Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sic Transit Gloria: changing of the seasons

As the seasons begin to change, our diets need to do that as well so we stay in harmony with our world. Otherwise dis-ease. There's so much piled so high just now at farmers' markets--the tomatoes and eggplants of summer, the cabbages and delicata squashes of winter, apples, raspberries and plums.

Here are a few ideas for transitional eating based on what's in the markets as September starts to fade and we can now some days use some heat from the stove or oven.

Spanish style crisp cauliflower

1 sm cauliflower, cored and broken into florets
1/4 c chickpea flour or thin cornmeal
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika (flavor choice)
2-3 c sunflower or corn or peanut oil for deep frying
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp small capers
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the cauliflower florets in salted boiling water 5-8 minutes until tender.
While it's cooking, in a sm/med bowl, combine the flour, spices and a pinch of salt plus a good grind of pepper.
Drain the cauliflower carefully and while it's still hot, roll it in the flour mix until all florets are covered.
In a deep fryer or very deep pot, heat the oil to the sizzle point. (That's when you sprinkle a tiny drop of water on it and it sizzles like mad.) Fry the cauliflower in batches if you have to until it's golden brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

 Pile the cauliflower on a serving plate.
Sprinkle the vinegar over it.
Toss the capers and parsley over it.
Add a pinch of salt and serve hot.

Cherry Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thinly
2 ½ lbs cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ tsp sugar (or a bit more or less, depending on the tomatoes’ sweetness)
optionally: 2 dried ancho chillies, roughly torn
4 sprigs of large basil leaves, shredded plus 1 extra, finely chopped just before serving, to garnish

Put the oil in a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the garlic and fry for up to a minute, stirring a few times, until it’s just starting to caramelize. Add the tomatoes (be gentle, or the oil may spit), sugar, chilies and 1/2 tsp salt. Add 1 cup water and stir through for 4 minutes, until the tomatoes are starting to break down and the liquid is bubbling. Turn down the heat to medium-low and cook for an hour, stirring every once in a while, until the tomatoes have completely broken down and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the shredded basil and keep warm til ready to serve. Once on the pasta, add the finely chopped basil as colorful garnish.

Late September Salad
for 8 (half the recipe for 4)

4 Hakurei/salad turnips, stems and root off and washed
1 lg cucumber, skinned
2-3 sm fresh red onions, roots and skin removed
1 sm red, orange or yellow bell pepper, washed and seeded
1 head butter lettuce, washed, leaves separated
1 head red leaf lettuce, washed, leaves separated
8 dates, remove pits or buy pitted
1 sprig fresh mint, leaves only, minced
2 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 c (2 oz) grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing: 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 6 tbsp (1/3 c) best quality olive oil, 1 sm garlic clove minced

Get out a large wooden bowl or trencher.
Half the turnips, then thinly slice each half 4-5 times. Put cut turnips in the bowl.
Cut the cucumber in half across the middle, then cut each half in three equal strips lengthwise. Slice across each strip to make bite-sized chunks and put them in the bowl.
Cut the onions into very thin disks and break them apart into rings as you put them in the bowl.
Cut the pepper lengthwise into the thinnest possible strips, then cut each strip in half and add to the bowl.
Cut each date in half, slice each half in 2-3 strips and cut the strips in half crosswise. Add to the bowl.
Tear the lettuces into bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl.
Add the mint, seeds and cheese. Season to your taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Combine the three dressing ingredients in a small jar or bowl and blend thoroughly.
When ready to serve, pour the dressing on the salad and toss it.

Chinese Cabbage
for 2 (double it for 4)

2 tbsp corn or sunflower oil
3 tsp  Szechuan peppercorns
4 med garlic cloves, smashed then thinly sliced
3 scallions, chopped
1 sm green chili, minced
4 dried red chilies, crumbled or 1 heaping tsp crushed chili pepper flakes
1 med Savoy or pointed (aka sweetheart) cabbage, torn into 2 1/2" pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp sugar

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add the peppercorns and fry them about 30 seconds until they turn brown. With a skimmer or strainer, remove them. Add the garlic, chilies and scallions and stir fry a few seconds before adding the cabbage. Stir fry just until it becomes tender. Add soy sauce and sugar, stir to blend and stir fry 20 seconds to heat everything. Serve immediately.

