Elliott and I just returned from spending the holidays in the mountains, where we ate some really great food, skied, and ate some more. Whenever we visit a new place, we always try to find the best local restaurants that are a bit off the beaten path and try to avoid chain restaurants as much as we can. We’ve found some really great places over the years and this trip was no different.
However, there was one dish that stood out among the rest on this trip: poblano peppers stuffed with Israeli couscous served over a tomato and orange cream sauce. The sauce was so good that I practically licked it off the plate and even asked the staff for tips on making it myself.
When making these poblano peppers, I would suggest making the sauce first and then setting it aside. It’s one less thing to worry about while preparing the couscous and roasting the peppers. You can even make it the day before, keep it in the refrigerator, and warm it up a few minutes before serving.
To make the sauce, I first roasted peeled tomatoes with a spoonful of brown sugar. This will cause any excess juice and liquid to evaporate from the tomatoes, concentrating their flavor. I use the same method when making homemade tomato soup. It takes a bit more time, but I think it’s totally worth it. I then combined the little tomato flavor-bombs with a bit of onion, tomato paste, wine, and orange juice before puréeing everything together in a blender. If the sauce is too thick, just add some of the reserved tomato juice (I used about 1/2 cup to thin it out).
You want this sauce velvety-smooth, so blend away!
After finishing the sauce, keep it covered and set it aside. You can always warm it back up before serving if needed.
Since the poblano peppers are spicy and the sauce is quite rich in flavor, I wanted to keep the Israeli couscous light and fresh. Plus, then you can mix it into the sauce as you’re eating it without overpowering your palate. The couscous is mixed with sautéed cherry tomatoes, sugar, garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper.
Not only is this soul-warming dish perfect after a day on the ski slopes, it’s a great vegetarian dish for any night of the week at home!
- 1 (28 oz. can) whole, peeled tomatoes
- 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 tbsp butter
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ cup white wine
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, whole
- ¼ tsp sugar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 poblano peppers
- pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
- Using your fingers, tear open the peeled tomatoes over a large bowl and remove the liquid and seeds. Strain and discard the seeds using a fine mesh strainer and reserve the liquid. Spread the tomatoes into a single layer over the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with dark brown sugar.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes start to turn a darker color. Once done, scrape the tomatoes into a medium bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
- While the tomatoes are baking, melt the butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and tomato paste and cook until softened. Add the white wine and orange juice and cook until slightly reduced. Add ½ cup of the reserved tomato juice to the pan and stir until combined. Add the roasted tomatoes, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes over low heat.
- Add the onion and roasted tomato mixture to a blender. Purée until smooth.
- Wipe out the pan and return the tomato mixture to the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then add the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
- After roasting the tomatoes for the sauce, turn on the broiler (or set it to High) and adjust the rack to the second highest position. Place the poblano peppers on a rimmed baking sheet and spray the peppers liberally with cooking spray. Broil until the skins are blistered and charred, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes.
- Place the blistered peppers into a large zip-top bag to steam for 1 to 2 minutes. Don't allow the peppers to steam too long, or they will become too soft.
- Since poblano peppers can be quite spicy, put on a pair of gloves and remove the skins when the peppers are cool enough to handle.
- After removing the skin on the peppers, make a small lengthwise slit down the side of each pepper. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Set the peppers aside.
- While the poblano peppers are under the broiler, prepare the couscous filling. Pour two quarts of water into a small saucepan. Season liberally with salt (as you would do with pasta). Set aside.
- Add the couscous to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the couscous until it colors lightly and smells aromatic, stirring constantly. As soon as the couscous starts turning a light golden color, pour the couscous into the saucepan with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the couscous for 10 minutes, or until al dente.
- Drain the couscous in a fine mesh strainer and gently rinse with cold water. After the couscous has drained, return it to the saucepan and cover with a lid and let sit for 10 minutes.
- While the couscous is cooking, prepare the sautéed cherry tomatoes. In the same skillet used to toast the couscous, add the tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Immediately add the cherry tomatoes, sugar, and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cook until the tomatoes start to soften and the skins begin to shrivel, about 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the couscous to the pan. Taste the couscous and add salt and pepper, as needed.
- Carefully spoon tomato couscous into each pepper, then place the stuffed pepper on top of a few spoonfuls of the tomato and orange cream sauce. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.