Roasted Poblano Chiles Stuffed with Cheesy Butternut Squash Quinoa and Pepita Crema

This chile pepper is often mislabeled ‘Pasilla’, which is a different pepper entirely.It is one of the most popular chiles in Mexico and has won the appreciation of many a chef worldwide because of the superior flavor it has over regular bell peppers.

They have a tough outer skin that usually requires roasting and peeling before use. These very large chile peppers are most popular in chiles rellenos recipes, but cooking with these as a substitute for bell peppers in any recipe will enhance the flavor.

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6 medium-sized servings

For the quinoa:
1/2 cup quinoa (white or multi), soaked 1 hour in cool water, rinsed well, and drained
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the peppers and stuffing:
6 medium-sized, meaty poblano chiles (or other sweet or mildly spicy peppers, such as bell or Anaheim/Hatch)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved, and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
1/4 cup water
1 cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) crumbled fresh goat cheese
1 cup (3 ounces / 85 grams) grated dry jack cheese (or other tasty melting cheese such as sharp cheddar)
cilantro leaves, extra goat cheese and pepitas, lime wedges, and avocado slices for garnish (optional)

For the pepita crema:
1 cup pepitas, raw or lightly toasted, soaked 4-12 hours in cool water and drained
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds
juice of 1-2 limes
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large garlic clove
1 1/4 cups water

Cook the quinoa:
In a medium saucepan, combine the soaked and drained quinoa, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then immediately decrease the heat to very low, cover, and let steam until all the water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. The quinoa should be cooked through but still a little bit firm. If it is too crunchy, sprinkle in a few more tablespoons of water and continue cooking.

Prepare the peppers:
Preheat the broiler. Place the whole peppers on a baking sheet and broil on each side until the skin is blackened and blistered in places, a few minutes per side. Ideally, the pepper is softened, but firm enough to hold its shape. The roasting process will take about 10 minutes in total.

Remove the peppers from the broiler and let them cool completely. When cool, gently peel away as much skin as will come off easily. Cut a slit down the center of each pepper, leaving them connected at the top and bottom. Working carefully in order to keep the pepper in one piece, remove the seeds and ribs; I found my fingers worked best, but do wash your hands and under your nails thoroughly with soap afterwards to remove the oils which can burn your skin (or wear gloves as you work).

Make the filling:
Heat the oil in a wide skillet over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the onions and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender and beginning to color. Add the squash and water, cover, and simmer until the squash is tender but still holding its shape, about 10 minutes.

Let the squash mixture cool slightly, then place it in a large bowl with the quinoa. Add the cheeses and fold gently to combine.

Stuff and bake the peppers:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Carefully stuff the filling into the peppers, filling them all the way and pressing them back into shape if need be. Place the peppers in a baking dish and bake until heated through, 20 minutes.

Make the pepita crema:
Toast the cumin seeds in a small, dry skillet over a medium flame, shaking frequently, until they smell nutty, 1-2 minutes. In the bowl of a blender, combine the soaked and drained pepitas, toasted cumin seeds, juice of 1 lime, salt, garlic, and half of the water. Blend to a paste, slowly adding the rest of the water to make a thick sauce. Blend on high until very smooth, 3-5 minutes. Taste, adding more salt or lime if you feel it needs it. The crema will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Serve the peppers:
Place each pepper on a plate in a puddle of crema. Drizzle a little extra crema over the peppers and garnish with goat cheese, cilantro, and pepitas if you like, adding avocado slices and lime wedges to the plates. Extra peppers can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve for up to a few days.