Corn Pudding
This is from the book, How To Fix a Leek....
serves 8-10

½ c all purpose flour 1 tsp ground chipotle chili powder 
10-12 ears corn, husked 
 Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 lg eggs at room temperature 
 1 tsp ground nutmeg 
2 c half and half 4 tbsp soft butter, cut in bits 
1 tbsp light brown sugar

Butter a pie or baking dish 2½” deep and 10” round. Preheat oven to 350º.

Scraping upwards with a small, sharp knife, cut the corn kernels into a bowl. Using the back of the knife scrap downward to catch remaining kernels and corn milk. Put the corn in a food processor with eggs, half and half, flour, salt, pepper, chili powder and sugar. Process 3-4 seconds to blend. Pour mixture into baking dish. Sprinkle top with nutmeg and butter bits.
   Place baking dish in a large baking pan, put into the hot oven and fill the bottom pan with water halfway up the sides of the pudding container. Bake 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. Serve hot.

Provencal Tomato Soup
This recipe, which I included in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking, was given to me by a housewife in Brittany, France who told me she brought it with her as her mother's gift to her marriage when she left her home in sunny Provence.

Serves 4-5

 2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, skinned (optional) and chopped
2 lg. onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 mildly hot small pepper, whole
2 tbsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to your taste
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley for garnish (5-6 sprigs)

Optional garnish: buttered garlic croutons

In a medium sized heavy gauge casserole, heat butter and olive oil together until butter melts. Stir in thyme and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add onions, bay leaf and a pinch of ground black pepper. Stir to blend and sauté over medium low heat until the onions are soft and glistening.

Add the tomatoes and mix well. Drop in the whole pepper. If the tomatoes aren’t juicy, add ½ cup water to avoid burning. Cover and simmer on low for 20-25 minutes, until the tomatoes become soupy. (If the soup is too thick and pasty, add either another ¼ cup of water or dry sherry if you’d like.)

Remove the bay leaf and whole pepper. Stir in the parsley. Remove from heat. Adjust salt and pepper to your taste and serve with or without garlic croutons.

Because this freezes very well, it’s an excellent way to preserve summer’s bounty.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Food as Pesticide

Just a reminder: you've got three perfect pesticides in your kitchen.
Cinnamon repels sweet ants, the ones that like your kitchen and other wet areas best. A crucially placed stick will make them retreat. Ground cinnamon will too but it's a mess to clean up when you're done. The logic of this trick is simple: cinnamon is actually tropical tree bark, and as we now know, plants will secrete chemicals to protect themselves from predators, in this case crawling ants.

Chili pepper flakes sprinkled all over your flower garden will keep voles, groundhogs and other four legged munchers out once they got a hot bite.
And the good news is the chili pepper flakes won't hurt the plants or the critters.
Again the logic is simple: that heat in those chili peppers, stored in its seeds, contain a powerful chemical developed by the plant to protect itself from predators.

And finally, what to do with that little sip of leftover red wine from last night: put it in a shallow bowl or cup and leave it out on the kitchen counter for 24 hours. It will trap and drown all those annoying fruit flies you can't seem to get rid of just when you want to leave all those luscious fruits and tomatoes on the counter and not have to put them in the fridge to kill their ripening and flavoring. The logic: wine is from fruit and it's sugary and that's what attracts those little buggers.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

How to fix a Leek...because they're back in full force right now

It's leek time again. They're piled high at farmers' markets, sold by the pound or bunch at relatively cheap prices because of their abundance.
To quote myself from an earlier leek post: Venerable is another word for the leek. "Eat leeks in March and ramps in May, And all the year after the physicians may play," is an old English proverb. The stalk has always been prized for its medicinal magic. Hippocrates, the so called father of Western medicine, supposedly prescribed it for nosebleeds. During medieval times, it was thought to cure a sore throat, to be an antidote for certain poisons, and a diagnostic tool.

The hardscrabble people of the British Isles actually revered the leek. It's not only still the national symbol of Wales, key ingredient in the infamous Scottish cockaleekie soup. It's given names to many an English town. Leighton, Leyton, Laughton, Leckhampton, Loughrigg and Lawkland all mean something like "land of the leek." It's also endowed that far more pungent bulb with the name we English speakers recognize: garlic--as gar-leek.

