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Archive for the ‘red pepper’ Category

I have a confession:  I like pimento cheese. I still consider pimento cheese a treat.  Unfortunately, I know that, even made with natural ingredients, it’s not good for me.  Thank goodness for red pepper pesto, which provides all of the great pimento cheese taste with none of the guilt.

red pepper pesto on whole-grain penne

For those of you who aren’t Southern, let me begin by explaining the concept of pimento cheese.  Pimento cheese is an obscenely orange creation made of grated yellow cheddar, canned pimento peppers, and mayonnaise or even Miracle Whip.  When I was growing up, you could find it most often served at ladies’ luncheons where women wore fancy hats and drank sherbet punch, student piano recitals where parents eagerly awaited their child’s labored key plunking, and non-catered wedding receptions, where loving friends of the bride and groom decked out the church fellowship hall or local women’s club with crepe paper bells and garlands and tissue paper roses.  The pimento cheese at these events manifest itself spread on white bread that had been cut into shapes like playing card symbols (hearts, diamonds) and seasonal critters and emblems (turkeys, stars) and then made into sandwiches, sans crusts of course. I actually looked forward to events where I could anticipate pimento cheese.  When I moved north for school, I craved pimento cheese as a taste of comfort food from home.  I finally found it in a small grocery store in a predominantly African-American neighborhood populated with–you guessed it–Southern expatriates.

But that was then, and even though I’m back in pimento cheese territory now, instead I feast on red pepper pesto with gusto but no guilt.

Red Pepper Pesto

Begin by broiling 3 sweet pimento peppers, turning regularly until the skin starts to separate from the peppers all over.  Yes, you can use something other than pimento, but pimentos have a special flavor.  I used sheep-nosed pimentos, fresh from the garden.  Take the peppers out of the broiler and while still piping hot, put them in a lidded glass container and set them aside for a few minutes.  Then slip off the skins, rinsing if you need to get the skins off.  Clean up the seeds and membranes inside too.

Now comes the pesto part.  Chop the peppers to get the process started.  Then using a food processing, mortar and pestle, or hand blender, blend the peppers with a tablespoon or more of good olive oil, until you get a nice paste.  Add less than half an ounce of finely grated real parmesan cheese and combine.  Add salt to taste.  That’s the basic version.

If you’d like a little more kick, add a mashed roasted garlic clove or a tablespoon of toasted pine nuts or herbs.

This pesto is great on toast points, crostini, scrambled eggs, or as a pasta sauce.  It’s tasty warm or cold.

Are you a fan of pimento cheese?  What childhood favorite have you converted to a more sophisticated, adult treat?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Ozarkhomesteader's Pepper Jelly

 

Like a brilliant jewel, pepper jelly made with red chiles and cranberry juice tantalizes for fall feasts and Christmas presents.  I’ll post the full recipe in a couple of days.  It’s incredibly easy and oh-so-delicious with cream cheese and crackers, on cornbread, or even as a sweet-sour-and-hot drizzle sauce for chicken, fish, or vegetables or a dip for egg rolls, spring rolls, and other appetizers.

 

Perfect for Holiday Gifts

 

How hot do you like it?  Discuss.  🙂

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

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Regular readers know that I suffered catastrophic garden losses thanks to a house/cat/garden sitter who did a great job with two out of three.  I’m pleased to report, though, that courtesy of the pre-soaking (and sometimes pre-sprouting) technique, I’ve got butter peas, summer squash of several varieties, cucumbers (Armenian and a pickling cucumber), and okra all peeping out of the earth, facing the scorching temperatures bravely.  A bunch of different basils successfully sprouted too, as did some volunteer radishes.  I hope that winter squash will emerge soon to join all of the other garden babies.  I’m watering all of my seedlings daily, in hopes that our record-high temperatures will break soon.  It was too late for re-planting the dozens of peppers I lost, but everything else is pretty well on track.

My tomatoes were better prepared for abuse than everything else, having not only been planted extra-deep but also having thick mulch and soaker hoses.  They are doing really well, especially my Principe Borghese sun-drying tomatoes.  I have an Excalibur dehydrator on its way to the homestead now to process these little ruby gems into chewy, almost smoky intensely tomato-y dried treats for winter and spring.  I hope our apples continue to grow, as it looks like we’ll have plenty of those for drying as well as for savory jelly and apple butter.

And we’ve still got some peppers, some eggplants, leeks, carrots, cabbages . . . and grand plans for fall plantings of more cool-season vegetables.

