Do you ever feel confused by pepper jargon? Especially concerning poblano, pasilla, and ancho (oh, my)? To clear things up for myself, I consulted Rica, my go-to person for all things Mexican. Hailing from Durango, Mexico, and wise in all things food and garden, Rica straightened me out. Basically, she told me that pablanos are green, pasillas are left on the plant until they red, and anchos are most often dried after this reddening process. But they are all the same pepper. Even the guy at the nursery couldn’t tell me the difference. “When you find out, can you call me?” he said, helping me load my new summer veggies into the SUV. Ironically, I went there to buy poblanos but ended up buying “Ancho Gigantes” — same thing, wrong name. Needless to say, I understand why he was confused.
Poblanos are somewhat flat and large — about the size of my hand (I’m 5’2″ with big hair, so I guess that’s not too big). They blow the doors off a bell pepper. Most of the time they are mild in heat, although I have occasionally tasted them on the spicy side. This often happens later in the summer. These deep dark green chiles are usually used for chiles rellenos. Anyway you serve them, just know that they are all muy delicioso and make an incredible addition to your garden and your kitchen.
Rajas can be made as a side dish for a summer meal, awesome vegetarian tacos or used as the stuffing for very yummy tamales or gorditas. I made rajas for Cinco de Mayo as one of my taco options and my guests were completely floored. They are simple to make with tasty results and they are great for entertaining because you can make them in advance. I had a ton of requests for this recipe, so here you go. Fresh ingredients, simply prepared, with incredible results — a quintessential eat-drink-garden kind of recipe.
Roasted Poblanos with Onion and Cheese
Makes 6-8 tacos
4 Poblano chilies (dark green)
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
½ white onion sliced thin
5 finger-pinches of salt
¾ cup jack cheese grated
¼ cup feta cheese
On a gas burner of your stovetop, bbq or grill pan, roast the peppers rotating often until black and chard on all sides. After they are finished roasting, rinse them quickly under cool tap water (this process keeps the “meat” of the pepper a little more toothsome. Plus, it stops the cooking process and makes it easier to peel.) The next steps you can do entirely with your hands or use a knife… your choice. It is more authentic to use your hands, but suit yourself. Peel the burned skin off pepper. Then open the side of the pepper creating a slit from the bottom to the top and pull the top off. Scrape the seeds out and shred into pieces or cut in long strips.
In a large sauté pan on medium heat, cook the onion in the grape seed oil until soft and translucent. Add the shredded peppers and salt with the onions to the pan and cook until heated throughout. Add jack cheese and cook until melted. Taste for seasoning (remember you are going to add the salty feta) and serve on a platter or on top of a heated tortilla with the feta cheese sprinkled on top.