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Spaghetti Poblano!

By Dennis Linden
Image of Poblano Pepper Pasta
This month’s featured recipe was created by Edgar Sanchez, a member of Melissa’s Food Service Procurement team. Like the concept of “Tex-Mex” cooking, Edgar’s dish combines a popular ingredient from two distinct cuisines on opposite sides of the globe. Namely, a Mediterranean staple [thin spaghetti noodles] are cooked in a creamy cheese sauce laced heavily with Poblano peppers that are indigenous to central Mexico. The result is an altogether unique flavor experience and, dare I suggest, a new category of culinary possibilities as well with this inventive “Med-Mex” dish!

Poblanos have always been a personal favorite ingredient because of the pepper’s well-balanced spicy flavor and versatile uses. Fresh Poblanos can be found in an assortment of dishes from whole stuffed or as a roasted flavor additive to soups, casseroles, sauces and salsas. In its dried form, the pepper makes a tasty powdered condiment and is also the key component in mole sauce. This flexibility is what inspired Edgar to create a twist on the traditional cream sauce of Spaghetti Alfredo fame. While his version retains the same creamy goodness, the pepper adds a pleasantly mild, but definitely spicy, aftertaste that lingers on the palate just long enough to “reload”… how about we call it Spaghetti Edgar!

“This recipe is one of many variations available for Poblano peppers,” Edgar explained. “My wife and I enjoy creating new dishes as we were both raised on home-cooked meals. This background has helped us appreciate many different kinds of foods, so we are consciously exposing our 3-year-old son to the same diversity of foods from all over. So far it has been great as we have not had any of the traditional issues parents encounter with a toddler being picky about what they eat.”

Poblano peppers were first found growing wild in the state of Puebla, Mexico long before they became a major cultivated crop of the region. The name was derived from the area where they were first harvested, but this pepper has several aliases. In northern Mexico, the United States and Canada, the Poblano is also known as the Pasilla. Poblanos are often dried to increase their shelf life and a dried Poblano is called an Ancho. The Poblano has been one of the most popular peppers in Mexico for years and can now be found in most U.S. supermarkets.

The pepper is quite mild when in the dark green stage of ripeness, which is when most are sold whole fresh. Like all pepper varieties, Poblanos will turn red as they ripen and get much spicier. However, red Poblanos are usually dried and either packaged as Ancho peppers or processed. The green Poblano pepper is generally considered quite mild by hot pepper standards, though looks can be deceiving. Interestingly, one of the unique characteristics of the variety is that there is always a chance of getting a green pepper that has a spicier kick expected from the more mature red stage. Surprise! Surprise!
Image of Guest Chef, Edgar Sanchez
Edgar Sanchez has been a member of Melissa’s Food Service Procurement Team for four years. The business of fresh produce distribution, especially from the view point of a frontline wholesaler like Melissa’s, who deals directly with growers or their agents, could be described as an ever-changing parade of harvests that come and go with the seasons. To keep up with crop opportunities and field conditions associated with the hundreds of perishable items Melissa’s offers its customers, specialization is required. Edgar is responsible for maintaining our inventories of citrus, berries, avocadoes, baby lettuces, melons and juices for the company’s Food Service customers. He must keep a constant update on the crops under his purview and the communication of that information to the company’s sales staff servicing the end user, be it the chef/owner of a well-known white tablecloth restaurant or the skybox menu of a large Sports & Entertainment venue.

“My role is making sure we have the best restaurant quality produce at prices that keep the company competitive in a dynamic marketplace. It’s a delicate balance, but the most important factor in retaining repeat customer loyalty is providing consistent supplies at the highest quality available,” said Edgar. Then, he elaborated, “The challenges are being able to pivot quickly as produce is an unpredictable business with many roadblocks that can come out of nowhere. Things like weather affecting availability, freight issues, vendors being short on product, as well as quickly responding when a client-driven special request comes in, which is usually very time sensitive. Seems like half my job is problem solving for our clients, who depend on us to fill a menu or create a presentation; it keeps me engaged and why I really like what I do!

Outside the office, Edgar enjoys riding his motorcycle, exploring parts of the Southern California region he would not otherwise experience. However, he admits that right now most of his home time revolves around their 3-year-old son who Edgar admits rules the roost. He is a bit young for motorcycling, but has some of Dad’s wanderlust as he loves car rides. So, weekends are usually planned around taking a drive that includes a lunch destination. No doubt, at a restaurant that exposes him to yet another type of cuisine. Thank you, Edgar, for this tasty, relatively quick and easy to prepare dish. Poblanos – Italian style!

Poblano Pepper Pasta
Serves 4
Image of ingredients for Poblano Pepper PastaIngredients

6 Melissa’s Poblano Peppers
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese
½ white onion, chopped fine
1 tablespoon Knorr Chicken Bouillon
2 tablespoons Melissa’s Minced Garlic
1 box Thin Spaghetti, 16 ounces
½ stick butter, for pasta
Image of roasting peppers
Preparation
Roast Poblano peppers on a grill or open flame until skins are blistered and charred. Place in paper or plastic bag while still hot to steam; then peel, seed and rough chop.
Image of sauce
Place peppers, sour cream, cream cheese, white onion, bouillon and garlic in a blender; pulse until thoroughly mixed.
Image of adding sauce to spaghetti noodles
Place spaghetti noodles in a large pot of rolling boiling water along 2 tablespoons olive oil until fully cooked (about 20 minutes). Drain liquid from pot; then blend butter into the noodles; fold in the pepper mixture and cook for another 10 minutes until sauce has melded with the noodles.

Plating: Serve individually with a side of mixed salad greens and maybe a glass of a good Chianti!
Image of Poblano Pepper Pasta
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