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Chiles rellenos, on the lighter side

  • This July 22, 2013 photo taken in Concord, N.H. shows a recipe for baked potato with a lemon anchovy burrata. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

    This July 22, 2013 photo taken in Concord, N.H. shows a recipe for baked potato with a lemon anchovy burrata. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

  • Chiles rellenos, on the lighter side. Roasted Chiles Rellenos With Avocado Sauce. Illustrates VEGGIES (category d), by Joe Yonan (c) 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Marge Ely)

    Chiles rellenos, on the lighter side. Roasted Chiles Rellenos With Avocado Sauce. Illustrates VEGGIES (category d), by Joe Yonan (c) 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Marge Ely)

  • This July 22, 2013 photo taken in Concord, N.H. shows a recipe for baked potato with a lemon anchovy burrata. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
  • Chiles rellenos, on the lighter side. Roasted Chiles Rellenos With Avocado Sauce. Illustrates VEGGIES (category d), by Joe Yonan (c) 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Marge Ely)

For the longest time, my favorite dish in Mexican restaurants near and far was chile relleno: a poblano pepper stuffed with meat and cheese, battered, fried and slathered with sauce. It still ranks high on the list.

But to make it at home? Oh, what a pain. You’ve got to peel the broiled and blackened poblanos very carefully, so they don’t rip, and then cut an opening just big enough to get your fingers in (so you can pull the seeds out) yet small enough so that when you stuff the thing, it holds together for the frying. Toothpicks often come into play. And that’s before you’ve even coated the peppers in batter or heated up the oil.

At home, I make a more healthful version by roasting instead of frying, and of course it also happens to be much easier. You still have to peel carefully, but the pepper can be splayed open wide to fit in a lot of filling and doesn’t need to close for its oven time. These days, naturally, there’s no meat in my rellenos, just a combination of whatever seasonal roasted or sauteed vegetables I happen to have around, usually with some beans: black, pinto or garbanzo.

While the chilies are roasting, I make a quick, chipotle-spiked avocado-and-yogurt sauce. After I drizzle it on the finished peppers, I sprinkle them with pumpkin seeds for a little crunch.

I’d say it couldn’t be simpler, but I’d be lying. It would be easier if I skipped the step of blackening and peeling the poblanos first, a shortcut I’ve been meaning to try as I think about the similarities between this dish and Italian-style stuffed red or green peppers.

Roasted Chiles Rellenos
With Avocado Sauce

4 servings

Chiles rellenos don’t have to be cheese-stuffed, battered and fried, especially when you’re making them at home and want things to be a little bit quicker and a lot more healthful.

This version packs them with vegetables (and, okay, a small amount of cheese), then tops them with a tangy, spicy sauce made from avocados, yogurt and a little adobo from canned chipotles. Feel free to substitute your favorite seasonal produce. If you have leftover filling, save it to eat over rice or pasta or on a salad another day.

Serve the poblanos with rice.

MAKE AHEAD: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

For the chiles rellenos

4 large poblano peppers

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1½ teaspoons ground ancho chili powder

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut into ½-inch chunks

½ pound thin green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup canned, no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

½ cup pitted green olives, chopped

4 ounces (about 1 cup) Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Kosher or sea salt

For the sauce

Flesh of 1 ripe avocado

¼ cup plain low-fat yogurt

½ teaspoon adobo (from canned chipotles)

Juice of 1 lime

¼ cup water, plus more as needed

¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted (see NOTE)

For the chiles rellenos: Position an oven rack 4 to 5 inches from the broiler element or flame; preheat the broiler.

Arrange the poblanos on a pan. Broil, turning periodically, until the peppers are charred all over, a few minutes on each side. Transfer them to a heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a plate to steam as they cool. Turn off the broiler; preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Pour the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer, sprinkle in the ancho chili powder and cook briefly, just until it foams and releases its aroma. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften. Stir in the zucchini and green beans, and cook until they have barely started to soften. Remove from the heat and stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, olives and cheese. Season with salt to taste. Cool.

When the poblanos are cool enough to handle, gently rub off their blackened skins, being careful to keep the stems and flesh intact. Cut a slit on one side of each poblano, starting near the stem and cutting most of the way down the side. Carefully reach in and remove the seeds. Use your hands to carefully stuff the filling into the poblanos, packing them as full as possible and mounding the filling on top, if desired. Carefully transfer the stuffed poblanos to a roasting pan, cut sides up, leaving the filling exposed.

Roast until the filling sizzles and the cheese has melted, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Use a fork to thoroughly mash the avocado flesh in a medium bowl. Whisk in the yogurt, adobo, lime juice and water to form a thick sauce, adding more water if you want to adjust the consistency.

Divide the chiles rellenos among individual plates. Spoon some of the sauce on top of each, then sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.

NOTE: Toast the pumpkin seeds in a large, dry skillet over medium heat for 2 to 4 minutes, until the seeds pop and turn golden brown. Cool completely before using.

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