Welcome to SAVEUR’s column on how to cook local produce according to our test kitchen manager, Fatima Khawaja. This is where you’ll find creative, unfussy meal ideas plus plenty of cooking advice—like what to do with that bumper crop of zucchini or how to store delicate heirloom tomatoes. Every other week, Fatima hits the farmers market and chooses a peak-season ingredient to explore in depth. Follow along, and you’ll learn how to turn the season’s bounty into easy plant-based meals that’ll be on the table in under an hour.
Whenever I see poblano chiles, I think of the San Antonio taquerias I frequented when I was still a student studying Latin American cuisine in Texas. My classmates and I used chips or warm tortillas to scoop up creamy rajas de poblano over margaritas and the flame-roasted peppers swimming in their silky cream sauce were always the perfect bite.
The poblano itself is slightly sweet with just a little bit of heat, making it easy to work with and family-friendly. My young daughter loves to eat them raw, lightly sautéed, or roasted. Once dried, the poblano becomes the ancho chile. This variety likely originated in the land-locked Mexican state of Puebla, where it is used in regional specialties like mole poblano and chiles en nogada. Today, however, it’s grown and eaten widely throughout Mexico and beyond.
While I was traveling through the Baja Peninsula earlier this summer, I spent a night in Todos Santos at Paradero, a new farm-to-table hotel and restaurant surrounded on all sides by poblano chile fields. Looking out my balcony window over the farm, I was reminded of my old taqueria favorite and decided to recreate the dish once I got back home to Brooklyn.
I picked up a bag of locally grown poblanos at the farmers market, choosing peppers that were shiny, firm, and deep emerald green. Some specimens are so dark in color that they appear nearly black, while others may have a few red spots—signs that the chiles have been left to ripen on the plant and are likely to have a little more heat to them. Any color poblano works for this dish, just be sure to avoid any that are shriveled or soft—indicators that the chiles are old and starting to spoil. If you’re not using your poblanos right away, store them in the fridge, wrapped in either plastic or paper towels. (And don’t worry if you bought too many and they do start to wrinkle; you can just whirl them up in a peppery soup.)
I added a handful of roasted, end-of-season corn kernels to my rajas for some sweet pops and extra charred flavor and perfumed the sauce with Mexican oregano, which has a stronger flavor and citrus and licorice notes that set it apart from the more common Mediterranean variety. I’ve been loyal to this herb since my days cooking at Cosme, but you can feel free to substitute or leave it out if you can’t find it. If you like a little more spice, roast a jalapeño or two along with the poblanos. However you decide to tweak this quick vegetarian dish, I think you’ll find it’s an unforgettable summer-into-fall favorite—with or without the margaritas.
- 3 large poblano peppers (1 lb.)
- 2 ears of corn, shucked
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- ½ tsp. dried or 1 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 cup Mexican crema, or crème fraîche
- Kosher salt
- Warm corn tortillas, to serve
- On a grill or gas burner turned to high, place the poblanos. Using tongs to turn occasionally, cook the peppers until charred all over, 8–10 minutes total. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside to steam for at least 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, char the corn in the same fashion, turning the ears until blackened all over, 7–10 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Using paper towels, rub each pepper to remove the skin, then slice lengthwise and remove the seeds and stems. Cut the flesh into ½-inch strips and transfer to a bowl. Slice the kernels off the corn cobs and transfer to the same bowl. (Discard the cobs.).
- To a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add the oil. When it’s shimmering and hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and beginning to brown, 6–8 minutes. Add the oregano and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the poblano-corn mixture and the crema and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1–2 minute more. Remove from the heat, season with salt to taste and serve with the tortillas.