Archive for ‘Peppers’

July 24, 2012

Despite the Heat | Tortilla Soup

Eating soup when it’s hot out can strike people as odd.  But think French-inspired Pho in steamy Vietnam, or British-influenced Mulligatawny in India.  There’s a point to eating something hot and spicy when it’s hot out: it makes you sweat (I glow).  And that helps you cool off.  So while it may seem counter-intuitive, now is certainly the season to give some spicy soup a go.

It’s always hot in Texas.  So it’s not surprising that tortilla soup is on just about every menu you peruse in San Antonio.   There’s something about it that San Antonians can’t seem to get enough of, no matter the season.   Perhaps it’s the mix of textures, but like Pho and Mulligatawny, it’s spicy and hot and a treat to eat.  (It also happens to the be the exact thing I was eating when Hades first fell in love with me fifteen years ago.  I even spilled it all over myself and he still loved me.  Magical stuff this is.)  And summertime is when the produce that comprises the bulk of the ingredients for tortilla soup are at their peak.

I like to play around with ingredients: if there’s corn, add some, if there’s not, no worries.  Zucchini and summer squashes work wonderfully, too.  Tomatoes, however are a requirement. 

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June 27, 2012

Good on Everything | Ajvar

This is something I will be making repeatedly throughout the summer.

Roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, finely chopped, along with copious amounts of garlic and a bit of olive oil and salt.  I was quite astonished to find the depth of flavor in something that truly only had four ingredients.  Roasting is certainly what certainly makes it so good.  And the thing is, with a gas stove (or this summer the grill, which is in near constant use) roasting takes almost no time.  Five to seven minutes or so straight on the burner over the heat, turning every so often to completely blacken the outsides.  Put in a covered container to steam and cool for 10 minutes, the skins on the peppers slide off like a silk dress.

This is sexy stuff.

I want it on steaks, on fish.  On these balkan burgers.  On regular burgers.  In my eggs.

In this recipe, I included a bit of roasted eggplant (at which Balkan traditionalists would have been shocked and horrified) but I found it gave a gorgeous texture.

For some background: ajvar is typically made in Serbia in the fall, where in small towns its process requires just about everybody who lives there to pitch in and help.  The peppers are roasted, peeled and deseeded.  Everything is pureed and put up in jars for the winter.  Only here, I can’t wait that long: I ate spoons of it out of the dish while we were waiting for company to arrive.  They were lucky they got here when they did.  I would have eaten it all.

Lovely stuff.

Make some.

Ajvar

2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped

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January 17, 2012

Best Topping for Tacos | Cactus with Prickly Pear Vinaigrette

I was recently forwarded this Nigel Slater article that really drives home the importance of doing some big cooking on the weekend (such as this roast pork shoulder in the article) so that you have enough for several meals that require minimal prep for the rest of the week.  I love cooking in this way.  And pork shoulder is literally one of the most cooked cuts in this house.  It’s economical and super, super flavorful.

Our leftover roast pork was converted into tacos one night.  And one of the things I often find elevates the humble taco is the quality of the crispy cold salad on top.  At good taco stands, you’ll find some cold radishes, or perhaps some chopped onion and cilantro, maybe a bit of lime to squeeze on top of that rich carnitas or barbacoa.  I love the contrast in flavors, textures and temperatures.

This quick cold salad is tasty enough on its own for lunch, but is fantastic on some of that pork.  You can sub some radishes and apples (add lovely sweetness) for the cactus or jicama, if you have trouble finding them.   But the cactus is so full of gorgeous green flavor, and the jicama so sweet and crunchy, do make an effort to stop in a reputable Hispanic market with brisk turn over in its produce department to track some down to try.  Next time I make this, I might also toss in a green onion thinly sliced and perhaps some pomegranate arils for extra crunch.

Nopales and Jicama with Prickly Pear Vinagrette

For the salad:

1 small cactus pad, carefully trimmed well of all spines, rinsed, then cut into small batons

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October 24, 2011

Final Harvest | Corn Milk Soup

It’s simply the best of the last of the garden.  Eight ears of the last of the sweet corn.  Cobs scraped completely clean, releasing all that sweet corn “milk.”  I think it’s what makes this soup special.

