I saw the following sign this weekend:
“Artichokes. 10 for $1.”
As you can imagine, my Northern blood about stopped pumping at that moment.
This was outside Castroville, which I learned this weekend is not a smaller gay-town, but rather the artichoke capital of America, complete with an real live artichoke festival. Yes, you heard it here.
I had the feeling this weekend of finally putting names to faces, the way I feel when I meet friends of friends about whom I’ve heard stories, but in this case it was putting places to vegetables. At work, I’ve been busy sourcing all sorts of vegetables from farms surrounding the Bay Area; lettuce from Lakeside Growers in Salinas, berries from Alba in Watsonville, and pasilla peppers from Catalan Farm in Hollister. All these town are lined up south of San Francisco near highway 101 as you drive out of San Jose.
Pasilla peppers, along with fresh figs and persimmons, have become a bit of an obsession since moving out to California. For anyone not familiar, they are the peppers of chili rellanos fame, more spicy than a bell pepper, but nowhere near the heat of a jalapeno. Though available on the East coast, pasillas have never been something I’ve cooked or eaten much before. Lately though, the pasilla flood gates have opened wide and I’ve been bringing home peppers by the sack full. I eat them plainly roasted with a pour of good olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt; baked and stuffed with rice and beans; braised alongside chicken thighs and herbs; and in today’s recipe, mixed with winter squash and rice, and topped with a sunny side up egg for a savory and satisfying one dish dinner.
Two Years Ago: Asian Pear Salad with Green Olives, Pecans, and Parmesan
Since we’re in November now, I think this dish would make a great addition to the thanksgiving table served without the egg on top: vegetarian, gluten free, and a nice alternative to the traditionally sweet winter squash preparations. Serves 4 for dinner, 6-8 as a side dish. Leftovers are great for breakfast too.
Winter Squash and Pasilla Pepper Rice Bowl
- 1 small winter squash of your choice (I used a kabocha – kuri, butternut, acorn, or even a small sugar pumpkin would all work well), peeled, diced, and roasted or steamed
- 2 large pasilla peppers (substitute pobalno peppers if you can’t find pasilla)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small red onion, peeled and diced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled finely chopped
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 1 1/4 cup water or stock
- heaping 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or sub parsley for the cilantro averse)
- 1/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- 2 roma tomatoes, diced
- salt & pepper
- olive oil, additional fresh cilantro, & grated sharp cheddar or jack cheese to serve
- sunny side up eggs to serve – one per person
Begin by roasting or steaming your squash if you haven’t already. To roast, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, quarter the squash and scoop out the seeds. Place in an oven safe dish with an inch of water. Roast ~ 40-60 minutes until tender. Cool, peel, and chop. To steam, peel, core, and dice your squash. Place in a medium pan with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cover. Cook ~20 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
Next, prepare the peppers by roasting them over a gas burner. Set the peppers directly on the burner with the heat on high (you may want to temporarily disconnect your smoke detectors before you do this.) Roast until blackened and blistered on all sides, rotating with kitchen tongs. Transfer the peppers to a mixing bowl and cover tightly with saran wrap. Let sit for 15 minutes, then, using your hands or a dish towel, peel away the charred outer skin, core the peppers, and roughly chop. If you have an electric stove, the peppers can also be roasted in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, cooled, and then peeled, cored and chopped.
Heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic, rice, and water or stock. Mix in the cilantro, corn, and the prepared squash and pasilla peppers. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until the rice is tender, ~10-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed. Cover and cook an additional minute, just to warm the tomatoes through.
Serve the rice in bowls topped with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh ground pepper, cilantro, and grated sharp cheddar or jack cheese. Throw a sunny side up egg over the whole thing and enjoy!