Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bulbs: Part 1 3/4

First sweet, yellow bloom. 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Peppers: Canned Roasted

One thing I have been wanting to make is roasted canned peppers.  I grew up having these as part my family's normal antipasto plate before any large holiday or important meal (my grandmother is from a large Italian family).  Occasionally we buy the canned roasted peppers from Trader Joe's, but with the Great Pepper Harvest of 2010 I had the opportunity to try my hand at a homemade version.  While roasting may take a few times to get the hang of, the process is quite forgiving, the results rustic and delicious.

  • about 10-20 peppers (I used our Russian Healthy peppers, Chocolate Beauties, Violet Bella and an unknown small orange variety)
  • 1 cup good olive oil
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic (plus 1 extra per jar)
  • 1 Tbl salt
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I used chopped dried red Shishito peppers from my office's vegetable garden)
  • fresh oregano or basil (I used "Hot & Spicy" oregano from our garden)
  • Place your peppers on a baking sheet and roast at about 400 degrees for about 30 min or until blistered and blackened turning once.  Place in a brown paper grocery bag, or covered bowl or similar to steam and cool - about 20 min.
  • While this is going on you can cleanup a bit, boil your canning jars, and get the canning mixture prepared.
  • Now comes the messy part: pealing those peppers.  Don't be so concerned about having perfect results, just try to get the seeds and as much of the skin or tough bits off.  I had good luck with the larger red peppers while much more difficulty with the smaller orange ones.  These were much thinner and had less"meat".  I pealed what I could but left most the skin on (and they turned out great).
  • Place a pounded clove of garlic (I hit once with the bottom of my fist) in each canning jar and pack with peppers leaving some room for the canning liquid.
  • Heat oil, vinegar, chopped garlic, salt, herbs and red pepper flakes. Simmer 5 min.  Take mixture off the stove.  Stir vigorously to mix the oil and vinegar as they will separate. Be careful, its hot!
  • Carefully fill each jar with the canning mixture leaving about 1/2" room at the top.  Wipe edges clean, seal and either process in a water bath for 20 min or cool and place in the fridge.

        Let the flavors mingle for a few weeks (or try after a few days if you're like me and can't wait.) Enjoy on toast or with a fried egg or on a sandwich.  This is something I could definitely fill our pantry with.

        Monday, February 22, 2010

        Peppers: Stuffed


        After the first Great Pepper Harvest of 2010 (okay, so what's "great" to some might look sort of flim flamy to others...) one of the things we couldn't wait to eat were warm, sweet and savory stuffed peppers.  Like many things that we make, stuffed peppers never seem to come out the same way twice.  Though they do seem to be a vehicle that stands up to reinterpretation.  This go round we stuffed ours with a mixture of wild rice with sauteed turnip greens and sausage.

        Getting Started

        I started by selecting the largest of the sweet varieties that we had harvested.  Mainly we had red Russian Healthy peppers, but there were a few Chocolate Beauties, one smallish Violet bell, and a couple very small orangey guys.  After deciding which sides of each pepper would behave the best and not tip over, I cut them in half and removed the seeds.  I cut enough peppers that they pretty well filled up a 9x13 baking dish.

        Fill 'er Up
        • 1 cup long grain wild rice
        • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, uncooked  (you could use any sort.  I got an organic chicken variety.)
        • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
        • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely diced
        • 1 1/2 lbs. turnip greens,chopped
        • olive oil
        • salt and pepper and crushed pepper flakes
        • fresh herbs
        • Cook the rice -  either according to package directions on the stove top or in a rice cooker.  I'm all about the rice cooker.  As it is cooking, get the rest of the filling prepped.
        • Remove the sausage from its casing,  add a good bit of red pepper flakes, and brown  with a little olive oil in the trusty cast iron skillet.  When it begins to crisp up, remove it to a bowl and set it aside. 
        • Using the oil left in the skillet, get the onion and garlic cooking just until they begin to take on some color, about 5 minutes. 
        • Add the chopped greens, a couple hefty pinches of salt, black pepper, and whatever assortment of chopped herbs you like - my random assortment from the garden was parsley, oregano, and a little marjoram. 
        • When the greens have wilted and begun to turn tender, I took them off the heat, and gently tossed them and the sausage with the cooked rice. 
        • Taste for seasoning, add another pinch of salt if needed, and set to stuffing the peppers.
        Into the Oven
        • After the peppers are stuffed and positioned snugly into the Pyrex cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.  Pull them out, remove the foil and top them with thinly sliced cheese.  We had some with provolone and some with cheddar.  Put back into the oven for another 5 minutes or so until the cheese is oozy and melted.  
        They were really delish - sweet peppers, slightly bitter greens, savory, spicy sausage, sharp, tangy cheese - yum!  The recipe is just a loose guideline, really.  Just a jumping off point.  We have made them with seasoned ground tofu meat instead of sausage.  With chard or beet greens or mushrooms or grated zucchini instead of or in addition to anything else.  With brown rice or red rice or lentil/barley/couscous mix.  You go.


