The movie Clueless is one of my all-time favorites! Not only does it speak to me, because I was a prepubescent teen in the 90s, the decade it masterfully satirizes, but it also speaks to the dirty little comedian that’s defined my personality for the past 20 years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in a situation where “you could be a farmer in those clothes” has been the perfect witty response, or how often I’ve been able to slip, “my plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose” into a serious conversation, just to hear the room erupt with laughter. Like when I was applying to colleges and checked the Latino box. “Eye knot a Meeeexxxxiiiicccaaaaan!”
My father said it couldn’t hurt, and since affirmative action had been repealed, the UC application clearly stated race would have no influence or affect on whether or not I got accepted. It seemed to work for my older brother a few years before, so we thought it was worth a second shot. So I checked the Latino box and moved on to the essays.
A few months had passed. I’d taken the SATS a few more times to improve my scores, but 1190 was the highest. [Don’t worry about me, I interview really well] I’d almost given up on getting into any of my top tier choices, and suddenly I noticed a “big envelope” haphazardly smashed into my parent’s mailbox. It was the kind of package that would have been too costly for a simple “thanks but no thanks” rejection letter. And I was right. I’d gotten into UCLA.
It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and there I was, with this nagging hesitation in the back of my mind. I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d gotten into UCLA, because the admissions staff thought I was getting them one student closer to their yearly minority quotient. But then I remembered a few things. I remembered how the applications stated my race would have no bearing on my chances of getting in. And how printed, in bold Helvetica font, above the ethnicity box was a disclaimer about how any racial declarations were for ‘statistical purposes only.’ I could have left the boxes blank if I wanted. It wasn’t supposed to make a difference either way. A few hours of flipping through staged glossy photos of acne-free college kids “studying,” as if college was a fabulous mixed-race pillow fight with pizza and matching hoodies, had passed. And then I felt confident enough in my own academic prowess, and I believed my acceptance in to UCLA was totally based on my powers of persuasion.
A few months later I arrived in the dorms my first day of freshman year, and saw a welcome bucket full of Pica chili powder candy and UCLA paraphernalia from MECha, the Latino student group on campus. Which is the moment I started shouting “Eye knot a Meeeexxxxiiiicccaaaaan!”
Clueless quotes used in real life scenarios aside; I got a lot of shit for pretending to be Mexican in college. A lot of my friends called me a “Mexican’t” even after I explained to them how, “I’m a sixteenth Spanish, because my paternal great grandfather is a French Moroccan from Spain.” The box I checked was for “Latino” and Spain is a Latin country, where they speak Spanish, which is the same language they speak in Mexico. Seems like a rational argument right? Growing up in San Diego, actual Hispanics used to start speaking to me in Spanish, because they assumed I was a Mexican. But alas, I’m a gringo! And I figured I’d been playing a Mexican for most of my life whether I knew it or not, so why stop now. Besides, with my green eyes, thick dark brown hair, olive complexion, and general Erik Estrada dreaminess, it was a lot less of a stretch to be Mexican or Latino then to link my Moroccan blood to being African American, which is technically true, right? Looking back on those racially charged conversations, neither rationale really made my Black or Hispanic friends feel any better about the fact that I was getting financial aid and they weren’t. I gave them my watermelon lollipops covered in chile powder, but that only helped a little.
Yep, those were the good old days. When a sweet and sexy Alicia Silverstone could somehow make being an awkward puberty-prone Jewish teenager temporarily cool. As if the rumors that she was involved in the B’nai B’rith youth organization were enough for us awkward pre-teen metal-mouthed kids to think we’d have a chance of meeting her and marrying her one day. But I was only fooling myself. Not only was I a closeted homo at the time, but “Lucy, you know I don’t speak Mexican.”
So in honor of being Mexican when it counts, like on college applications, I like to cook Mexican’t food. Which is essentially Mexican food for tighty-whities. This Mexican food recipe is something I developed after having a quinoa stuffed chile relleno at Fresca in Noe Valley (a Peruvian place) that was so delicious, I nearly fell out of my chair.
Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers in Chipotle Adobo Sauce
- 1 ½ tblsp vegetable oil
- 5 whole poblano peppers
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 red bell pepper diced into ¼ inch cubes
- 1 medium red onion diced into ¼ inch cubes
- 6 oz of brown mushrooms diced into ¼ inch cubes
- ½ jalapeno finely diced (more or less depending on how spicy you like things)
- 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans drained and rinsed
- 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (14.5 oz) low sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (add more if you like things spicier)
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 cup quinoa (I like the tri-color blend from Trader Joes)
- 1 tblsp unsalted butter
- 1 can (15 oz) low sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups shredded cheese (Mexican blend is great!)
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- the juice of one lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil to garnish
Preheat the oven to 475°
Lightly brush the poblano peppers with about ½ tblsp vegetable oil, and arrange them on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake the peppers for 20 mins, turning over half way through, until they blacken and blister.
Take them out of the oven, and immediately seal them in a large Ziploc bag. This will create steam and help separate the skin from the flesh of the poblano (or pasilla) pepper.
Once they’ve completely cooled, remove and discard the blackened skin. Slice the poblano peppers open by cutting a T-shape on one side. About an inch down from the stem, cut across the pepper, and then cut down the length of the pepper from the middle of the top of the T in a perpendicular fashion.
Be careful not to pierce the underside of the pepper or it will be hard to stuff the peppers later. Once you’ve sliced all the peppers, scrape some of the seeds inside away, and set the hollowed and skinned peppers aside while you work on the filling.
Turn the oven down to 450°
Melt the butter in a saucepot over medium-high heat, and then add the quinoa and stir.
Toast the quinoa in the melted butter for about 4 minutes, and then add 1¼ cups of the broth and turn the heat up to high.
Once the liquid begins to boil, stir the quinoa before covering the pot and reducing the heat to low. Let the quinoa cook in the broth for 10-15 minutes until the liquid is completely absorbed. Once done, remove the quinoa from the heat and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, heat the rest of the vegetable oil. When the oil is good and hot, sauté the onions, jalapenos, and red peppers for 3 minutes to give them a head start, and then add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes until slightly browned and caramelized.
Add the pinto beans to the pan and cook for another three minutes.
Season with the cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Stir in the cooked quinoa and add the fresh cilantro and lime juice.
Remove the pan from the heat and empty the veggie mixture into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the parmesan and one cup of the shredded cheese and let cool.
It will look something like this once all the cheese is mixed in and starting to melt.
In a blender or food processor, blend the can of tomatoes, the remainder of the can of broth, the garlic, sugar, and the chipotle pepper in adobo. Season with salt and pepper and puree.
Stuff the poblano (or pasilla) peppers with the cooked quinoa, veggie, bean and cheese mixture. Fill them as much as possible and it’s okay if they’re overflowing. The best stuffed peppers are overflowing with their filling.
Pour half the tomato and chipotle in adobo sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish. Place the stuffed peppers with quinoa, vegetables, and beans and cheese in the dish, and spoon the rest of the tomato sauce over each of the stuffed peppers.
Garnish with some more of the shredded cheese and bake in the oven at 450° for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown in spots.
Garnish with some fresh chopped cilantro and maybe a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy!
- This dish can be time consuming. Consider freezing the dish (keep the cheese out of the filling and off the top) and just let it defrost in the fridge over night before you’re ready to eat, and top the peppers with a heavy amount of cheese before baking.
- Try this dish with different vegetables. Consider corn, zucchini, leeks, etc.
- For some added pizzazz! You can garnish the stuffed poblano (or pasialla) peppers with some toasted pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) that have been toasted.
- Try tossing in half-inch cubes of cheese instead of using shredded cheese. This will have the effect of a more concentrated gooeyness in spots when you cut into the peppers.
- If you don’t want to make this with pinto beans, you can use any beans you’d like! Try black beans and a white quinoa for contrasts.
- If the sauté pan is dry when you’re sautéing the veggies, just add some more vegetable oil.
- If you’re not a vegetarian, consider using different broths and adding a protein to the stuffed peppers. Maybe some chopped shrimp and scallops with fish stock instead of vegetable broth, etc.