So here are a few favorite and new ways to fix a leek right now:

Braised Chicken with Leeks
serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil or butter or chicken fat
2 skinless chicken leg-thigh quarters
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 skin-on chicken breast, split to yield 2 halves
3 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and chopped
4 carrots, chopped
6 celery ribs, chopped, leaves reserved for garnish
12 to 16 oz fresh mushrooms, quartered or sliced
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
Chicken-wing meat
2 c chicken stock

1. Heat oven to 350º. Put the chicken fat or olive oil or butter in a roasting pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle the leg quarters with salt and pepper and add them to the pan, flesh side down. Cook, turning and rotating the pieces as necessary, until well browned on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove, then add the breast halves, skin side down. Brown them well, then flip and cook for just 1 minute or so; remove to a separate plate.
2. Put leeks, carrots, celery, mushrooms, rosemary and chicken-wing meat in the same pan and cook until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Nestle the leg quarters among the vegetables, meaty side up (hold the breasts til later). Add enough chicken stock to come about halfway up the thighs. (The amount will depend on the breadth of your pan; add a little water if necessary.)
4. Put the pan in the oven and cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour, checking occasionally and stirring the vegetables if they threaten to brown too much. When the thigh meat is tender, raise the heat to 400 and lay the breast halves on the vegetables, skin side up. Continue cooking until they are done, 20 to 30 minutes longer.
5. Transfer the vegetables to a platter. You can serve one of two ways: slice the breasts and shred the leg-and-thigh meat and lay the meat on top of the vegetables; or cut the leg-thigh pieces in half, cut the breasts in half and give each person a little of each. Garnish with reserved chopped celery leaves. 

Pork Cutlets with Leeks in Cream from the English cook Nigel Slater
serves 4

4, ¼ lb pork fillets

1 lg egg
½ c panko or other crisp small breadcrumbs
2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, cut in half again and diced
3 tbsp butter
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
3-4 gherkin pickles, drained
½ c heavy cream
1 tbsp green peppercorns
salt and freshly ground black pepper

With a rolling pin or cutlet bat, flatten the pork fillets.
Break an egg into a shallow bowl and spread the breadcrumbs in a thick layer on a plate. Season them with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil in a shallow lidded frying pan, add leeks, cover and cook over low heat 5 minutes, stirring regularly until they are soft but not browned at all. Chop the gherkins into thick rounds and stir them into the leeks. Add the cream and green peppercorns. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.

Dip the pork fillets into the egg, then the breadcrumbs, pressing firmly so the crumbs stick. Over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp butter and 3 tbsp olive oil in another shallow pan. Add the pork and cook the fillets 3-4 minutes or until crumbs are golden, then flip and cook the other side. When that side is also golden, remove meat to a serving platter and surround with the leek sauce.

Fish with Leek Agrodulce
Agrodulce is Italian for sweet and sour
Serves 2

1 ¼ lbs hake (or other firm white fish)
3 medium leeks, cleaned and steamed til soft
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp capers, rinsed
7 green olives, sliced
1 tbsp white raisins
1 small red chili, chopped (optional)
3 sprigs parsley, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 400º. Brush the hake and leeks with olive oil, season with salt, then roast for about 10 minutes, not together so you can separate them later. Meanwhile, make the agrodolce: mix the lemon juice, zest, some sea salt flakes, honey, capers, olives, raisins, chili and parsley. It should be perfectly sweet and sour, but adjust to your taste. Toss the leeks in the agrodolce sauce as soon as they are out of the oven. Let them absorb it for 1-2 minutes, then serve on top of and all around the hake.

Eggs with Leeks and Herbs
Serves 6

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
4 leeks, trimmed and sliced 1/4" thick
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and crushed
1 small preserved lemon, seeds discarded, skin and flesh finely chopped
1 1/4 c vegetable stock
1 lb baby spinach leaves
6 eggs
1/3 lb feta, broken into roughly 1” pieces
1 tbsp za’atar or half/half minced flat leaf parsley and cilantro

In a large sauté pan that has a lid, melt the butter with a tbsp. of oil on a medium-high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the leeks, ½ teaspoon salt and a generous grind of pepper. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring often, until the leeks are soft, then add the cumin, lemon and vegetable stock. Boil 4-5 minutes until most of the stock has evaporated. Fold in the spinach, cook for a minute until wilted. Turn down the heat to medium.

Make six indentations in the mixture (a large spoon is the best tool for this), and break an egg into each space. Sprinkle the eggs with a generous pinch of salt, dot the feta around, then cover the pan and leave to simmer 4-5 minutes, until the egg whites are set and the yolks still runny.

Mix the za’atar or parsley mix with the remaining oil and brush gently over the eggs so as not to break the yolks. Remove from heat and take to the table to serve straight from the pan. 
NOTE: In that photo I sprinkled some Aleppo pepper on the eggs instead of Za'atar. 

