So I really wish I could start off this post by telling you about my love of finger foods. And then give some serious props to Laura and her Chile Rellenos Casserole, which — with its two astounding and delicious pounds of cheese — has plagued my thoughts for over a month now. But I can’t. Because before I do anything else, I need to whine. Like a big baby.
Here’s why: This Saturday, fueled by some serious can-do-will-do ambition, I decided it was time for garden prep work. This was especially exciting for me, because this year I have ALL of the garden space to myself, thanks to my new neighbors who happily told me to have at it (yay!). And as I was ripping out weeds and dried-up remnants of tomato plants, I began to notice all of the other things I could clean up. Mainly, the leaves, which were still leftover from the fall. I’m guessing that’s due to the fact that none of us own a rake, which is kind of essential. But I was determined, so I set about clearing a 3′ x 15′ patch from the front of our house. And when I finished, I felt super proud. Hurray me. Then I woke up the next day and tried to walk.
Apparently, clearing a semi-large patch of leaves by hand is the equivalent of doing squat thrusts for 45 minutes straight. It’s two days later, and I’m still in pain. And I can’t decide if I should be proud of my groundskeeping-related aches, or slightly ashamed that two hours of yard work has rendered me an insufferable baby with the mobility of an old arthritic dog. So instead, I’ll just focus on the fact that my lawn is clean, my seedlings are planted, and I got some serious exercise in the process. And now, I’m done whining (thank you for listening!). On to the bites!
Seriously, I think about that casserole at least three times a week. It’s spicy. It’s cheesy. I love it. I need it. And when Easter rolled around, I finally had an excuse to re-purpose it into an appetizer.
For the purpose of making these things mold-able, I added in polenta and quinoa. The polenta helped the bites hold their shape, and the quinoa added a nice texture (and some of that great quinoa nutrition!). I was extremely happy with the way these things turned out, especially considering that I was winging it on a very hectic food day. I will definitely be making them again. And when I get around to making the casserole version, polenta and quinoa are going in that too. Yummm!
(Speaking of winging it, I’d like to note that many of my measurements below are approximations, based on the fact that I was eyeballing everything and not paying much attention to anything but the consistency of the batter. Please adjust things as you see fit, and let me know if you find that anything is way off.)
Chile Relleno Quinoa Bites
(adapted from Winner Dinners)
yield: approximately 3 dozen bites
For the bites:
- 1/2 cup of quinoa (plus 1 – 1 1/2 cups of water, for cooking)
- 1/2 cup of polenta (plus 2 cups of water, for cooking)
- 2–3 roasted poblano peppers, peeled, de-seeded, and diced (I used 2, but I think it could have used a little more spice)
- 1 cup of cheddar cheese (smoked cheddar, if you can find it)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup of tomato purée
- a few dashes of salt and pepper
- breadcrumbs if necessary — just enough to make the batter mold-able
For the dipping sauce:
- 2 cups of tomato purée
- 1 roasted jalapeno pepper, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- a few pinches of oregano
- salt and pepper, to taste
To roast the peppers:
Preheat the oven to 450°. Rub the outside of your jalapeno and poblanos with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Roast peppers until skin begins to blacken and blister. Turn peppers and roast until the other side does the same. Remove from oven and transfer to a paper bag. Seal bag and let the peppers sit for about 15 minutes (this helps them steam, and makes removing the skin much easier). Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, then cut open the peppers and remove the seeds. Dice peppers and set aside.
To make the bites:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring water for quinoa to a boil, then add quinoa, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Once all of the water has been absorbed, remove from heat and set aside. Do the same for the polenta. (Most polenta recipes recommend constant stirring, but I really don’t think that’s necessary for these purposes. Just it a few times in the beginning, then cover it and keep an eye on it.)
Combine together everything except for the breadcrumbs and mix until well combined. If your batter seems a bit wet, add breadcrumbs until it takes on a sticker, more-solid texture.
Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. Form bites into 1 1/4-inch balls, and place fairly close together (they don’t need much room). Bake for 20–30 minutes, or until they begin to brown and the outside, and feel a bit crispy to the touch.
For the dipping sauce:
While the bites are baking, saute onion over medium heat in a saucepan until translucent. Add garlic and saute for a couple minutes more, then add everything else (tomato purée, jalapeno, and spices). Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for around 20 minutes. Remove from heat a let cool a little bit, then purée sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Serve while the bites are nice and hot!