The Thrill of the Old

To say there have been a lot of changes in my life within the past year is an understatement. In fact, even within the last couple of months I’ve adopted a new country, moved into a new house and signed a contract with a new publisher.

Now, I like new. I like different. I like change. But when the default mode in my life is transition, I need to balance it with a little familiar.

How do I do that?

Like Sherry Wilson-Wong, the heroine of my latest novel Dance with Me, I put on my proverbial apron and cook.

Sherry’s no domestic goddess. The dust bunny collection gathering under the Ikea coffee table in her Brooklyn studio is evidence of that. But when she’s feeling overwhelmed, it’s stirring and sautéing the spicy dishes her Singaporean mother taught her that brings back her equilibrium.

While the menu at our house tended more toward shepherd’s pie and mac and cheese, and my dust bunnies never live to breed, I get the same sense of calm from slicing and dicing that Sherry does. But whereas she sticks to her mother’s recipes, I try to recreate tastes I’ve had on my travels, like these cheese-filled poblano chiles.


When we were poor English teachers living in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, one of our favorite splurges was a visit to a local family-run restaurant for stuffed poblano peppers on the grill. The combination of spicy charred chile and creamy molten cheese was insanely delicious. So when I saw a pile of emerald green poblanos at my local farmers’ market, I knew exactly what I had to do.

Speedy San Luis Poblanos Rellenos

Serves 4 greedy people.


5 poblano peppers

3/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled (feta will work, in a pinch)

1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend

1 cup quick-cooking farro

1 (15 oz) can of black beans

  1. Preheat the broiler and place the peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil the peppers, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and black in places.
  2. Place the peppers in a large Ziplock bag and seal.
  3. In the meantime, turn off the broiler and set the oven to 400 F. Prepare the farro according to the package directions and drain and rinse the beans.
  4. Remove the peppers from the bag and carefully peel off the blistered skin. Don’t worry about removing it all. Slice off the tops of the peppers and remove and discard the seeds.
  5. Combine the two cheeses and, using a spoon, fill the peppers’ cavities. Return to the foiled baking sheet and pop in the oven for 2-5 minutes.
  6. Drain the farro and combine with the black beans. Spread on a plate. Top with the oozy, melty peppers. Eat and enjoy. (Alternatively, you can skip the farro and beans and just serve them with warm corn tortillas.)

I consider it comfort food with a kick. I’m pretty sure Sherry would approve, and I think you will, too.

WARNING: Poblanos can vary greatly in heat intensity. Dance with Me, on the other hand, is consistently hot. Consume with caution.