And of course back again because they are an all-time favorite and a vegetarian delight:
Leek Patties
Makes 8, serves 4-6

6 lg leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tbsp fresh chives, minced
2 eggs, beaten
½-2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 tsp coarse sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp corn or canola oil for frying
1 lemon

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and crosswise and rinse to clean.
Put leeks in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil.
Lower heat to simmer and cook uncovered about 25 minutes, until leeks are soft.
Drain well. Wrap leeks in a heavy towel to squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

Coarsely chop the leeks. Put in a bowl with the chives, salt and pepper. Stir in the breadcrumbs. (Enough to take up any remaining moisture in the leeks.) Blend in the eggs. 
Make 8 patties that are about ½ inch thick.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Arrange the patties in the pan so they don’t touch (you may have to do this in two batches) and cook until brown on the bottom side, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes so both sides are evenly browned. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Serve with a squirt of lemon juice and a wedge of lemon.
Optionally sprinkle minced fresh flat leaf parsley on the plate.
Can be served warm or cold.

And finally, the most classic leek dish in the books,
Vichyssoise: Leek and Potato Soup
from Anthony Bourdain as served at Les Halles in Manhattan

4 tbsp butter
8 leeks white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes cut into small cubes
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
4 fresh chives, finely chopped
1 pinch nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large, heavy bottom pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted, add the leeks and sweat for 5 minutes, making sure they do not take on any color. Add potatoes and cook for a minute or two, stirring a few times. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook on low heat, gently simmering 35 minutes, or until the leeks and potatoes are very soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Slowly, and in SMALL batches, puree the soup at a high speed in the blender. Do this bit by bit, never filling the blender too high. Make sure the bender lid is on, and lean on the top when you turn on to keep the lid down.
Return soup to the cooking pot and whisk in cream and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Return to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook 5 minutes. If you want thinner soup, add more broth.
Vichyssoise is traditionally served ice cold but you can serve if hot from the pot if you prefer. To chill it: Transfer soup to the mixing bowl and chill over an ice bath, stirring occasionally. When soup is room temperature, cover in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator to cool. To serve: check seasoning, sprinkle with chives and serve in chilled bowls. Vichyssoise gets better over time as it sits so you can keep it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap for a day or two.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Packs of Peppers: part 2

As promised, more worldly ways to feast on all those vivid, dazzling peppers at farmers' markets right now: from Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Great Britain, Italy, Macedonia, and New England. Soups, side dishes, snacks, relish, main name it: peppers will come through for you. And most of what you make of them can be frozen to enjoy when they aren't around in the flesh.

Macedonian Bean and Pepper Soup

Serves 6
1 lb dried white beans (Great Northern, Kidney, navy, cannellini)
2 med/lg carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery with leaves, diced
1 lg onion, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper
1 tsp dried sage
3½ cups vegetable broth
3 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
2 yellow or orange bell peppers, roasted and peeled
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (Balsamic is too strong)
5-6 tbsp olive oil
18-20 pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
Salt to your taste
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pick over the beans. Soak in enough water to cover and refrigerate overnight.

Roast the peppers. Remove stems, skin membrane and seeds. Chop into small ¼” cubes. Combine peppers, vinegar and 1 tbsp olive oil in a glass or ceramic small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Drain the beans. Put in a large pan, cover well with cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain well. In a large, heavy gauge pot, heat enough olive oil 4-5 tbsp to cover the bottom. Add carrots, celery, onion, black pepper and sage. Sauté on low heat for 2 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Stir in the beans. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1½ hours until beans are tender.

Drain peppers. Add peppers and olives to the warm soup. Add salt to your taste and finally the lemon juice. Serve immediately. Great with an arugula salad, crusty bread and soft cheese.

Hungarian Lecso
This always starts out as a simple stew celebrating the harvest of peppers, tomatoes and onions. Some cooks add sausages to the mix--smoked or hot or garlicky or all of them, some toss in rice and sausages (which is how I learned it) to make a complete meal, and some scramble eggs in the stew, essentially making what Turks call menemen.  Good ideas get around.