What’s growing in your garden?  What are you planning for fall in the garden?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Regular readers know I’m all about using what we grow here, in season.  Fortunately, some foods stay seasonal months after you’d think possible, such as the butternut squash that I picked in early November and kept in a cool room for winter, preserving it for our use last night.  For dinner we ate roasted  butternut squash, beets, onions, leeks, and shittake mushrooms served with Italian sausage and a sprinkling of goat cheese over a bed of whole-wheat fusilli pasta, cooked al dente.  The roasted butternut squash and goat cheese almost melted in the pasta to create a creamy, chunky, buttery sauce.  The beets provided glorious color and a caramelized sweetness.  Fresh herbs and Italian sausage rounded out the dish.   As always, we went organic with everything we could–in this case, everything.

Here’s what we used; you could change quantities to fit what you have on hand.

  • 2-3 large freshly dug beets, rough parts peeled off and quartered
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1-2 leek bottoms, cleaned (sliced lengthwise) and sliced across the grain
  • optional:  1  small, sweet onion, quartered and sliced (if you don’t have leeks)
  • 1 teaspoon or so finely chopped or dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano but probably not basil for this dish)
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • optional:  splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup or more of shittake mushroom tops, halved and then sliced  (other mushrooms will work too, but you may want to alter the roasting time)
  • 1/3 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 sweet or hot Italian pepper (ours came from our garden by way of the freezer), sliced
  • optional:  red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 – 1 dry cup whole-wheat fusilli pasta (or other hearty curly pasta that will retain its character in the face of other flavors)

Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.  (You could go to 400 degrees F, but only if you are using more, smaller beets, and then you’ll need to reduce total roast time to 20 minutes.)  Lightly coat the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil and butter.  (I used cast iron–big surprise, right?)  Spread on your beets, squash, leeks and onions, toss them with the herbs, a little more olive oil, salt and pepper, and, if desired, the balsamic vinegar.  (You can also save this ingredient for later or leave it out altogether.)  Roast these vegetables for 20 minutes and then add the shittake mushrooms and roast for 10 more minutes.  Meanwhile, brown the Italian sausage and crumble or slice it and then keep it warm with the red pepper slices.  Pump up the heat with red pepper flakes if you want more spice.  As the sausage and peppers cook, prepare the pasta in boiling water.  Everything should be ready at about the same time–approximately 35 minutes after you started prepping the vegetables.  Put the drained fusilli in bowls and then add the sausage with peppers and the roasted vegetables, tossed with balsamic vinegar if you didn’t use it earlier.  Sprinkle the goat cheese on top.  As you eat, the goat cheese and butternut squash will start to meld with the pasta.

Vegetarian option:  substitute seasonal beans or seasoned garbanzo beans for the sausage!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Tonight we had huge noodle bowls for dinner, relying on fresh produce and poultry from our back yard or Conway Locally Grown.  These noodle bowls are packed with veggies, spice, and cooling coconut milk (which, alas, is not local at all).  Unfortunately, after I planned the dish, I discovered that my neglected fresh ginger was no longer fresh, so I found other ways to get ginger flavor.  If you have fresh ginger, by all means grate it and use it.  Use a wok for this one-pot meal.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly across the grain
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha or homemade pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 2 tablespoons extra-ginger ginger beer
  • natural soy sauce
  • walnut oil (or peanut oil)
  • toasted sesame oil
  • 2 small carrots, cut into pennies
  • pickled ginger juice
  • broccoli (garnish)
  • pea pods (a couple of cups)
  • big pile of shittake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 baby bok choy heads, trimmed and cut diagonally
  • optional:  splash of hoisin sauce
  • 2 big pinches dried ginger
  • 2 red peter or other hot pepper, seeded if you want, and then sliced thinly
  • leek bottom, cut in half lengthwise, cleaned, and thinly sliced
  • broccoli florets
  • handful per person of prepared Thai rice noodles (like very white fettucini)
  • 1/2 can to 1 whole can coconut milk (light okay)

Method

Begin by marinating the sliced chicken in the Sriracha, sherry, ginger beer, and a splash or two of soy sauce.  While the chicken gets nice and spicy, prep your vegetables.

Wait–where are the snow peas?  Oh, here they are!

In a good wok over high heat, pour in a little of the nut oil, add your carrots, and pour on a tablespoon or two of pickled ginger juice.  Stir-fry the carrots until they get tender and maybe have a little caramelization on a few. Most of the liquid will have cooked off too.  Distribute the carrots in the bowls you’ll be using for eating.  Next, add a little toasted sesame oil, the snow peas, and a splash of soy sauce to the wok.  You can add a splash of water too if you want, but make sure it all cooks down.  Stir-fry the snow peas until they are tender.  Portion them out in your eating bowls to one side.

