Joni Woolf: Stuffed Poblano Peppers recipe uses fresh ingredients at moderate cost

Published 3:16 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I began an article I wrote about King Ranch Casserole with the words below. They still hold true:
In cooking, shortcuts, substitutes, and fillers work kind of like they do in the rest of life: they fool people who don’t really care, and, in the end, are not worth the time or money they may save.  Worse, they take away from the quality of the entire cooking and dining experience. Fresh ingredients taste better. Recipes with many steps have them for a good reason. If you really care about the people you’re feeding, money spent on fresh ingredients is well-spent, as is the time you invest in preparation of a meal.
In addition-and, perhaps, more importantly — fresh ingredients are healthier. Food from a box, a can, or a window is not good for any of us. Fresh is best, and, in the case with stuffed poblano peppers, it’s even fairly inexpensive.
This recipe can contain meat or be a vegetarian dish. The vegetarian recipe follows, but ground beef or chopped steak could be added to the bean mixture to extend or enrich the recipe. The peppers can serve as the main dish, and be served with a side salad, or can be the side dish to a heartier meal of tacos, burritos, or enchiladas.
4 large poblano peppers
1 package dried black beans
4-6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ bunch of fresh cilantro
1 tsp. cumin
Salt, pepper
Soak beans overnight or at least all day long. Rinse, then cover with water. Add chopped garlic and a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil; then simmer for an hour, or until tender. Drain most, but not all, of the water and mash the beans to desired consistency. I like to leave some whole, but they can be mashed completely, by hand or with an immersion blender. Add cilantro and cumin, and any additional salt needed. Allow to sit and let flavors meld while peppers cook. Bake peppers on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F. for approximately 30 minutes. Turn after 15 minutes. They should be firm, but softened slightly. When they are cool, cut into halves and remove seeds. Stuff with beans and top with mozzarella. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees F., just until they have heated through and the cheese has melted.
Variations may include the addition of meat, rice, onions, cayenne pepper, or other favorite flavors.  Also, instead of baking peppers, they could be grilled for a smokier flavor or broiled — both of these require constant attention; you don’t want the pepper to completely collapse and turn into something that won’t hold the filling.
Note from Joni Woolf: Whenever Carey prepares these, she brings one to me, perhaps along with a taco and some rice. It is a well-balanced meal, and as she points out, the fresher the food, the healthier it is and of course, the better tasting.  It IS more trouble to prepare a meal using all fresh foods. But the rewards far outweigh the added time and effort. Now that markets are open for the summer, there is no reason not to buy fresh, cook fresh, eat fresh. Support our local farm markets and stands and give thanks that we live in a county with such a bountiful harvest.

Joni Woolf’s daughter, Carey Wooten, wrote this column this week as her mom was out of town. Wooten is a great cook as well.