From The Sips and Sears of Summer, by George Yatchisin
Originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent, June 28, 2012

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Flame-Grilled Pasilla chilies stuffed with Mexican-Style Seitan

Edie Robertson’s Flame-Grilled, Seitan-Stuffed Pasilla Chilies. Photo by Paul Wellman.

Dish: Flame-Grilled Pasilla Chilies Filled with Mexican-Style Seitan, Vegan Ranchero Sauce, and Baby Red Potato Salad

Best known locally for once co-owning the Sojourner Cafe, private chef/caterer Edie Robertson is no stranger to our contest, having won the best entree award in 2010 and been a judge in 2011. But she was most pleased by our 2012 decision to feature a vegetarian category for the first time. “The possibilities are endless,” she said, “and vegetarians need not feel left out during the summer’s BBQ season.”

Robertson clearly knows the drill, as her seitan-stuffed chilis actually achieved our first perfect score ever. “It has got rave revues from my private-chef clients, so I felt confident about that dish,” she admitted. “Plus the fresh roasted tomatillo salsa, smoky ranchero sauce, and freshly made corn tortillas added a nice touch and flavor to the whole dish. It was a great compliment to hear Doug say he could eat like this every day!”

Robertson (no relation to Aaron, by the way) also offered a few secrets: She roasts all of her spice blends to deliver a “richer, more nutty flavor” and pulses the seitan in a food processor, which makes it “so close to ground beef.” As for cooking tempeh or tofu on the grill, Robertson suggested buying the firmest available, marinating for at least an hour, and then, “Start like you would with any meat: high heat first to sear the outside, and wait to turn them over until they have a nice dark sear or they will stick. The cooking time, of course, is much shorter.” As for straight produce, Robertson explained, “I think any vegetable on an open flame beats any other style of cooking. If you have delicate or smaller-sized vegetables, use a vegetable grill basket — you will get the great flavor without losing them through the slats. And don’t be shy with bold spice blends that you would normally use on meat. They work well on vegetables, as well.”

Flame-Grilled Pasilla chilies stuffed with Mexican-Style Seitan

  • 4 large pasilla chilies
  • 3 packages plain seitan, pulsed in food processor or blender to look like ground meat
  • 1 small brown onion, small diced
  • 2 small jalapeños, de-seeded and finely diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh or canned corn kernels
  • 3 Tbsp. cumin powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup mixed jack and cheddar cheese, queso fresco for topping
Flame-Grilled Pasilla chilies stuffed with Mexican-Style Seitan

Chef Edie Robertson explaining her winning entry to the judges at the Independent Competition. Photo by Helen Robertson.

Wash and pat dry chilies. Coat with a little olive oil, and place on hot BBQ. With tongs, gently turn them every 5-8 minutes until all the skin has darkened and peels away easily. Let cool a few minutes, and wrap them loosely in plastic wrap so air doesn’t get in. After about 20 minutes, unwrap and peel skin off (some can remain). Cut a small slit in the chili lengthwise. Pull out seeds, and rinse with cold water inside. Place open side down on paper towel to drain.

Cook onions, jalapeños, and garlic in small amount of oil until translucent; add the rest of the filling ingredients.

Put a little of the jack/cheddar mixture inside of the chili, fill with seitan mixture until chili is stuffed to top, and add a little more of the cheese mixture. On a grilling screen or piece of foil, place the stuffed peppers on low-heat grill covered loosely with foil until cheese melts and seitan filling is heated through. Plate and sprinkle with a little queso fresco.

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