The Kid Stays in the Kitchen: Gilberto’s Chiles en Nogada


This is the second week of our cooking series, The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.”  Each week a student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words.  This week features Gilberto, who decided to cook Chiles en Nogada, a traditional Mexican dish with his mom.

Cooking with my mother isn’t something that I do all that often. In my family we have this mindset that one person – either my mom or my dad — cooks for the other members. And although food is very much a uniting force in my family and in Mexican culture as a whole, cooking is a solitary activity in our home.  Nonetheless, my mom and I both found it very different and enjoyable to have someone in the kitchen to chop and chat with.

My family had debated for a while what we were going to cook for dinner since we all had to eat it that night. After much deliberation between my parents and me, we finally decided on Chiles en Nogada. It is a take on another Mexican dish called Chiles Rellenos, which means Stuffed Peppers in Spanish. My mom has made Chiles Rellenos many times but she never actually tried Chiles en Nogada, so she had to call my grandmother, who still lives in Mexico, to get the recipe. My mom told me that as a child, she and her brothers would always have this when there was a big celebration in her neighborhood in Mexico City. The dish is made traditionally in the month of September around the time of Independence Day. The colors of the dish represent each of the three main colors of the Mexican flag: the green poblano chiles are stuffed with ground meat, chopped fruit and spices and dressed with a creamy walnut sauce and topped with red pomegranate seeds.   There’s a real patriotic connection to the dish, according to my grandmother, and it means a lot to the people of Mexico.  — Gilberto A.

Recipe for Chiles en Nogada by Gilberto’s grandmother, Guillermina


  • 5 green bell peppers (or Poblano if you can find them)

For the stuffing:

  • 1 Spoonful of Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Diced Onion
  • 2 diced garlic cloves
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 2 peeled tomatoes without seeds
  • 1 diced plantain
  • 1 diced apple (of your choice)
  • 1 diced peach
  • 1 diced pear
  • 7 to 8 olives
  • ¼ cup of almonds
  • ¼ cup of raisins
  • 1 whole clove
  • ¼ spoon of salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • ½ bar of cream cheese
  • 2 cups of walnuts
  • ½ cup of whole milk
  • ¼ spoonful of cinnamon
  • ½ cup of pomegranate seeds



Toast each pepper individually over an open flame. Put them inside a plastic back to make them sweat for 30 minutes. Take them out of the bag and peel off the skin.


Mix in the diced pears, peaches, apples, and plantain into one bowl. Preheat pot on low heat for 15 minutes. Add ground beef and onions into pot. Keep on low heat and cook for 20 minutes.  Stir in fruit mixture as well as the olives, tomatoes, cloves, and garlic cloves.  Turn the heat off and put it into another container.  Mix in salt and almonds.


Add all ingredients except the pomegranate seeds into a blender.  Blend on low speed for 30 seconds.


Cut a small slit in each pepper on one side and with a small spoon, gently fill the pepper with the meat stuffing.  Pour the walnut sauce on top and garnish with pomegranate seeds.  Enjoy!

The Kid Stays in the Kitchen: Tammi’s Zaboon


I’m excited to present our student cooking series, The Kid Stays in the Kitchen.”  Each week a student is assigned to cook a traditional dish with a friend or family member and document the experience in photos and words.  This week features Tammi, whose mom merges Iraqi-Jewish and Russian-Jewish traditions into their family meals, and together they cooked zaboon

When I was younger, I was a very picky eater. But zaboon, I devoured. I am one-fourth Russian-Jewish and three-fourths Iraqi-Jewish, and cow tongue is prepared in both cultures. My mom, half Iraqi and half Russian, combines the cuisines. The stew has an Ashkenazi base of tomato sauce, onions and mushrooms, but the spices, turmeric and cayenne, are as Iraqi as it gets.  The name of the dish, zaboon, is the Arabic name, and literally means tongue. It was the perfect parts sweet, tender, and a taste I can only associate with my home. Refusing to mix it myself as a child, I have vivid memories of my dad folding the rice into the stew. And then one day, when I was at that age when you begin to make connections, about seven or eight, I realized that zaboon was actually cow tongue. Eeeew! And that was it. I cut myself off cold turkey.

About a year later,  I was unable to resist any longer.  I got over the stigma — probably because everyone in my family seemed to enjoy it —  and indulged in the delicious, aromatic stew.  I have memories of eating it quite often since then, always on Friday nights for our special Shabbat meal. It is also eaten on Rosh Ha’Shanah, the Jewish New Year, at the Seder table. According to Iraqi tradition, zaboon is eaten so that our year should be  “l’rosh ve lo l’zanav”, like the head and not the tail. And during Rosh Ha’Shannah, when my mom makes this dish for the whole family, I make sure to be the first person in line at the buffet to scoop some onto my rice before everyone else devours it. Now, however, I mix it myself.  — Tammi H.

Recipe for Zaboon by Tammi’s mom, Ellen


  • 2 cow tongues
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Water
  • 2 cooking onions
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 cans of tomato sauce – 15 ounces each
  • 10 ounces mushrooms – 1 package
  • Ground pepper*
  • Turmeric*
  • Cayenne pepper*

*Add to taste

Day One

Let the zaboon defrost over night. In the morning, boil the zaboon in enough water to suspend it for three hours and add the two bay leaves. This will clean the zaboon and the bay leaves will cut the grease. After two hours, test the zaboon for tenderness with a fork. Cook until the fork should come out with ease (about three hours).  Take the zaboon out and place on a plate to cool. Once cool, cover and refrigerate.

Day Two

Skin and chop the onions. Cut the onion in half, put the flat side on the cutting board and proceed to chop in half-inch slivers. Clean and chop the mushrooms in fourths, lengthwise. Pour the oil into a pot, and then add the onions and mushrooms. Sautee for 10 minutes and stir occasionally. As you are stirring, add a splash of water, pepper, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Let sit for ten minutes, or until the mushrooms and onions have softened and released juices. Then, pour in one can of tomato sauce, fill it half way with water, and pour the water into the pot. Then pour in half of the other can of tomato sauce.  Let the mushrooms, onions, and sauce boil with the lid on for about ten minutes. Then, place it into a container, let cool, and place in the refrigerator until ready to cook. This allows the flavors to mature and mix.

Remove the zaboon from the refrigerator  and peel the outer thick skin (leather like). Slice each zaboon width wise in quarter inch slices. If you would like, cut the slices in half to make the pieces smaller. On the plate that the zaboon was on, a gel-like substance has formed, which is the solidified fat. Use the gel to line the bottom of the casserole dish. Place the zaboon on top of the gel. Pour the sauce on top. Mix the sauce and zaboon. Add water if the consistency is too thick.  Pat it down with a fork to level. Cover with the lid, and bake in the oven at 350°F for 1 hour.