 Here's the basic recipe from Hungary for 4:
2 1/4 lbs bell peppers (all green or all colors)
Generous I lb tomatoes 
1 large onion 
4 tbsp oil 
1 heaped tbsp ground paprika

Remove stalks and  seeds from the peppers, and cut into finger-width strips or rings. Remove the stem end from the tomatoes, and  slice them thinly. Finely chop the onion and fry in the hot oil, stirring continuously, until translucent. Stir in the paprika. Add the peppers and salt, and cover with a lid. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook until soft. 
Lecso with bacon drippings
Prepare the lecsó in accordance with the basic recipe, using bacon drippings instead of the fat. Dice about 5 oz/150 g smoked bacon and heat until the fat runs, then remove the cracklings.

Lecso with sausage
Add 1 lb of your favorite sausage cut into bite sized chunks just before it is ready, and cook for a few minutes til the sausage browns. The sausage can also be left whole; use one pair for each person.
Lecso with rice and sausages
This is how I learned to make it and what is pictured here.
Fry 1 cup short grain rice in a little oil. Prepare the lecsó according to the basic recipe. Then add the cut sausages and rice plus 2 cups vegetable broth and a tsp of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover pot and cook 12-15 minutes until the rice is done.

P.S. I did not use tomatoes this time.

Lecso with egg

Beat the eggs (1-2 per person) until smooth, and add a little salt. Pour over the cooked lecsó, and heat the mixture, stirring continuously, until the egg begins to set. Both the basic recipe for lecsó and the versions using bacon drippings and sausage can be used here.

Blistered Shisito Peppers 
These skinny Japanese peppers get addictive once you blister them in hot oil and pour on the Fleur de sel.
There's no need for a detailed recipe. All you need is a farmers' market green "carton" of shisito peppers, 1 tbsp olive or for a real taste changer sesame oil and seriously good salt.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a shallow frying pan, throw in the peppers, shake the pan so they get into the oil and let them blister in it. That takes less than 5 minute so don't walk away. Shake the pan to flip them once they blister on the down side so they blister on the other. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, put on your serving plate and add lots of good big flake salt. Enjoy!

Roasted Red Peppers with herbs, capers and goat cheese 
for 6
5-6 lg red bell peppers although orange ones work too (it's the vivid color you want)
1/4 c tbsp olive oil
Sea or kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 sm log goat cheese

1 tbsp capers, drained
1/4 c finely chopped fresh herbs like flat leaf parsley, mint, cilantro, basil--whichever flavor your prefer. you can also mix parsley and mint

Preheat the oven to 450º. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and clean the interiors of seeds and membranes. Rinse and dry thoroughly. LIne a cookie sheet with tin foil and place the peppers interior side up in a single layer. LIghtly salt them. Distribute 3 tbsp of olive oil over all the peppers evenly as you can. If you need more use it. no problem. Roast the peppers 20 minutes or until they are soft and starting to char. Remove and cool.

To serve: place the peppers on a serving platter and sprinkle lightly with freshly ground black pepper and salt. Distribute the capers among the peppers. Slice a thin disk off the goat cheese log for each pepper and place it in the center of each pepper, on top of the capers. Sprinkle the herb or herbs all over and serve warm or at room temperature.  You can make bruschetta out of these by putting each roasted pepper on top of a piece of toast.

New England Corn Chowder with Colorful Peppers
 serves 6

2 tbsp butter or ghee
1 lg onion, peeled and diced
1 poblano pepper, roasted, skinned and diced
1 Serrano or other hot green chili, seeded and diced
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground chipotle pepper
1 tsp cracked or freshly ground black pepper
3 cups corn kernels (can be 4-5 fresh ears, frozen or canned corn)
3 celery stalks, cleaned and diced
2 cups water
3 medium potatoes (any color), peeled and cubed
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp. diced pimento (roasted red pepper)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tomatillos, peeled and coarsely chopped
12 oz. evaporated milk (not sweetened
4 oz heavy cream
For garnish: chopped fresh chives, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded jack or cheddar cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds

If you are using fresh corn on the cob, cut the corn off the cobs and put the cobs into a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer while you make the chowder.

Melt butter in a medium soup pot or casserole. Add onions, pasilla and chili peppers, sage and oregano. Sauté over medium heat until onions are golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in coriander, chipotle, black pepper and celery. Continue to sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Puree one cup of corn with 1 tbsp vegetable broth and add to the pot, stirring to blend. Add potatoes, salt and the rest of the vegetable broth. Blend ingredients, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 2 cups corn kernels, pimentos and tomatillos. If you have boiled corncobs in water, remove the cobs and pour the corn-flavored water into the soup. If you didn’t do this, simply add two cups of water. Continue to simmer covered on medium low heat for 5-8 minutes. (You don’t have to be exact.) Taste for salt and adjust to preference. Stir in evaporated milk and heavy cream. Cook over medium low heat uncovered until the soup is warmed thoroughly. Do not bring to a boil once the milk and cream have been included. Stir once to blend all flavors.
Ladle into large soup bowls and garnish with any or all of the ingredients listed above.

