Recipe of the week: Chilies rellenos from a Baja spa

Deborah Szekely's recipe for Ranch Chilies Rellenos With Ancho Chili Salsa comes from the great Rancho La Puerta spa she founded in 1940 in Baja California.

Rancho La Puerta is the original destination fitness resort and spa. Founded in 1940 by Deborah Szekely, it lies near the mountain town of Tecate in Baja California, Mexico. In 1958, Szekely opened the Golden Door in Escondido, Calif., which ever since has been consistently rated No. 1 in the U.S. for spa cuisine. In her new cookbook, Cooking With the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta, Szekely and co-author Deborah M. Schneider offer a series of menus devoted to “health and wellness through mind/body/spirit balance.” Szekely describes ranch chilies rellenos as “one of my most favorite dinners or lunches, and I especially like them with tangy Jack cheese.”

Recipe of the week

Ranch Chilies Rellenos With Ancho Chili Salsa

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6 poblano or Anaheim chilies

4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 6 long strips

¼ tsp dried Mexican oregano

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ tsp sea salt

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 extra-large egg white, beaten until light and frothy

Ancho chili salsa

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Char chilies on all sides directly over gas flame until skin blackens and blisters, or broil directly under hot broiler until skin begins to pull away from pepper. Wrap in paper towels until cool. Handle peppers carefully so they do not tear. Use paper towel to rub off blistered skin. Leave stems on. Make 2-inch slit lengthwise in each chili and remove seeds. Tuck piece of cheese into each chili and fold chili over to completely enclose cheese, so it does not ooze out when it melts.

Over small bowl, rub oregano to bring out flavor. Add flour and salt and stir to combine mixture. Spread flour on plate. In 10-inch sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Dip each chili into flour to coat on all sides, and brush off any excess, then dip into egg white. Carefully set into hot pan and cook until cheese is melted and chilies are golden brown on both sides. Serve with warm salsa and a side dish of Mexican red rice or refried beans. Serves 6.

Ancho Chili Salsa

2 tsp olive oil

½ medium onion, cut into ½-inch dice

3 small garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 dried ancho chilies, seeded and torn into pieces

3 dried guajillo or California chilies, seeded and torn into pieces

2 Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped

4 large green tomatillos, husks removed, washed, and roughly chopped

2 cups water

1 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste

¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

2 tbsp fresh Mexican oregano, or 1 tbsp dried

12 sprigs fresh cilantro, about ½ cup, stemmed and chopped

In 10-inch sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and dried chilies, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until onions are soft and you can smell chilies. Add tomatoes and tomatillos, reduce heat slightly, and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring often. Add water, 1 tsp of salt, and pepper. Bring to simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in oregano, cool for a few minutes, purée sauce in blender until smooth, then stir in cilantro. Makes 4 cups.

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