Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘sweet 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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Temperatures and humidity in Arkansas have dropped from deadly to merely oppressive, but we’re still running above normal.  Therefore, this weekend I made one of my favorite summer soups, gazpacho.  Gazpacho is a tomato soup made entirely of fresh and raw ingredients, and it refreshes and rejuvenates you as you eat it.  A friend once called it salsa soup, but it really is a bit more than that.  For our household, it’s so good we think of it as red gold on the table.  And except for the celery and seasonings, we grow everything that goes in it, and you can too.

copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

Ingredients for 4-8 servings

Note:  Use what you have.  If 1 cucumber yields you 3/4 cup and you want to use it up, go for it.

  • 1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup celery (about two stalks)
  • 1/2 cup cucumbers:  Peel if it’s one of those nasty store-bought cucumbers.  If it’s a larger cucumber, be sure to scoop out the bitter seed section.
  • 1/2 cup fresh pepper, either sweet bell pepper or a mild chile pepper (My usual choice is a Hatch/Anaheim.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (as in, use a garlic press)
  • 3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (or a dab of anchovies and 1 tablespoon of some good calamata or black olive juice)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/3 cup snipped parsley or chervil or chiffonaded cilantro or lemon basil (one, not all four!), reserving some of the herb you select for garnish

You have three options for preparing this soup.

  • Option one is to mince finely all of your vegetables and then combine everything except the part of the herb you are reserving for garnish.
  • Option two is to dice your vegetables not so finely and then hit the combination of vegetables with everything else except 1 cup of the tomato juice with an immersion blender or put them in a food processor and pulse until they are minced.  Once the veggies are minced, you can add the rest of the tomato juice and the portion of the herb that isn’t garnish.
  • Option three is to put everything in your stand blender except the herbs and pulse until the veggies are minced.  Then add the herbs.

Chill the soup in a glass or stainless steel non-reactive container well before serving.  The soup keeps really well, the flavors melding nicely, and the mixture is so healthy that I often double the recipe to keep it on hand.

Do you have a favorite heat-beating recipe?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

Read Full Post »

Catalan is the language spoken in Catalonia, near the border of France and Spain, and in the tiny country of Andorra (which was so small it was excluded from the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI and therefore remained at war until the 1950s!).  The food from this part of the world is rich in flavor, inspired by the conquistadors’ travels in the Americas as well as the influence of north Africa and even Asia.  Catalan food was fusion food long before fusion became cool.  Catalan stew over Spanish rice with quinoa draws on the flavors of the old world and new world.

Alfred Crosby coined the term “Columbian Exchange” to bring the proper focus to the era of Columbus’s voyage.  To say that Columbus “discovered” the “new world” is inaccurate; the Columbian Exchange was not just about Europe finding the Americas but rather was people the world over discovering the rest of the world.  The era of the Columbian Exchange all comes together in this dish.  Turkey, avocado, and hot peppers all originated in the Americas yet were embraced by Europeans.  The original Americans also taught Europeans that not all nightshade plants (like tomatoes) were poisonous.  And from Africa and Asia Europeans learned to eat health-giving turmeric (popular in Indian cuisine), which I’ll use as a frugal substitute for saffron in my “Spanish” rice.  Even more recently the world has re-discovered the ancient South American grain quinoa*, which is rich is protein.  This fragrant, nutty stew full of familiar and exotic flavors is a great way to get your family to try new food.

Tip:  Start the onion for the stew first, and while it starts to cook you can prep the rest of the onion for the rice.  You can prep the peppers and garlic while the rice starts cooking.  Just keep working back and forth, and both dishes will be ready at the same time, about 45 minutes from when you start.