But perhaps, too, it’s that I added in the last few peppers still standing on my counter.  Another handful of tomatoes that were picked green in the back garden, but managed to ripen despite that deep insult.  And green onions picked up at the farmer’s market.  Plus two palmfuls of teeny purple potatoes (that were a growing experiment by me) from a more experienced gardener friend.  Generous pinches of fresh thyme from the terracotta pot on the patio.  Twists of pepper.  A blessing of salt.

Poach a few shrimp in the hot soup to make it more substantial.  Or some smoked haddock would be perfectly at home.  Or if you have leftovers, top bowls of soup with a crumbled a link of andouille and some sauteed shrimp for a take on a gumbo.  That’s what I’m going to do.

Corn Milk Soup, serves 6 to 8

4 strips bacon, sliced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

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September 22, 2011

Farewell, Summer Garden | Gazpacho

Every so often you run across a recipe that begs to be made just as is, such as Spanish maestro José Andrés’s recipe for gazpacho.  Not a more perfect dish than this can be found to send summer off into its nine month hiatus.  Celebrate all that we are losing before the clock strikes 5:05 a.m. tomorrow.  Well, perhaps this post is a bit late for that, but rustle up some of these ingredients this weekend for a quick, albeit belated, goodbye.

I used some gorgeous, juicy yellow tomatoes from a Green B.E.A.N. Delivery box along with peppers and cucumbers from my back yard.  All gone now.

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.

Playlist included Quiet Town, by Josh Rouse.

May 4, 2011

Ivory Coast via Brussels | Salmon with Saffron Tumeric Cream

I’ll admit to a slight amount of jet lag.  By slight I mean passing out after dinner and waking up at four the next morning.

So I haven’t really blogged dinner in as timely a manner as I’d like; but there you go.

This lovely dish was inspired by a restaurant we happened upon in Brussels the first night we were there.  It was called Hemispheres and it was an ode to the southern hemisphere in all it’s diversity.  From Indian curries to tagines, the menu ran the gamut. The sauce on the salmon was heavenly.  I almost thought there was coconut in it, but it was simply the combination of cream with the deeply yellow colored spices that evoked that sweetness.

This salmon dish could be done in any manner of ways.  In fact, why even use salmon?  Try it with

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October 7, 2010

Warm Local Salad for a Crisp Fall Day

I love salads for lunch.  Not the dried iceberg-purple-cabbage-shredded-carrot kind.  Salads with some personality: seasonal vegetables and a well paired salad dressing are the bare minimum of requirements.  Today’s lunch was a take on an original recipe from Jamie Oliver.  God love that man for all he’s doing to change the way people eat. 

Since we had some beautiful purple bell peppers (love!!!) from Honeyrun Farm, it was easy to make them the star.  The peppers were paired with a mix of greens from Honeyrun, too, and that were dressed with a simple vinaigrette that was spiked with cumin.  

Warm Stuffed Peppers with Cumin Dressed Greens, Serves 2

2 small purple (or any color really) bell peppers, cored, seeds removed

1 large Roma tomato, chopped

Small handful of fresh parsley and basil, chopped

2 slices ten grain bread, toasted (or similar)

1 clove of garlic, paper removed

Three generous handfuls of fresh salad greens

Olive oil, salt and pepper, mustard, cumin, local honey

Heat oven to 350˚.  Mix 1/2 to 3/4 of the chopped tomato with the chopped herbs.  Reserving the rest for garnish.  Sprinkle mixture with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.   Stuff each pepper with half the tomato mixture, place in a baking dish and drizzle with a bit more olive oil and salt and pepper.  Bake for 25 minutes.

Toast the bread slices.  When done, give each slice of toast a quick rub with the garlic clove (toast acts as a nice grater).  Mix the dressing with two to three tablespoons oil to one tablespoon of vinegar, whisk in a teaspoon of vinegar, a heaping teaspoon of cumin, and a drizzle of local honey.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Dress the greens.

Plate as shown above.

The only non-local ingredients in this dish, were the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.  For complete sourcing see the Farms and Producers page.

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