In my ongoing quest to try as many new-to-me foods as I can while our farmers market holds out, I couldn’t resist these chilaca chile peppers. Deep green and waxy, these mild to medium-hot peppers are usually seen dried in grocery stores under the name pasilla chile or chile negro. Commonly eaten in Central Mexico, I knew they would be right at home in my kitchen, where guacamole, salsa, and tacos are king. (Can’t find fresh chilaca chile peppers at your farmers market? Go for poblano peppers instead.) Since they’re on the mild side, I didn’t find seeding them to be necessary, and using one whole pepper in a recipe added flavor and spice without overpowering heat.
I decided to pair them with another household summertime favorite from Mexico, squash blossoms, or as they’re called in Spanish, flor de calabaza. (I’ve used these irresistible blossoms in the past fried and cashew cheese stuffed and sautéed with garlic.) While doing an online search, I discovered that squash blossoms are often used in quesadillas. I immediately thought about my creamy cauliflower queso and knew that a half batch would be just the trick for a delicate but hearty appetizer.
After making creamy vegan queso with white beans and cauliflower, I sautéed the chilaca chile peppers with squash blossoms, garlic, and bell peppers, slathered them onto tortillas, and toasted them in a skillet. I added fresh herbs and a sprinkling of salt for an appetizer that makes a light but filling meal on their own or a pretty appetizer for a late summer gathering. They would pair nicely with a fresh tomato or tomatillo salsa, but it’s not entirely necessary.
Serves 2-3 as a meal, 4-6 as an appetizer
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced small
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 fresh chilaca chile pepper or poblano pepper, minced (and seeded, if preferred)
- 8 squash blossoms, stems and pistils removed (No squash blossoms? Try baby spinach leaves instead!)
- 1 batch cauliflower queso (see recipe below)
- 2 tsp fresh oregano leaves or cilantro
- Sprinkle of salt, to taste
- 4 wheat tortillas or 6 corn tortillas
In a skillet under medium heat, sauté bell pepper, garlic, and chilaca chile (or poblano) pepper in extra virgin olive oil. After a few minutes, once they are softened and fragrant, add squash blossoms to the skillet and briefly sauté until they are wilted. Remove the squash blossom mixture from the skillet to a separate plate.
Smear cauliflower queso on one side of each tortilla. Evenly distribute the squash mixture between half of the tortillas. Sprinkle fresh oregano leaves (or cilantro) and salt across the squash blossom mixture. Sandwich a queso-topped tortilla with a squash blossom-topped tortilla. Toast one quesadilla at a time in the skillet that was used for the sautéed squash blossoms. Under a medium heat, warm each side until it’s nutty brown. Once both sides are done, toast each side of the remaining quesadillas. Serve immediately.
Makes about 1 cup of queso
- 1/4 head cauliflower (approximately 1 heaping cup), broken into florets
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/4 small yellow onion (approximately a heaping 1/4 cup), diced
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (Rice milk is my favorite.)
- 1/2 cup Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 tsp white miso paste
- 1/8 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp hot sauce (Trader Joe’s brand is my favorite)
- 1 ½ tsp pickled jalapeno slices
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets in 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil and lay evenly across a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Roast cauliflower for 20 minutes, stopping once to toss for even roasting.
While the cauliflower is roasting, heat a skillet under medium heat, add remaining 1/2 tsp of extra virgin olive oil to pan. Sauté onions and garlic in pan for 5 or 6 minutes, until very soft, fragrant, and translucent. (Turn heat to low if they start to stick.)
In a high-speed blender, combine roasted cauliflower, onion and garlic mixture, and the remaining ingredients. Blend until the queso is completely smooth and velvety.