3-4 servings

Spanish Rice with Quinoa:

  • 1/4 cup sweet yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small pat butter (about a teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup nutty brown rice, like Basmati or jasmine
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water  (Yes, you can skip the chicken broth and just use 1 cup of water, but why?)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa (I used a combination of red and regular)
  • 1 cup water (again)

rice after sauteing

Begin by sauteing the onion in the oil and butter on low heat.  After the onion has sauteed for a minute or two, add the rice, and continue to stir regularly over low heat for about 5 minutes. Most of the rice should transform from translucent to opaque as it toasts in the oil.  Add the 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric, stir, and then saute a minute more.  Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of water, stir, and put a lid on the pot for 20-25 minutes minutes.  Add the quinoa and another cup of water, and cook for 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Catalan Stew:

  • 3/4 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or pushed through a garlic press)
  • 1 Hatch (Anaheim) chile, seeded and sliced lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 jalapeno, roasted and seeded and finely diced
  • 14-16 ounces diced tomatoes (canned is actually best here, whether home canned or good organic store-bought canned)
  • handful of raisins
  • 1/3 pound cooked turkey (or chicken or raw shrimp, cleaned.  I used leftover turkey, frozen and thawed.  You’re family will never spot it as Tom from Thanksgiving!)
  • handful of toasted, slivered almonds (Toast the almonds in a 325 degree F oven for about ten minutes.  Since ovens vary, watch closely!  You can do this after the stew and rice go on autopilot in the last 25 minutes of cooking.)
  • avocado, sliced in half lengthwise twice and then into thin slices.  (You can do this after you start toasting the almonds.)

Saute the onion in  the olive oil over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and chiles and saute for about three more minutes, taking care to keep the garlic from burning.  Pour in the diced tomatoes with juice.  Add the handful of raisins.  Put the pot on a gentle simmer.  If you are using turkey or chicken, add it now. Otherwise, wait until the last ten minutes of rice cooking to add the shrimp to the stew.  The stew will be ready at the same time as the rice, about 45 minutes after you start.

To serve, fluff the Spanish rice with quinoa and pile it on each plate.  Make an indentation in the middle of each serving, and spoon on the Catalan stew.  Garnish with toasted almonds in the middle and avocado slices around the edge of the stew.  (Unfortunately, I covered the beautiful, nutty, yellow-tinted Spanish rice and Quinoa.  You can see a little of it on the lower right of the plate.)

*Quinoa is a nutty-flavored South American grain that, unlike other grains, contains a complete protein all by itself.  Quinoa is incredibly healthy and raises the protein quotient of Spanish rice.  If you haven’t cooked with quinoa yet, give it a try.  I think you’ll like it.  If you’d like to make this dish tonight and don’t have quinoa, go ahead.  Just use one cup of rice and two cups of water/chicken broth.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Reproduction of short excerpts (not full recipes) with attribution to Ozarkhomesteader and the full URL for the original post are welcome.

Read Full Post »

This fall, much later than I’d hoped, I ended up with an abundance of all sorts of peppers and very little time to process them.  Instead, I washed them and popped them in freezer bags, hoping for the best.  Now I’m happily using them in all sorts of recipes.  Some of the thin-walled peppers, like sweet marconis and mildly hot Hatches, seem to work best sliced in recipes that use stir-frying, like fajitas and Asia recipes as well as Italian sausage with peppers and onions.  You don’t need to do anything to them other than slicing and seeding but toss them straight in a pan.  The hotter, thicker-walled jalapenos stand up well to flame roasting, straight out of the freezer.  Flame roasting requires a gas stovetop (or other open, accessible flame), but I’ll give a broiler method too.

Begin by giving the frozen peppers a rinse.  Now remove the pot rest from the stove top and get out metal tongs.  Turn on the burner, and position the pepper in the flame using your tongs.

Keep turning the pepper . . .

until it’s charred all over–but not burned through!

This is what the pepper should look like.  Pathetic, isn’t it?Immediately cover the pepper and let it sit for a few minutes.

Now you’ll be able to rub off the char easily.  You can rinse the pepper afterwards, but not everyone feels that need.  Now you can seed the pepper and use it for jalapeno poppers or chili or fajitas or even szechuan stir fry.Pardon the blur!

Broiler method: Begin by pre-heating the broiler.  We want to char the outsides of the peppers, not cook the whole thing, and a hot broiler to start is crucial.  Pre-heat your pan too.  Now lightly grease the pan and place peppers to be roasted and skinned on the pan and under the broiler.  Keep a close eye on the peppers, turning to get even charring.  When they are charred all over (this will take just a few minutes), take them out and put them in a covered container.  Then remove char as indicated above.  The results aren’t quite as good as using open flame because the peppers will cook a bit more, but they’ll still work for most recipes.  This method is also much faster if you have several peppers to char.

Read Full Post »