Roasted Red Peppers–No UPC Code Involved


The red peppers in Florida seem to sell themselves quite well. One can see their vibrant red color from as far away as the Java Dog Coffee Bus parked 50 feet away. They are of course delicious raw and to be honest, I’ve always preferred them that way and never bothered to try roasting them. But if it’s possible to make local red peppers any better than they already are, roasting is the way to do it. Even the fancy jarred roasted red peppers don’t come anywhere near the sweetness of these guys from Worden Farms and guest after guest of mine asked ‘What did you do to sweeten these?” Not much. Local red peppers are sweet to begin with and the oven gives then a helping hand.  Give this a try. You invest a few dollars and around a half an hour of time and you have a homemade condiment and side dish that can be used throughout the week to liven up your meals or just to eat as a snack. No jar to recycle either. Just peppers to eat.

Home Roasted Red Peppers

Preheat Oven to 450

Core and quarter 6 red peppers and put on cookie sheet

Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of Olive Oil and season with salt and pepper

Roast for 20 minutes or until peppers start to blacken on the edges

Remove from cookie sheet, let cool and serve

I’d love to hear some ways that you guys like to use roasted red peppers. I have some ideas but I’d love to post some reader ideas as well.

Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Cast Iron Frittata

When people describe things as ‘lingering,’ they are usually describing things they wish would go away. (“I can’t hang out tonight because I still have this lingering head cold, but maybe next week I can come over and watch CSI Miami.”) But the farmer’s market tomatoes seem to be lingering well into October this year and they are more than welcome to stay. The last few times I’ve been shopping, I’ve found myself with a fun mishmosh of groceries. There are new greens in season now, lots of herbs, and the beginning of the hearty squashes of fall and winter. It’s sometimes nice to have some recipes that allow you to use whatever you have around. I love soups for this but they can take a long time. I wanted a quicker meal that was inexpensive and fun to serve to a group. I also wanted another recipe that would make great use of end of the season tomatoes which could be a little softer as well as the delicious local cheeses that I’ve been seeing lately at the market.

I think of frittatas like quiches without the pain of the crust. I also don’t bother with a non stick pan as I’m not quite sure what might happen to my body if I ingest teflon regularly (although I’d like to grow a tail someday). But a well seasoned cast iron skillet is ideal for cooking egg dishes and the food lifts right off the surface. I also love the fact that the dish looks so rustic and guests seem to love almost anything served in an iron skillet. So get your cast iron pans out, see what your farmers market has to offer and let’s get cooking.

Tomato, Goat Cheese and Cast Iron Fritatta

Farmers Market Bill $12/6 servings = $2/serving

Crack 6 fresh eggs into a bowl and beat with whisk or fork

Slice 2 large tomatoes thinly

Crumble 3 oz. or so of goat cheese in a small bowl

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 6-8 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat

Add eggs and a heafty pinch of salt and pepper

Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes then sprinkle half the goat cheese over the eggs

Cook for an additional minute and then layer tomato slices throughout

Cook until fritatta has set (around 3 more minutes)

Sprinkle the remaining goat cheese over the top

If frittata is too loose, finish in 400 degree oven for 5 minutes or so

Sprinkle the top with some fresh herbs if you have them. If not, it’s fine by itself. Well, better than fine. It’s really as delicious lunch. I enjoyed this one with my grandmother.

Beer Braised Okra with Curry and Turmeric

When a doctor tells you ‘This won’t hurt,” it tends to be before something painful. I’d rather have him or her say “This will be a little painful.” So let’s be straight here: Okra can be a little slimy. But before you cross it off your list, think about the other delicious foods that can also be slimy like guacamole and egg drop soup. It’s all good. In okra’s case, it can be very good.

Thanks to all who wrote in asking for help with okra. It’s been fun to practice and to see what other chefs have to say. I was really happy to see Aarti win this season of The Next Food Network Star. Her new show Aarti Party, will focus on using Indian flavors and I realized watching her how little I cook Indian at home. I am in awe of cooks who know the nuances of the different types of curries. And like almost all cuisines, Indian dishes are even better when made with fresh ingredients and there is plenty of fresh okra right now.

This recipe serves 4 and uses about a pound of okra and a roughly chopped tomato. It requires a quick saute, a little liquid (in this case, a bottle of beer from Brooklyn Brewery) and about a half an hour. It’s not hard to make. Market fresh garlic works with almost all of the summer vegetables and okra is no exception. This could make a great vegetarian main course with some rice and it works equally well as a side dish as well. I add a pinch of cayenne at the end but be careful. Too much cayenne hurts. Not as much as a tetanus shot, but still.

