Hey there – I know I have posted about peppers before and I may seem to be a little wacky about them – but not only do I love all things pepper – I really get excited about how easy they are to ‘put up’! No blanching or canning needed – just chop and freeze – or dry and pulverize! Those of you that are CSA members know that at times throughout the year, Mary Katherine places crates of extra produce in which our customers can take what they like at no extra charge! (One of the many benefits of our CSA program). With the recent freeze, she had to pick all the bell peppers. So – I took advantage of some extras, brought them home – washed, chopped and froze them on a cookie sheet. I just bagged them up this morning cause I forgot they were still in the freezer and that reminded me I haven’t blogged in a while. In the picture you can see the peppers are diced really small. I use the most awesome Vidalia chopper (Bed, Bath & Beyond) and really like the small dice because we have a few people in our family afraid of eating veggies! I dice them small – along with onions – and before making soups or casseroles, I grab some pre-diced (by me) peppers and onions from the freezer and sauté until the onions are carmelized. Right before I add any other ingredients – I always add minced, sliced, or whole garlic (again for the fearful ones in the family – the whole garlic adds less of a garlic flavor and can easily be removed before serving). I now have a wonderful base for just about anything. And the exciting part is I had them ready to go in the freezer – yay me! Also in the picture – you see the shaker with hot pepper flakes. The kids and I use that stuff on almost anything – love the kick and flavor.
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons and one of those reasons is peppers. This is the time I make hot pepper flakes, roast poblano peppers, chop and freeze various peppers for use throughout the winter and spring, and fermenting jalapeños-to name a few!
With the freeze approaching this week – we are busy harvesting the peppers before they freeze! We have crates of peppers for our CSA customers to take this week as they wish. Some of those have already begun vine drying – which creates the deepest flavor for dried pepper flakes! There are several ways you can complete the drying process – or start with fresh peppers – in place of a food dehydrator.
Convection Oven – wash, air dry and place on cookie sheets or if you have cooling racks for better air flow – and place in a convection oven at 140 degrees. Prop the oven door just enough to vent but not too much to stop the oven. If the peppers are on cookie sheets – give them a stir every couple hours. Keep in oven until they are completely dry – can be as long as 24 hours. Make sure they are completely dry before processing in a blender to make pepper flakes to spice up your food!
Place peppers in a basket or any type of container that encourages air flow and place in a dry area – a sunny window sill would be ideal. Let sit until peppers dry! You can also put them on the front or rear dash inside your closed car when sitting in a sunny spot. Thus speeds up the drying process dramatically!
Remember – you can roast any pepper to enhance their flavor, peel and remove seeds and freeze for later use. You can also chop, place on a cookie sheet and freeze – and then place in baggie and use as needed this winter. And there is always fermentation – will cover that in a later blog.
I have discovered a WONDERFUL way to use our greens – a fabulous green soup. Take all the greens you get in a week – last week included mustard greens, kale, collards and Swiss chard – and wash well. I usually wash them all together at least three times and I check the back of the leaves for any of those pesky worms as I am washing. You can give them a rough chop (or not), add to a pot with a cup of water, handful of cilantro a cubed potato (to help thicken it) a teaspoon of salt and a chopped onion. Bring to a boil and cook on low for 30 minutes. Meanwhile – chop another onion (you should have received a few in your bag) and sauté with a tablespoon of butter or olive oil – low and slow until they carmelize. (About 25 minutes). You can also chop up one of the peppers in your bag and sauté along with the onion. This week I am going to try sautéing a poblano pepper I chopped and froze a couple weeks back! Give it a little kick. After the onions have carmelized – add 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5…) finely chopped or pressed cloves of garlic and sauté until fragrant – just a few seconds. Add the onions and garlic to the pot of greens along with 3 or 4 cups of chicken broth. Cook about 20 more minutes. Take an immersion blender and purée the soup. (If you don’t have one you can use a blender). Add salt and pepper to taste and then do what they did in the 1800’s and early 1900’s – add a bit of cream to give the soup a little creaminess! I think I added 1/3 cup to the whole pot. Once you pour some soup in your bowl – add finely grated Parmesan cheese! If you are thinking the cream will add too many calories- then skip that part and add a squeeze of lemon and a dash of olive oil with the Parmesan cheese. Enjoy with a salad and nice crusty bread! Yum Yum! This will be great on a cool fall day.
And remember – if you are pressed for time or don’t plan to cook that week – wash and dry your greens really well. Once thoroughly dry – throw them in a bag and freeze until you can use them! Studies show that vegetables frozen right after they are harvested retain the majority of nutrients and are often better than fresh. (Grocery store fresh that is) After just 4 days the majority of nutrients are gone from many veggies. Well – you can’t get any fresher than the veggies you get from Phocas Farms. They harvest each day! Talk about fresh!
Hello everyone – it has been a while since I first introduced my blog intentions. We are finally moved in and close to being settled! There are still some boxes in the garage that need tending – but life doesn’t stop when you move so we will get to them when we can. I didn’t cook for a while since our kitchen was being redone so we cooked out on our new grill. In our bags that week were some greens, peppers (hot and bell), potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, okra and eggplant – along with some tomatoes, and herbs. So what did we do – we made shish kabobs! I marinated some meat in one bag with some oil, wine, and the fresh rosemary and oregano from our bags. In another bag I added oil, salt, garlic, oregano, thyme and basil – chunked up all the veggies and into the bags they went! Both the meat and veggies marinated all day while we visited with family, then we loaded up the skewers each with the same kind of meat/veggie. Each veggie cooks a little different and I like to keep them together on a skewer. Poor Steve said his whole night was ruined when a pepper fell off onto the grill and he ate it. Well – I forgot to tell him one of the pepper skewers had all of the hot peppers we got in our bags that week – including the habaneros! Poor thing – burnt him up!
I washed the potatoes and sweet potatoes really well – then sliced them about a half inch thick – put them in a bowl and tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper and the rest of the herbs from our bag. (Would have loved to add garlic but have to be careful as Steve doesn’t really care for it) Steve added them to the grill and cooked them until they were soft – with really nice grill marks. (Wish I had a photo – working on remembering to take pics so I can share) Right after they came off the grill – I added butter to the bowl and tossed! The potatoes were really good – but oh my, the sweet potatoes were AMAZING!!!! Everyone really enjoyed the dinner and all but the meat was from our CSA bag that week! Oh I almost forgot – I washed the okra, tossed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and Steve grilled it – that is our favorite way to eat okra. Now that it is getting colder – the okra slows down but the next time you have okra in your bag I can guarantee you will not be disappointed with grilled okra.
One of my favorite times of the year is fall – not just because of the weather but also because of the root vegetables, brassicas and greens that grow so well this time of the year. I have a great ‘green soup’ recipe that is awesome with some crusty bread and will share that in my next post. Happy cooking!