Mid-August in New Mexico marks the arrival of chile season. Chilies are sold by the 25 to 50 lb. gunnysack at all the major food retailers, vegetable stands and grower’s markets. Roasting vendors manned with their unique tumbler-style roasters begin springing up wherever chilies are sold. The smokey aroma of sizzling chilies permeates the warm desert air and welcomes the advent of autumn.
Last week I spent some time in southern New Mexico, and caught-up with a friend and her husband who own over 100 acres of farmland. Their main crop is growing alfalfa hay for resale, but chilies of every variety common to the southwest were growing prolifically in their massive vegetable garden. It felt rewarding to gather chilies in the hot afternoon sun, yet the dirt and grit on my hands was a reminder of the hard work and toil synonymous with farm living. They wouldn’t let me leave without packing the trunk of my car with bags of red and green chile peppers.
All the way home our mouths were watering for a chile relleno casserole, which I began preparing as soon as I walked into my kitchen. I’m going to share with you my most requested recipe for chile rellenos casserole. There are dozens of variations, however this is one of my favorite because it’s easy to prepare and it’s forgiving to the waistline. Its flavor is unchanged using low-calorie and low-fat ingredients, and it doesn’t call for flour or leavening. This is a light meal that just doesn’t get any tastier! Ole’
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon jalapeno peppers, chopped fine
1 to 1 1/2 cups roasted green chile peppers, coarsely chopped (use canned or fresh Anaheim, roasted with skins slipped)
1 1/2 cups low-fat Mexican blend shredded cheese, (set aside 1/3 cup for topping)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup light sour cream
2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 ripe avocado, diced
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat an 8-inch square glass baking dish and a medium-size skillet with cooking spray.
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in jalapeno and green chile peppers; cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Spread mixture evenly into bottom of prepared baking dish; sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Place eggs and sour cream in a medium bowl; beat VERY WELL with a electric hand mixer. Pour mixture over cheese layer in baking dish; sprinkle with chopped tomatoes and remaining 1/3 cup shredded cheese.
Bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 to 45 minutes depending on your oven temperature. Top with chopped cilantro. Serve with diced avocado, heated refried beans and traditional red salsa or salsa verda (the latter salsa is my personal favorite).
Yield: 6 servings