Beer Braised Okra with Curry and Turmeric

Market Cost $5/4 servings = $1.25/serving

Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat in a large frying pan

Peel and slice 2 cloves of garlic and add to pan

Trim the tops off one pound of okra from just below the stem

Add okra to pan with garlic and stir

Add 1 roughly chopped tomato

Sprinkle a teaspoon each of curry powder and turmeric, a pinch of salt, and some pepper and stir again to coat

For a spicier dish, add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper

Saute for 7 minutes or so stirring occasionally

Add a bottle of a local beer (a darker beer will give the dish a rich bitterness that works really well with the curry)

Turn heat to low and cover.

Cook for 25 minutes or so, stirring every 10.

Serve as a side dish or over rice a spicy summer supper.

Squash Surplus (Squash and Cheddar Pancakes with Corn Salad)

Here in NH and on much of the East Coast, people seem to be trying to get rid of extra squash. Yes it’s one of the most delicious and beautiful vegetables but there seems to be too much of it. Too much organic squash might be a problem for a few people but I put it low on the list of the world’s food related problems. On the way up here, I was offered squash from my sister’s garden as well as from my Aunt’s upstate. Both had plenty of extra and I was happy to take it. On the way to my father’s house here in Concord, NH I saw a bucket of squash by the side of the road with a sign that said “Please leave a quarter for each squash.” Good enough.

So I had a lot of squash to use. The squash in New England is wonderful and it costs very little. Along the squash, my father had some leftovers in his fridge that he wanted to use up before going on vacation. There was a block of cheese from Sandwich Creamery, small creamery that makes wonderful cheddar and ice cream. He also had a couple ears of corn from a small farm near his home, an onion, and a half a yellow tomato. These squash pancakes are filling and a raw corn salad was perfect for cutting through the richness of the dish.

Groceries $3.00/ 2 servings = $1.50 /serving

Grate a pound of yellow squash and half and onion on the largest-holed side of a box grater

Squeeze water out of squash and wrap in a kitchen towel to absorb any additional moisture

Grate 3/4 cup of sharp cheddar

Sprinkle mixture with salt and pepper and mix together

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat

Shape squash mixture into 2-3 inch diameter patties around an inch thick carefully place in pan

Cook without moving them for 4 minutes, flip and do the same on the other side

While pancakes are cooking, cut the kernels off 2 ears of fresh corn and dice up the other half an onion and the tomato. You could also dice up a cucumber here if you wish.

Add some salt and pepper to corn mixture. To plate, serve pancakes in the middle of the plate and spoon corn salad over the top.

The cheese keeps these pancakes from getting super crispy but the trade off is well worth it. The combination of fresh corn with the melted local cheddar somehow gives the flavor of a perfect southern cornbread despite their being no bread involved.

I’m quite hungry now. Perhaps I should go door to door and see if anyone has any fresh squash cluttering up the house that they want to get rid of. If they can spare the squash, I can certainly spare the 15 minutes it takes make these scrumptious pancakes.

Crostino #2 – Fava Bean

Fava beans got a nice bit of publicity when Hannibal Lector expressed affection for them in Silence of the Lambs. Well, sort of. I’m sure favas would have been happier had they not been mentioned in the same breath as human liver but still, good to be recognized. I suppose if an actor’s dream was to get on TV and then suddenly made his national debut on Cops during a crystal meth bust he would have mixed feeling as well. More exposure? Yes, but not the nicest kind.

I do not think of cannibalism when I think of favas. What I do think of though is one of the richest and deepest tasting vegetables I have ever eaten. I don’t see them as often on menus because they are quite labor intensive but it’s worth it. The prep is similar to the fresh peas in the Pea and Asparagus Salad but there is one additional step and the cooking time is a tad longer. Give this a try. I find this puree to be as rich as many meat dishes and it’s ideal for a vegetarian with a hearty appetite.

Fava Bean Puree Crostino

Farmer’s Market bill $6 /2 servings = $3/serving

Take 2 pounds of Favas out of their pods (I say pods instead of shells because the shells are actually something different) This step is not hard and you can put kids or friends to work doing it while you help or watch them and smirk.

