Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chili Rellanos - vegan style

Chili Rellano casserole
Whew! I know we don't really have much to brag about given that my friends and family on the east coast had both earthquake and hurricane this week, but nevertheless, it's still been hot here in Tucson. We've matched high records a couple of times this week and today was no different. While my friends are hunkered down braving wind, rain, and overdoses of Jim Cantore (or so I imagine), I was up at 4:45 am so I could get a bike ride in before it got too damned hot :)

In the dry heat conditions we have here - today's humidity is a whopping 23% today and that IS whopping - one of the best ways to stay cool is to warm up to a sweat. Unlike the sweltering tropical conditions back east, sweating feels good here because it evaporates and cools you down as it's meant to. So, I've been thinking hot food lately - Indian and Thai mostly, but the need for Mexican surfaces every few days which is one of the main reasons I <3 Tucson.

The green "Hatch" chili harvest is upon us and last week we got some "medium" green chilies from our local Sunflower Market which have been sitting around waiting for some inspiration.  My first thought: chili rellanos! Now, I haven't had chili rellanos since I went vegan in January, due in large part to the eggs, cheese and fat contained in them, but after last week's smashing success with Susan V's ( Eggplant Parmesan recipe, I knew just what to do. I used the "cheese sauce" as the base of the recipe and made up the rest. Here are the basic instructions:

What you will need:

6-8 green "Hatch" chilies  - mild, medium or hot as you like them
1 recipe Cheese sauce (see below)
1/2 c. prepared enchillada sauce
1 c. fresh or toasted breadcrumbs
1/4 c. Daiya cheddar vegan "cheese"

1. Prepare the chilies: Split and seed the chilies. Boil them in salted water until they are somewhat tender, drain and rinse to cool them.

2. Prepare the "Cheese sauce": While the chilies are cooking, mix the "cheese sauce" which I have copied verbatim from Susan's blog. I'm not messing with perfection! Don't worry about how this looks or tastes out of the blender. Trust me, it will be fine, no not fine...perfect!

Susan V's. "Cheese sauce":

1/2 cup extra-firm silken tofu
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp. cashew butter or tahini
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1/8 tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. corn starch

Place all the "Cheese sauce" ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Blend again right before using to make sure that the ingredients haven’t separated.

3. Open the enchilada sauce: I used Rick Bayless's Frontera Oaxacan Red Chili Mole sauce, but you can use any prepared enchilada sauce (or better yet, make your own and send me the recipe!).

Assembling the casserole is easy. Simply layer the chilies (I ripped/cut mine in smaller pieces), pour the "cheese sauce" on top, and add the enchilada sauce on top of that. I had meant to put a layer of breadcrumbs between the chilies and the cheese sauce, but I forgot and it was fine without them, so put them on or not as you like. Finally, top with a little bit of Daiya cheddar vegan "cheese" and bake at 400 for 15 -20 mins or until its lightly brown and bubbly on top.

We enjoyed ours with a wink and a nod to those wet east-coasters by raising a bottle of Genessee Cream Ale that we also found at Sunflower the other week. The chilies were hot, hot hot (!) even though they were marked as medium. Be extra careful if you buy the ones marked "hot." We were coughing, sneezing, and watering while these were being cut. They seemed to calm down a little after cooking, but still held enough heat to make us sweat and grab for our beers. The red chili mole was a little sweet for my taste, but that didn't stop me from devouring half the pan. DC ate the other half :) Here's to the back end of Irene!

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