        Friday, February 19, 2010

        Winter Garden Update

        It has been three months since we got the seeds in the ground for our winter garden.  Things have come along nicely and with fairly minimal input. (Except for a couple minor mishaps involving a certain dog and some of his friends.  Sorry peas!)


        It always feels like a slow start when you're waiting to eat from the garden, but so far we've been able to sample  some beautiful beets and beet greens, some carrots, turnips, arugula, a bit of chard, and some radishes on hot buttered toast.  But the real bounty is just starting to be unleashed.

        I am personally setting my sites on the cauliflower.

        Still attempting to get into the habit of having a perpetual garden that is edited and re-seeded on the regular (as opposed to once a season), I spent some time last weekend tidying the vegetable beds.  Among other things, I harvested all of the turnips to make turnip pickles and got a good bit of new seed in the ground.
        • In the lower bed
          • 1 row heirloom shelling peas  (Renee's Garden)
          • 1 row Tonda di Parigi carrots  (Renee's Garden)
          • 1 row French Breakfast radishes  (Seed Savers)
          • Filled in 1 row of Cosmic Purple carrots  (Renee's Garden)
          • 1 row purple top white globe turnips (Seed Savers)
          • 1 row Chef's Choice cauliflower  (Renee's Garden)
          • 3 Mammoth Red Rock cabbages  (Seed Savers)
          • 2 Copenhagen Market cabbages  (Seed Savers)
          • 1 row 1/2 Chioggia & 1/2 Burpee's Golden beets (Seed Savers)
        • In the upper bed
          • 1 row Rouge d'hiver Romaine lettuce  (Renee's Garden)
        • Herb Garden
          • Dill  (Ferry Morse)

        Wednesday, February 17, 2010

        Bulbs: Part 1 1/2

        The daffodils are beginning to peek through the mulch under the pepper tree.

        A small thing, but very exciting.

        Peppers: Louisiana Hot Sauce

        One thing that I have come to realize over last few seasons is the intimate link between growing and preserving.  With an edible garden, you are constantly trying to figure out new and different ways to utilize what your garden is providing.  Generally you can only keep up with the production to a degree and sometimes you have so much of a particular fruit or vegetable you are left with giving it to friends and neighbors, putting it back into your compost pile or preserving it.  This winter we have had a bumper crop of peppers (both regular and hot versions) and it has forced us to figure out ways to preserve to bounty.

        Right around Christmas time, in midst of the holiday crunch, I saw that our pepper plants were overflowing.  We weren't going to be around and I was worried about them going to waste, so I picked the plants clean and  made a quick batch of Louisiana Style vinegar hot sauce.  Similar to Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot  but without the fermenting step, it is really quick and easy to make, ready immediately, improves with age, and has tremendous flavor.

        • 1/2 cup peppers (I used Serranos and Rooster Spur)
        • 1 3/4 tp salt
        • 2/3 C white vinegar
        • half a carrot (Rachel suggested we try this out on the second batch)
        • Cut the tops of the peppers and seed depending on hotness.  Be careful with the eyes here.  Some people use gloves.
        • Toss peppers in a kitchen blender with the carrot, salt and vinegar.  Cover and blend for about 5 minutes until completely smooth.
        • Pour into prepared canning jars and seal.  I did not process the filled jars as I put this batch directly in the fridge.  Use immediately or let it ferment in the fridge over time.
        Voila!  We now have plenty of hot sauce whenever we need it.  Next time, I would really like to use empty hot sauce bottles, though this might be a problem as the finished product is so good I can't imagine ever buying hot sauce again.

        final notes:

        The carrot was an idea Rachel had for our recent second batch.  It was a great addition, giving a touch of sweetness, cutting the overt presence of the vinegar and adding some complexity to the flavor.  I can't wait to try pickling jalapenos or trying to replicate one of the Chinese chili oils from 99 Ranch Market that we are so fond of using in our stir fries.