While you’re shelling, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil

Place shelled favas in water and reduce heat to a low simmer

Simmer for 15 minutes (I’ve lost track before and they are more than fine when slightly over or undercooked so no worries)

Prepare a large bowl of ice water and keep nearby

Drain favas and shock in ice water bath for 3 minutes

To remove the shells, squeeze the shell gently and the fava bean should pop out

Mash fava beans with a fork along with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a serious pinch of salt and some black pepper

Toast 4 slices of good bread and top with a dash of olive oil and a tiny bit of salt

Spoon fava mixture onto bread and finish with a pinch of red chili flakes

Anthony Hopkins was so good in Silence that it may be hard to undo your previous fava bean associations but this hearty dish may be a step in the right direction.

Crostino #1- Fresh Chickpeas with Smoked Paprika

Almost all foods are better served on toasted bread. Perhaps not ice cream, fruit or fried rice, but almost everything else. Crostini also give you the safety net so if a topping doesn’t work out, you can at least be happy that you got to eat some good bread. These crostini, however, work out very well and are a great way to use awesome seasonal foods.

I don’t think I had ever seen fresh chickpeas anywhere. Not even on TV. They come in little shells that are not hard to remove. I now recognize them and I look out for them because they are easy to make and apparently extremely good for you. I add some smoked paprika at the end which is a good spice to have around if you want to play with Spanish flavors in your cooking. I just dust them with the paprika at the end. What struck me most about these chickpeas was how pure their flavor seemed to be. Canned chickpeas often have lots of water in them and these do not. They were also picked a couple days before I used them.

I’d love to hear other folks’ favorite crostini and bruschetta recipes using local ingredients. The possibilities are endless and they can even serve as a light lunch or dinner with a salad. I’ll post another one in a few days.

Chickpea Crostini w/ Smoked Paprika

Farmers Market bill $3 / 2 servings = $1.50 per serving

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil

Shell chickpeas and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until fairly tender (you’re going to cook them again so no need to cook them all the way through)

While chickpeas are simmering, drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat

Add one clove of chopped or pressed garlic and saute for 2 minutes

With a slotted spoon transfer chickpeas to skillet and increase heat to medium high and saute for 3 minutes

Toast 4 slices of crusty bread from a local bakery and drizzle the top with olive oil and a pinch of salt

Spoon chickpea mixture onto each slice and dust tops with smoked paprika

If you like this spicier, you could add some cayenne or chili flakes.

As you serve this, think of what kinds of crostini you might serve the next night and make a note of it.

Easy Peasy (and Asparagusy)

Easy Peasy (and Easy Asparagusy)

$12 at Farmers Market/4 Servings = $3/serving

I remember hating peas when I was little. Canned peas are often bad
and every time I see a small child grimacing when a bowl of mushy peas
is put before him, I want to say “Yes child. Your reaction is
appropriate. The food in front of you does not taste very good.”

Fresh peas in season are another food all together.  Truth be told, I
usually eat them faster than I can shell them and no cooking actually
takes place (just a lot of putting shells in compost and peas in my
belly). But just as overcooked peas can be unpleasant, raw peas are
not for everyone either. It’s time to blanche. No, I don’t mean it’s
time to do a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire or The Golden Girls
(though both might be fun). I mean it’s time to boil the peas very
briefly and then shock them in cold water.

When I first started cooking, I remember reading Cooking for Dummies
and learning that chefs blanch and cold water shock vegetables all the
time and that while it doesn’t take much time or skill, it improves
the quality of veggie dishes immensely. Sweet, fresh peas take very
well to blanching as do fresh asparagus spears. Since both tend to
appear around the same time at the market every year, why not combine
them into what might be the freshest salad or side dish you’ve ever
had? Start to finish should be no more than 15 minutes.

You’re eating vegetables so fresh and lightly cooked that they may
have some serious crunch to them and that’s ok. This dish is spring.
It can’t be canned.

Salad of Blanched Peas and Asparagus

Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to a boil

While water comes up to a boil, shell 2 pounds of peas

Break the tough ends off  a pound of asparagus spears  (it should
break naturally at the right place) and rinse

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces and put in bowl with peas

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside

When water comes to boil, add peas and asparagus

After 2 minutes (maybe 2 and a half for thicker asparagus), drain in a
colander and immediately plunge into ice water

Let veggies sit in ice water for 1 minute and then drain again

Toss veggies in bowl with around 6 tablespoons of the best olive oil
you can find and the juice of half a lemon

Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary

I add a few shavings of the trusty local pecorino that keeps for
around 4 months in the fridge but you could use Parmesan, a crumbly
blue, some leftover almonds, or nothing at all. See what you have
around and use it up. It will be good.