Chili Rellenos

For 6

6 fresh Anaheim or Poblano or New Mexican Hatch peppers
1 (8 ounce) package queso asadero (white Mexican cheese), cut into 3/4-inch thick strips
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup corn oil for frying

Preheat the oven's broiler and set a rack about 6 inches from the heat source. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place peppers onto the prepared baking sheet, and broil until the skin of the peppers has blackened and blistered, about 10 minutes. Turn the peppers often to blacken all sides. Place the blackened peppers in a bowl, and tightly seal with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to steam as they cool, about 15 minutes. This should help peel off the skins easily. If not run under cold water first but in any event remove the membrane from the peppers. Cut a slit along the long side of each pepper to remove the seeds and core.

Stuff the peppers with strips of the cheese.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the baking powder. In a second metal bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until the whites form stiff peaks. Gently fold beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture. Place flour into a shallow bowl.

Heat the vegetable shortening in a skillet over medium heat. Roll each stuffed pepper in flour, tap off excess flour, and dip the peppers into the egg mixture to coat both sides. Gently lay the coated peppers into the hot shortening. Fry peppers until lightly golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes per side.

You can serve this plain or with a tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa under or over it.
Red Pepper Pickles

FIlls 3 pint jars

This is a vintage recipe from a 1975 Midwestern canning book.

12 lg red bell peppers (about 3 1/2 lbs)
2 1/2 c cider vinegar
1 1/4 c sugar
1 lg cinnamon stick
12 whole cloves (tied in cheesecloth of convenience(

Wash the peppers, quarter them lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes. Cut the clean quarters into 3" wide strips. Put these in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Cover and set aside 3 minutes. Drain and immediately cover the peppers with ice cold water to cool them down. Set aside 10 minutes.

Combine vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves in a heavy gauge saucepan. Bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil 2-3 minutes.

Drain the peppers in a colander set into a large bowl so you can retain the liquid. Pack them into clean, sterilized hot pint jars. Fill the jars with the hot vinegar mixture up to 1/2" from the top. Remove air bubbles and add some of that reserved pepper liquid if you need to get to the filing line of 1/2" below the top. Seal the jars and put in a water bath for 20 minutes.

Here's a Christmas present you can give if you don't eat them all first.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Pick a pack of peppers

High tide time for peppers of every color, size and heat! All that vitamin C!
Now's the time to indulge in your favorite pepper recipes. Apparently everybody does because tasty recipes come from all over the world. Here are a few of mine.

Muhamarra (Persian)

5 lg. firm red bell peppers
1½ tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups shelled walnuts (whole, halves or pieces)
1 lg. garlic clove
1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses (alas there is no adequate substitute)
½ lemon, juice only

Roast the red peppers for 10 minutes at 450 degrees to blister the skins (you can do this in a large toaster oven or regular oven). Remove from heat and put immediately into a brown paper bag. Fold down the top of the bag to stop steam from escaping and leave the bag on the counter for ten minutes. Remove the peppers and peel off the thin skin membrane that started to detach in the blistering process.

Chop the skinned peppers in a large dice, put in a sauce pan and cover slightly more than half way with water (about 1 ½ cups). Bring the water to a boil and boil hard for five to ten minutes to soften the peppers. Add water if necessary. Pour the pot contents into a food processor and puree the peppers. Return the puree to the pot, put over medium heat and boil uncovered to reduce the puree to a spreadable jam-like thickness (about 25 minutes), stirring frequently to be sure nothing burns. The pepper paste is thick enough when a spoon opens a clear path along the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, roast the walnuts on a baking sheet at 350 degrees 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown and release a nutty aroma. Grind them in a food processor or grinder to create not so much fine meal as tiny splinters.

When the pepper sauce has thickened and been removed from the heat, stir in the salt and spices, garlic, molasses, lemon juice and ground walnuts. Blend well. Now stir in 3-4 tbsp. olive oil to create your desired spreadable consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour into a serving bowl and surround with thick cucumber disks or pita triangles. Optional garnishes could be chopped and roasted walnuts or breadcrumbs fried in olive oil.

