and I went up to the garden and picked the chiles. We used the cheese that we had in the house, which was just perfect although not traditional relleno cheese. And of course, the eggs came from Barry and Susy's chickens. And this is how we did it.
The Simplest Tomato Sauce
I looked at lots of tomato sauce recipes and so I can’t give attribution to anyone source but I can say that I looked at and was inspired by Alton Brown’s recipe; Smitten Kitchen’s recipe (smittenkitchen.com) from August 30, 2010. I looked at allrecipes.com for homemade tomato sauce recipes. I looked at simplyrecipes.com. I looked at cook.com. My recipe is an amalgamation. Each recipe has a variety of ingredients and rationale for the ingredients. For this particular sauce, I wanted simple so this is what I did.
24 ripe tomatoes
1 chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic
a few basil leaves
a few sprigs of oregano
a handful of flat-leaved parsley
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
Directions: Boil a pot of water big enough to fit a few tomatoes at a time While the water is boiling prepare a big bowl full of water and ice for your ice bath. Chop the onions and garlic and sauté in a big heavy bottomed pot and set aside. If the skins are tight on your tomatoes cut a little x on the bottom so that they don’t pop apart in the water. When the pot of water boils (don’t watch or it will never boil) start putting in tomatoes. It takes between 30 seconds and 3 minutes for the skins to start peeling back. As the tomatoes are ready, spoon them out of the water and plop them into the ice bath to cool them for handling and peeling When all of the tomatoes are cooked and cooled, start peeling and it should be a breeze. If the skins don’t come off immediately easy then stick them back into the water for another minute. I discard the tomato peels but maybe you can figure out something to do with them – let me know if you do. When the tomatoes are all peeled, cut them and seed them (seeds get discarded and the juice gets saved). Put the seedless pulp and juice into the heavy bottomed pot with the onion and garlic. Throw in the basil leaves and parsley. Cook for 20 minutes. Puree in a blender. Voila! Sauce!
Like I said, there are scores of beautiful tomato sauce recipes but for this purpose I wanted simple.
I don’t know where Barry actually got the relleno recipe. I’ve looked at a bunch of recipes on the internet to make sure my memory hasn’t failed me (it often does). This is how I remember it – let me know if it works!:
8 Anaheim or Poblano Chiles
2 to 3 cups of shredded cheese – whatever kind you like (we used a combo of shredded jack, mozzarella, cheddar)
8 eggs – very cold
1 tsp salt
1 cup of canola or grapeseed or other oil good for frying
Directions: Cut a ‘T” incision on each chile. The top of the T incision should be near the stem (maybe about ¼” to ½” from the stem) and go about half-way around the chile (don’t hack the whole top of the chile off!). The long incision should start at the other incision and run down the length of the chile. Once you have made those two cuts, pop the chile open and clean out the seeds, rib and core. Do that to all of the chiles.
Roast each chile over a gas burner until the skin all over has charred and popped and starts peeling away from the chile. Place each chile in a plastic bag with the top closed. Keep adding the chiles as you char them. If you don’t have access to a gas burner or the patience to roast on the flame then broil them until the skin starts peeling away. After you’re done roasting the chiles let them sit and steam in the plastic bag for about 10-minutes.
Take the chiles out of the bag and peel them. Discarding the skin.
Now stuff the chiles with the cheese. See how much you can get in without tearing the chile then use a toothpick to keep the chile closed. Set the chiles aside while you prepare the batter.
Separate the very cold eggs. Place the egg whites and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed until you have stiff peaks, Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until light in color and frothy. Fold the egg yolks into the egg whites using a spatula. The egg whites are fragile so don’t beat them up. You want to fold the yolks in just until combined and then STOP.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is very hot Pour about ½ cup or a bit more, of batter, into the hot oil and spread it into a circle much larger than the chile Lay the stuffed chile on the batter with the seam down and fold the sides of the batter circle up over the chile. If you didn’t make the circle big enough then pour another ½ cup of the batter on top of the chile, spreading it around so that the entire chile is encased in the batter. When the bottom of the chile is golden brown, using a spatula, turn the relleno over in the pan and let it cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure the entire coated chile is golden brown before you take it away.
You can keep the rellenos warm by placing them on a rack in a warm (but low) oven.
Find your prettiest platter. Pour the cumin infused tomato sauce all over the bottom. Place the rellenos on the platter on top of the tomato sauce. Pour some more sauce over the rellenos. I used red and green (guacacile) on the top of the rellenos but not so much that you can’t see the beautiful golden creations underneath. These are absolutely delicious and after making them you will be a harsh critic of those restaurant varieties. Plattered-up, they make a dramatic presentation.
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