We never cook together at Steve’s anymore.
Well okay, there is a reason- he lives in a basement-level apartment and the roach situation is pretty intense. And he doesn’t want me to have to deal with it. And there was that one time I got horribly grossed out (well it is more that this is the person who I am in love with and I only want good and beautiful things in his life and roaches are just not compatible for that), but then me being visibly grossed out made Steve want to keep me from his apartment because who wants to see people getting all grossed out?
Anyway, the other day, I just got over myself. We’d spent a beautiful day together, I wanted to continue hanging out with my cute boyfriend, roaches be damned. I allowed Steve a Lysol-intensive five minutes alone in the kitchen, and then I said dammit we’re cooking together, I’ll pretend I’m in Wall-E and the bugs are my friends. Live and let live.
Steve had thought of stuffed peppers, so while he tackled the pico de gallo, I made
THE BEST STUFFED PEPPER FILLING IN THE WORLD.
This is not an exaggeration. I made it, stuffed the peppers, stuck them in the oven, then tasted the leftover filling and said, “This is the best thing I have ever tasted. I have to make more.” And then made the exact same thing, again, and we ate it with spoons.
I got out some magnificent garlic.
From the farm trip, we had this unbelievably fresh and delicious garlic. It is… everything good about garlic with no trace of acridity or harshness.
I did the low-and-slow method from my favorite Spanish cookbook where you combine it with olive oil and WATER in the pan so that the garlic doesn’t brown but instead gets soft and tender and this co-infusion thing happens with the oil and it’s just… fab.
Then I got a chayote squash. It’s one of my favorite ingredients since I discovered it last summer, and this was a particularly refined specimen (we got it from the big Latin grocery store by Steve’s, which is such a cultural experience and also has absolutely beautiful produce). It looks kind of like a pear…
… and kind of like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, if ya catch my drift.
Once the water had all evaporated out of the garlic action, I threw in a bite more oil along with the chayote, finely chopped, as well as some chopped mushrooms, and cooked them til the water evaporated. This takes a bit, since the chayote releases water, but that’s good cause it takes awhile for the chayote to cook down and be tender.
Then it was time to finish off the filling. I seasoned the veggies simply with salt and pepper (I was stuffing them into what turned out to be EXTREMELY spicy poblanos, so didn’t want any intense spice in the filling). Then I added some pre-cooked brown rice that Steve had, and this unbelievably magic ingredient that made this:
Cuajada fresca. Fresh cheese (I guess cuajada is another word for cheese? Any native Spanish speakers able to confirm this? Is it a regional thing?). It had a taste and texture quite similar to queso fresco, but was cheaper! And it had a bit lighter nutritional information than an aged cheese (just 70 calories per ounce), for those of you who follow such things.
Mixed all of that filling together. It was to. die. for.
The Best Stuffed Pepper Filling in the World
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 T water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chayote squash, diced
4 mushrooms, chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 oz. cuajada fresca, queso fresco, or other delicious cheese
Heat a skillet on medium. Add 1 tsp. oil, garlic, and water. Cook until garlic has become tender and oil has evaporated. Add remaining oil, the squash, and the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the water released from the squash has evaporated and the squash is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then add rice and cheese, and stir until just combined.
Enjoy! I’m already thinking of the things I can do with this filling… peppers are probably the least of it!
All this time, Steve was putting together a real best of a salsa. Steve’s apartment, particularly being in the kitchen, with the stove and oven on, was about 900 degrees. Steve got to take his shirt off. Since his roommate was home and all, I did not get that privilege. Steve calls it “man powers’. They’re so lucky. (Though fun fact: in Austin, TX, one of my favorite cities in the world, they have gender parity on toplessness: women as well as men may go bare)
Anyway, I took the finished filling and gave him a bite (and had one myself, upon which we made the decision to make more, stat). He then hooked me up with some mango slices… and those were so good that then I noticed this poor, poor mango skin was still packin’ some flesh. Dug in.
Also chewed on a pineapple core like a popsicle, while we’re sharing.
So things started to come out of the oven.
Roasted stuffed poblano…
Yuca! Steve had bought yuca and then while he oh-so-meticulously diced tomatoes, I was the real man and attacked the whole, unpeeled yuca with a knife (and, this being Steve’s apartment, a sort of crappy knife. Someone who cooks as much as him needs good knives. I should start a blog scholarship fund so we can cook together more!).
I did my usual root vegetable thing: cut it into fry shapes, mist with oil (well Steve doesn’t buy Pam cause he loves fat so much, so I just drizzled a little peanut oil at the bottom of the pan and rubbed ‘em around).
Also a quick trip in the oven for these beautiful fat dough-y centered tortillas. I think these thick ones are Salvadoran style? Love Steve’s neighborhood: mad good tortillas!
Steve’s salsa masterpiece was revealed, and it was pretty magnificent.
Fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeno, lime, mango, and black beans made for a happy, well rounded, and delicious salsa.
And so we hung out in Steve’s room, where air conditioning on full blast for the whole time we were cooking it was finally… less than 90 degrees. Maybe.
Anyway, it had a cozy glow and it sure was yummy.
My dinner. Minus the poblano exterior (too freakin’ hot), plus an additional half pound of filling and an additional 14 pounds of fruit.