A Cinco de Mayo Plateful!
By Dennis Linden
Here’s a tasty dish just in time to add to your Cinco de Mayo menu, appropriately submitted by Melissa’s representative in the Southwest, Adam Aquilar. Adam uses Melissa’s convenient Soy Taco mix to create a delicious meatless version of stuffed bell peppers. Adam’s recipe is very quick and easy to prepare, though hearty enough to serve alone as an all-in-one meal.
“It was an NFL Playoff Sunday game that inspired this dish out of necessity,” explained Adam. “With little notice, some friends decided to come over to watch the game with me. The thing was that my guests were vegetarians and I was already thawing the ground beef for a batch of stuffed bell peppers. I needed a quick solution…Melissa's Soy Taco was that solution! My friends loved it. Unfortunately my team, the Dallas Cowboys, lost the game; though my Soy Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers definitely won the day.”
Adam’s simple recipe really belies a dish that looks and tastes so much more complicated than it is to prepare! The blend of seasonings in both Melissa’s Soy Taco mix and Hatch Salsa do all the heavy lifting as far as built-in flavors are concerned. Adding fresh corn to this already flavorful combination gives the pepper stuffing a rustic, home-cooked flavor and interesting texture. If fresh corn is out of season, choose frozen over canned corn.
While Adam’s Soy Taco stuffing works no matter what color pepper is used, each color of bell pepper does actually change the taste just a bit. Green bell peppers are picked before they have fully matured, so have an ever so slight bitter flavor. Yellow peppers have an almost fruity-sweet taste; while the orange bell is very similar to the yellow, though less sweet. Both yellow and orange are great for cooking or can be sliced raw for a splash of color in salads. Red peppers are said to be the sweetest of all the bells. Since they are fully ripe, red bell peppers also contain more nutrients than the other colored peppers, especially vitamins A and C. Also, red bell peppers also contain lycopene, which is a carotenoid that lowers the risk of various cancers.
Do not overlook the power of the small amounts of Roma tomato and green onion garnishes called for in this dish. While both add a needed splash of color that balances the visual presentation of each pepper, these garnishes also add a field fresh crispness to each bite that completes the taste experience. Nice touch, Chef Adam!
Adam Aquilar has been a member of the Melissa’s team for about 1½ years. Working out of the Texas border town of El Paso, Adam is strategically located to service the company’s many retail customers in that area as well as other parts of the country.
“My role in the company is to build relationships with produce managers at the retail store level,” said Adam. “In the course of a typical week I physically visit all the store locations of two major retailers in El Paso and the surrounding area. I also check-in by phone with retailers in other parts of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Tennessee and Utah.”
He then went on to explain in detail, “As I build a relationship with a produce manager, we work together to find items in Melissa's product line that will best suit and expand the sales numbers in that particular produce department. A big part of being successful in selling these managers on Melissa's product is constant follow-up with merchandising tips and product education.”
“Another important key role of a field representative is keeping in constant communication with my team back in the Los Angeles office. I am literally the company’s eyes and ears in the retail produce aisles here, so I am always on the look-out for an opportunity to promote any of our new items, as well as pass on ideas from our customers.”
While Adam’s store visits can sometimes mean traveling many miles through the Texas countryside, he admits to being a dedicated homing pigeon at the end of even the longest of days. “My girlfriend, Anais, and I are new parents to a baby boy named Noah,” beamed Adam. “He is 5 months old and the joy of our lives. My passion is music, so each night I enjoy playing guitar for my son. There is no better feeling than watching him react to my music with a big smile. It makes my day!”
Come to think of it, football game vegetarian viewers aside, that might be the real reason why Adam’s preparation of this dish is so conveniently short and simple. Again, no doubt inspired by necessity, this time it’s a young boy named Noah, whose smile probably keeps his dad strumming his guitar, leaving little time to be “prepping-around” in the kitchen! Still, for such a simple dish created on-the-fly, this one is definitely a keeper, Adam! Keep on cooking! And, who knows, next you might be able to come up with another successful dish AND watch your Cowboys win as well! In the meantime…how ‘bout them peppers!
Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers
2 packages Melissa's Soy Taco
4 Organic Bell Peppers (any color or combo of colors)
1 jar Melissa's Hatch Salsa
1 cup Whole Corn (Fresh or fresh-frozen if out of season)
1 Roma Tomato, seeded and small diced (topping)
1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated (topping)
2 Green onions, small diced (topping)
Cut wide around the stem of each pepper and remove, then scrape out the inside ribs to smooth, wash out any seeds and trim the top of each pepper “bowl” evenly. Set peppers in a 9x9 baking pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large skillet, sauté the Soy Taco mixture, salsa and corn just long enough to thoroughly combine and heat though. Then remove from flame.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the 4 peppers, sprinkle each with diced tomato and top with cheese. Bake at 350°, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes, or until peppers are tender. Remove from the oven, top with a sprinkle of green onions and serve immediately.