Poblano, Pumpkin Cazuela with Avocado Cream and Pepitas

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This Mexican inspired casserole or cazuela is made with poblano chiles, pumpkin, avocado and pumpkin seeds, indigenous to this region. A cazuelas is also the name of a Spanish or Mexican earthenware dish that retains heat for an extended period and used here to hold the casserole. Poblanos are the chiles most often used to make chile rellenos, a stuffed chile that is lightly breaded and fried. The stuffing is usually cheese and/or ground meat. Rather than stuffing, this cazuela, takes the liberty of topping the chiles and pumpkin with a light cheese custard which is baked.

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This recipe uses two types of oils due to their smoke point or the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke and break down into an acrid, and off flavor. Sunflower seed oil can be heated to very high temperatures while olive oil has a much lower smoke point. The second important thing to look for when buying oils is how they have been processed. Oils like sunflower seed and olive oil are generally “cold pressed” which means that they are not heated to press out the oils. The “first cold press” means that the oil is from the first pressing and is a higher grade. Subsequent pressings are less desirable. Expeller-pressed oils have pressure, chemicals and heat applied to extract the oils. The oils are then boiled to remove most of the chemicals, however, as you can imagine, this is not desirable. Oils that do not stipulate if they are cold pressed or expeller-pressed are of inferior quality, that usually includes chemicals. For health-sake, choose wisely.

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The poblano chiles in this recipe are charred on a comal, which is a clay or metal pan (a cast-iron griddle or skillet works well too) placed over an open flame that is generally used to toast chiles, garlic, onions, tomatoes and other aromatics in Mexican cuisine. The results give the chiles a unique texture and concentrated flavor which accentuates the earthy flavor of pumpkin. Topping it all off, a cooling avocado cream and spicy pumpkin seeds, gives added texture and flavor. Add a simple lettuce, radish, tomato and cilantro salad for a satisfying, plant-based supper.

Poblano, Pumpkin Cazuela with Avocado Cream and Pepitas

4 servings



2 large poblano chiles (about 8 ounces)

8 to 12 ounces pumpkin, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1-inch slices

1 tablespoon cold pressed sunflower seed oil

1 ½ cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

½ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled

3 eggs, beaten

¼ cup whole milk or unsweetened almond milk

½ cup garbanzo bean flour

½ teaspoon baking powder (double acting, aluminum free)

¼ teaspoon salt

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

¼ cup green pumpkin seeds

1 ½ teaspoon first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

⅛ teaspoon smoky paprika

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dash of sea salt

Avocado Cream

1 large ripe avocado

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon sea salt


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1.     Heat a comal or cast-iron griddle over medium-high heat until smoky hot. Char every side of the poblanos possible until blistered all over. May need to hold the chile with metal tongs directly over the flames to blister the cracks and crevices of the chile. Place in a bowl and seal with plastic wrap. Let them sit for at least twenty minutes. Wearing plastic or rubber gloves, discard the blistered peel, stems, seeds and veins. Slice lengthwise into one-half inch pieces.

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2.     Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the pumpkin slices in a nine-by-two-inch round cazuela or baking pan. Arrange the slice pumpkin in a circular pattern in the pan. Drizzle the sunflower seed oil over the pumpkin. Turn to coat each piece and the sides of the pan with the oil. Sprinkle the pumpkin with some sea salt.

3.     Place in the oven and bake until the pumpkin is softened, about twenty to twenty-five minutes. The pumpkin slices should be very soft but holding their shapes.

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4.     Top with sliced chiles, and both cheeses. Increase the oven heat to 450°F.

5.     Whip the eggs and milk together. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into the egg mixture. Whip until well incorporated. Pour over the top of the pumpkin, chile and cheeses. Place in the oven and bake, uncovered, for about fifteen minutes or until browned on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let stand five minutes.

6.     Meanwhile you can prepare the spicy pepitas by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the pepita mixture, continuously tossing in the pan until the seeds begin to pop and the spices are fragrant. Transfer the seeds to absorbent paper until ready to serve. Taste, Think, Transform with salt and/or cayenne.

7.    Make the avocado cream by putting the avocado to a small food processor or blender and pulse until smooth with lime juice, and olive oil. Season with salt. Taste, Think, Transform with salt, lime juice and/or olive oil.

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8.     Slice the cazuela into four wedges. Place on individual plates, top each with a dollop of avocado cream and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds.

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