Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pickled Hot Peppers

Having brought in many hot peppers that were still in the garden in preparation for a hard freeze and snow, I decided to try pickling the bounty. This recipe is lightly adapted from one in a book called Put 'Em Up by Sherry Brooks Vinton.

2 lbs hot peppers, stemmed and sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
3 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
2 1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar

Have ready 9 hot, freshly washed half-pint jars. Make sure you have new lids; boil them in a small saucepan then let them sit in the hot water. While you prepare the peppers and bring, bring a large pot of water to a boil for canning.

Pack the sliced peppers into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headroom. The recipe in Put 'Em Up said 2 lbs would make for 4 pints, but I found it produced an extra half pint (and I needed to make just a little more brine to go with it, which I have accounted for in the ingredients above).

Combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.

Using a funnel, ladle the brine over the peppers in the jars until they are covered, leaving 1/4-inch headroom at the top.

Carefully place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings, not too tight. Place the jars in the pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool on a rack. Once they are cooled and sealed they can be stored in a cool dark place. Any jars that do not seal should be refrigerated and used promptly.

Makes 8-9 half pints.

Early Snow

It's still only October, but there's a good three inches of snow on the ground and it's still falling thick and fast outside my window. In anticipation of the storm and the cold weather that has accompanied it, earlier this week we finally brought in all the last cold sensitive items from the garden - tomatoes (ripe, half ripe, and green), sweet peppers, and hot peppers. We still have broccoli, leeks, fennel, carrots, radishes, and lots of greens out there that like the cold and will probably be just fine.

Green peppers (both hot and sweet) will continue to ripen if brought indoors and kept somewhere cool and dark. Some people like to bring in the whole plant and hang it upside down, but I've also had good luck just keeping a big pile of peppers in a paper bag in my chilly pantry. Tomatoes will also ripen indoors, though the quality will never be as good as summer tomatoes (even the ones that ripen on the vine late in the season suffer in flavor from the cold nights).

I roasted the ripe tomatoes and put them in the freezer. The half ripe ones are sitting in a bowl to ripen over the next week or so. The green ones (about 10 lbs) I think I'm going to use for Green Tomato and Apple Chutney, which I will can (but first I need to get some more canning jars).

Green peppers can be frozen just like ripe ones (halve, seed, freeze freezer bags), but I'm hoping some more of mine will ripen up before they shrivel. The hot peppers I decided to try pickling this year, something I have not done before. Now I have 9 half-pint jars of lovely red, green, and purple pickled hot peppers. Pickling mellows their heat and intensifies their flavor, making their great for pizza, salsa, Mexican eggs, nachos, etc.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spanish Style Lentil Soup with Chorizo, Red Pepper, and Kale

This one is definitely a keeper. Savory, hearty, smoky - and pretty to look at, too. Serve this with biscuits, popovers, or crusty bread. If you want to speed up the cooking process a bit, you can start the lentils cooking in water while you cook the garlic, shallots, and chorizo in a separate pan, then combine them.

Peppers, by the way, will be in season until we have a killing frost. Kale will go right into the winter.

Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium shallots, finely chopped (or substitute a medium onion)
1 lb chorizo, casings removed
2 tsp paprika (substitute pimenton if you have it)
1 cup brown lentils
Water and/or stock (chicken or veg)
1 large sweet red pepper, diced
3 cups kale cut into ribbons (stems removed)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic and shallots and saute over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo, breaking it up as it cooks, and the paprika. When the chorizo is cooked through, pour of excess fat (I actually use a baster for this and suck it out of the pot). Add the lentils and enough water and/or stock to generously cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Add the peppers and kale and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-6.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Turkish Style Lamb and Vegetables with Pasta and Yogurt Sauce

This is totally different from any other pasta dish I've ever made, and it's fantastic. It hits a flavor profile that I normally associate only with food I eat in restaurants - but it's pretty easy to make at home. This is adapted from this recipe that was published the New York Times a couple years ago.

1 large eggplant, in 1/2 inch cubes
2 sweet red peppers, diced
Olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb stew lamb, well trimmed (or shoulder meat, cubed)
Black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tsp dried dill, or 1-2 Tbsp fresh, finely chopped
1 lb cut pasta (shells work well)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint (or dill or cilantro)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Toss the eggplant and peppers in a bowl with about 1/2 tsp salt and a drizzle of olive oil until well coated. Spread the vegetables out in a single layer on a baking sheet (you may want to line it with foil or parchment) and roast for about 20 minutes, or until nicely brown. Remove from oven.

While the vegetables roast, add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil to a Dutch oven. Add the shallots and all but 1 tsp of the minced garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Then add the lamb and saute until well browned and cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste, red pepper flakes, and dill. Let this mixture continue to cook over very low heat until the vegetables are ready.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water. When it is cooked, drain and toss with a little olive oil.

When the eggplant and pepper are done roasting, add them to the Dutch oven with the lamb mixture. When the pasta is done, toss it with the lamb and vegetables until well combined.

Before serving combine the yogurt and mint in a bowl with the reserved 1 tsp of minced garlic. Add a dash of salt and stir well (it will thin somewhat).

Serve the pasta, with each diner topping his or her portion with some of the yogurt sauce at the table.

Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Broiled Polenta with Shiitakes and Red Onions

New England Wild Edibles had HUGE shiitake mushrooms for sale at the farmers market last weekend, meaty and delicious. Their flavor shines through here.

I often like to substitute quinoa for some of the cornmeal when I make polenta, but this is totally optional.

3 cups water
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup polenta cornmeal
1/2 cup quinoa
Olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 large red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 oz shredded mozzarella

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt, and whisk in the polenta meal and quinoa. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to stir with a spoon. Be careful, as the cooking polenta is viscous and can bubble up and burn you. Cooking time will vary with the type of polenta you are using. The kind I get at Green Fields Market, in the bulk section, thickens up very quickly, but the addition of quinoa slows it down. You want it to be pretty stiff for this application. When the polenta is cooked, remove from heat, cover, and set aside for now.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shiitakes, onions, and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and preheat the broiler.

Oil a 10-inch oven-proof skillet or a 7x11-inch baking dish. Spread the cooked polenta in the bottom. Top with the sauce, then the mushroom mixture. Top with mozzarella.

Broil the polenta for about 4 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pizza with Red Peppers, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary

I keep fresh local rosemary on hand year round by growing some in a pot.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 medium red pepper, finely diced
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
3 oz. crumbled goat cheese
2-3 oz. shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil, then top with sauce. Sprinkle with pepper and onion, then rosemary. Dot with goat cheese and sprinkle mozzarella over all.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Moroccan Lamb (or Goat) and Potato Stew

Through the colder months I love making this type of dish on the weekend. I put it all together at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, then just let it simmer over very low heat until dinnertime. Stews and braises like this make excellent, succulent use of more economical cuts of meat, too.

This Moroccan style stew is great on its own, perhaps with some warm pita to accompany it, or over rice. You can use either lamb or goat meat - goat is available locally from Balky Farm in Northfield, a regular vendor at the Greenfield Farmers Market (they also have lamb, eggs, and wool products).

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs stew lamb or goat, cubed
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red pepper, finely chopped
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
1 tsp dried lemon zest (or zest of one lemon)
2 lbs potatoes, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
Water and/or beef stock

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the meat and brown over high heat. When browned, drain off excess fat, then add the onion, garlic, red pepper, cumin, cayenne, and lemon zest. Saute over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes along with some salt and pepper, then add enough water and/or beef stock to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat very low and simmer for 2-3 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed before serving.

Serve hot over rice or with warm pita bread.

Serves about 6.