Piperade (Basque)
serves 4-6

1 large green bell pepper, washed and seeded
1 large red bell pepper, washed and seeded
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, washed and seeded
1 med-lg red onion, peeled
3 lg garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¼ tsp dried oregano leaves
1/8 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to your taste
Optional additions: 1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 small Poblano or poblano pepper (if you want some chili hotness) treated like the bell peppers
¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish

Slice all bell peppers into long thin strips. Optionally, you can julienne them into short, thin matchsticks.
Cut onion into thin rings, then in half and break the rings apart into thin half moon pieces. (Cut in half again if you are making matchsticks out of the peppers so everything is uniform size.)

In a large sauté pan, heat oil (use enough tbsp to thickly coat the entire bottom of the pan. Add garlic and oregano leaves and stir-fry over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add onion and sauté for another 30 seconds.Add all peppers, trying to keep them in a uniform direction. Continue cooking over medium or medium low heat until pepper strips are soft but haven’t lost their bright colors. This will take 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat. (If you are using tomatoes, add them here and continue to sauté over medium low heat until they are mushy.)
 WHAT TO DO WITH PIPERADE: Put in on an omelet, over pasta, on baked white fish like halibut or haddock, serve beside a grit souffle or with a hamburger.

Pepperonata (the Italian version)
for 6
2 tbsp butter
2 lbs green peppers, blanched and seeded
¼ c olive oil 
2 lbs tomatoes, seeded and chopped or a 32 oz box
2 lg onions, thinly sliced 
1 tsp. red wine vinegar 
1 tsp salt 
1/8 tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper

Cut peppers into strips 1” long and ½” wide. Over medium heat, melt butter with the oil in a heavy skillet. Add onion and sauté stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until they are soft and golden. Add pepper strips, reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to medium and stir continually while the liquid boils away. Serve hot with sausages, eggs and/or cornbread. Or chill and serve cold as part of an antipasto platter or with cold chicken.

Shakshuka (Lebanese/Palestinian)

Serves 4
 3 tbsp fruity olive oil 
3 lg garlic cloves, minced 
1 lg red onion, diced 
1 med green bell pepper, seeded and chunked  
1 sm yellow bell pepper, seeded and chunked 
1-2 hot chili peppers like Serrano or real jalapeno, seeded and minced 
2 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp ground coriander 
½ tsp caraway seeds, smashed or ground 
1-2 tsp smoked paprika 
¼ tsp dried mint leaves 
¼ tsp turmeric 
¼ tsp ground cayenne or arbol chili powder
pinch ground cinnamon 
1 tsp wine/balsamic vinegar 
½ tsp honey 
1 tsp tomato paste 
2-3 cups chopped tomatoes in their juice 
black pepper to taste 
8 eggs 
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed, washed and chopped for garnish  
optional add ons: feta cheese, pitted black kalamata olives, chopped spinach

In a large heavy-gauge sauté pan that has a lid, heat olive oil. Sauté onions, bell and chili peppers and garlic over medium heat til soft, about 5 minutes. Add the spices—cumin through cinnamon—and heat until fragrant, maybe 60-90 seconds. Stir in vinegar, tomato paste, honey and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce thickens, maybe 10-12 minutes depending on how juicy the tomatoes were. Taste for flavor and add seasonings to your taste.

Get the sauce very hot and bubbly over medium heat and have the pan lid handy. Carefully create 8 small pockets in the sauce and crack an egg into each one. Try to nudge a little sauce into the eggwhites. Cover and continue cooking to poach the eggs to your liking. Uncover the pan. Add the optionals you desire. Let them heat up 1 minute. Remove pan from heat. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve right out of the pan.

 Red Pepper "Pesto"
makes 1 cup

2 tbsp olive oil
3 lg/4 sml red bell peppers, seeded
4 garlic cloves, sliced

1 mildly hot pepper (Poblano, jalapeno)
½ tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp fresh basil OR coriander (your taste)
1 tbsp wine vinegar
1/8 tsp salt

Slice red peppers into thin strips. Dice hot pepper. Chop the herb. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add bell peppers, garlic and oregano. Sauté 15 minutes on medium low heat. Stir in vinegar, hot pepper and salt. Sauté 10 minutes. Stir in the herb. Simmer 5 minutes. Purée in a blender or processor.

This beats ketchup on hamburgers and sliders, brightens grilled flank steak, makes memorable pasta sauce and makes roasted cauliflower very yummy. It freezes really well, so you can enjoy it in February.

Menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs)

For 2 (you can easily double or triple this)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 sm onion, minced
2-3 shishito, padron, Chinese long green or some medium hot pepper, seeded and dice
½ tsp ground Aleppo pepper or hot paprika or similar (this dish needs a nip to be tasty)
½ tsp dried oregano
3 tomatoes, diced, or ¾ c boxed/canned diced tomatoes, drained
pinch of sugar or drop of honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
4 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
Optional garnishes: chopped chives, minced parsley
Greek yogurt to serve it with (it mellows that nip)

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil until just warm. Add onion, peppers, oregano, Aleppo pepper and ground black pepper too. Stirring often, cook over low heat until soft, 6-8 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar/honey and salt to your taste. Stirring frequently, continue cooking on low heat until the sauce color darkens slightly. There shouldn’t be any juice in the pan by now. Stir in the beaten eggs, add salt and black pepper to your taste, and stirring constantly, scramble just until the eggs start to set. Remove from heat. The eggs will keep cooking in the pan.
Garnish with chives or parsley and serve with room temperature Greek yogurt or better yet tsatsiki or raita (same cucumber/garlic/yogurt combine, different language). Serve the eggs right away while they’re hot. This is also good on top of toasted flatbread or pita.

Ema Dhatse (Bhutan/Sikkim)
This is the national dish of Bhutan: the name literally means peppers with cheese-- chili peppers and lots of them!
Serves 6
6 fresh chilies (jalapeño will provide less heat than serrano or arbol)
1 tsp salt
1 med onion
4 lg. garlic cloves, peeled
½ lb. blue cheese (it can be whole or crumbled)
1 tbsp. ghee or butter, OR 2 tbsp. oil (corn, safflower, canola—not olive!)

Wash the chilies and split them. If you want to diminish their heat, remove the seeds. Put split chilies in a small saucepan with a lid and amply cover with water (at least one knuckle of your forefinger over the top of the chilies). Add a large pinch of salt. (Senge says salt helps to put out the fire in chilies.) Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and continue to boil 10 minutes or until chilies are soft. The steam from these chilies can cause you to choke so it’s best to keep the lid on and a fan on.)

Meanwhile, dice the onion and mince the garlic. In a medium frying or sauté pan, melt ghee/ghiu or heat the oil over medium heat. Fry onions and garlic until soft. Drain chilies and add still wet to the onions, stirring to blend. Add a pinch of salt and cheese. Lower heat and stir rapidly as cheese melts. If it threatens to burn, add 1 tbsp water. Continue stirring until cheese is thoroughly melted and everything is blended. Serve hot or warm. Store in a jar in the refrigerator up to three days.

Stuffed Peppers (Greece)
  First of all, if you have kids, consider stuffing peppers with mac and cheese.You can serve them alone or beside burgers. You boil the peppers in salted water for 20 minutes or until they are soft. Cool them and then slice off the top and remove the seeds. Fill them with mac and cheese. Top with breadcrumbs mixed with grated Parmesan. Stand them up in a baking dish, sprinkle olive oil on them and bake at 350º for 20 minutes.  You can serve them whole or cut them in half lengthwise.

Now for the Greek version (which you can freeze)
serves 4
4 lg unblemished green or red bell peppers.
1 cup cooked short or medium grain rice
1/2 c olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced 
2 tbsp minced fresh dill
1 tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley 
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1/2 c currants
1/2 c pine nuts
1/4 c dry white wine
1/3 c tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste
extra for the baking dish: 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp white wine, 2 tbsp water, juice of one lemon

Blanch the peppers. When removed from water, make sure each can stand up straight. slice a bit off the bottom if necessary but try not to open up the bottom.
Preheat oven to 325º. 
In a sauté pan, combine olive oil, garlic, dill and parsley. Slowly bring up the heat. When hot, add scallions, pine nuts and currants. Sauté 5 minutes. Add wine and tomato paste, stirring to blend. Cook 2-3 minutes until everything is hot. Stir in the rice. Season with salt and pepper.  Pack the peppers with the rice mixture and top each with a sprinkle of oregano. Fill the baking dish with the liquids listed above. Stand up the peppers in it. Cover the dish with toil and bake at 325º 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly to serve. Can also be refrigerated and served cold or carried off to a picnic. Can be halved to serve 8.

I'm going to follow up next time with blistering Japanese shisito peppers, Mexican chile rellenos and Hungarian leszco.