Now it’s time to stir-fry the shittake mushrooms.  Add a tiny bit of oil to the wok and toss in the mushrooms.  The mushrooms will give up a little liquid; that’s good, as it will help them cook.  Help them a little more by pouring in another splash of pickled ginger juice.  Is most of the liquid cooked off?  Out of the wok they go and into the bowls!   Be sure to put them in the half where you didn’t put the snow peas.

Next toss in the sliced bok choy with a little more nut oil and some of that ginger juice.  If you have it on hand, add a little hoisin sauce.  As the liquid cooks down, find a spot in your bowls for the bok choy.

Next up are leeks and chile peppers.  We just had a few florets of broccoli, so I added them in here.  Same story–different verse. Use a little oil.  Add a little more ginger juice if you think they need it.  Add in the prepared rice noodles and stir-fry to combine.  Plop in the bowls.

Last is the chicken.  Taking care to get chicken but little marinating liquid, add the chicken to the wok and stir-fry until the liquid is cooked down.

Now pour in 1/2 can to a whole can of coconut milk and heat until it gets bubbly.Distribute the chicken in the eating bowls and then pour on the coconut milk, which is now conveniently infused with all of the goodness that you stir-fried through the whole prep.  Yes, we just used coconut milk to deglaze the wok.

Eat.  Enjoy.  Since we separated the elements as we stir-fried them and again going in the bowls, you can get a different mouthful of flavor each time you dive into the bowl and pull out a morsel.  Use chopsticks for the most fun, with a soup spoon to get every tasty drop in the end.

Variations

This dish would be delicious with cilantro or Thai basil on top, but, alas, we had neither ready to pick right now.  We also sometimes use Asian eggplant in this big bowl of yummy, but we don’t have that yet either.  Feel free to substitute shrimp for the chicken.

What’s the largest number of local produce and protein that you’ve managed to get in a single dish?  Do you cook a similar pan-Asian dish?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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I hesitate to post this new recipe for fear of backlash (it’s much too easy!–so easy a grade-school kid can make it), but when the heat moves in, I like to get out of the kitchen fast, and this recipe will let you do that.  It’s not a traditional cheese sauce with a white-sauce base, but it will be creamy, good, and versatile.  You’ll need a one-cup microwave-safe measuring cup like Pyrex.

  • one big butter knife-ful of cream cheese, a bit less than 1/4 cup
  • about 1/4 cup milk (can add more later if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more if needed) of grated harder cheese like aged cheddar, swiss cheese, manchego, or parmesan–or a combo of cheeses like these.  Do not use Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, or similar cheeses.  They do not melt well.

Put the cream cheese in the measuring cup and pour on the milk.  Microwave for 1 minute.  Stir and stir with the butter knife to incorporate cream cheese.  Microwave 1 minute more on low (30% power) and then let the mixture sit a minute or two if it’s not mixing well.  Now stir in the grated cheese.  Keep stirring. Microwave it again in 1-minute increments at 30% power  and stir until all of the cheese is integrated and the mixture is really creamy.  Use for a mac’n’cheese base, quick alfredo sauce, with jalapenos and salsa for queso–you name it!  Dress it up with hot sauce, curry, or nutmeg and kirsch.

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We grow a dozen or more variety of chiles–hot peppers–each year.  One mild chile that I’m growing this year for the second time is pasilla, also known as chile negro.  Pasilla bajio has a mild but smoky flavor and can be added to fresh salsas or dried and powdered for a mole sauce.  Mole is, of course, the distinctive savory Mexican chocolate sauce that, frankly, is pretty darn hard to find in our neck of the woods.  Last year I only had one pasilla bajio plant, but I am planning for lots more this year, so I hope I’ll have recipes to share this fall.  (I bought my seeds for pasilla bajio here.  No, the company’s not paying me.  I just like the seeds, plus the packages have beautiful art work.)  All chiles originated in the Americas, but they spread around the world like wildfire with the Columbian exchange.  As they spread, they diversified, each culture adapting them to specific use.

When you’re selecting chiles, think of the purpose and heat.  Hungarian wax peppers, for example, are relatively mild, and you can pick them at green, yellow, and red.  I like to use them fresh and cooked as well as pickle them.  Thick-walled jalapenos hold up for roasting.  Hatch or Anaheim chiles are large and relatively mild, making them ideal for stuffing and salsa.  Poblano peppers dry well for sauces.  Of course you could choose cayenne for red pepper flakes (although I like red peter for dried red pepper).  There’s an almost endless variety of Asian peppers.  You could also pick habaneros with their extreme heat and fruit essence, but, frankly, they are so hot that we are content to buy those on the rare times when we want their intense flavor.  Regardless of which peppers you pick, go for a little variety, and think of how you use peppers before you buy.

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