Monday, August 25, 2014

All that pepper

It seems after watermelon, peppers are the best growers in my garden. And, I am in habit of making sure I grow enough varieties that from the tip to the back of my tongue receives notice of their season. The yellow banana and red pimento are terrifically sweet and the poblano straddles sweet, bitter, and hot. Then there is the straight-up fiery assault of the Thai bird’s beak, chocolate habanero and jalapeno, all of which I prefer to let fully ripen just to make sure their potency is fully apprecited. When the jalapeno is still green they are more like bonsai bell peppers to me. Unfortunately, I am married to the biggest “heat” wimp ever. He starts sweating profusely when I use a slightly ripening poblano. He chides me that I use chili sauce like most Americans use ketchup, and on this he is right. I have learned that on average I will go through about 2-plus quarts of chili a year. And, just think I grew up in a house with a small bottle of Tabasco in the door of the refrigerator, and an age worn, red and white tin of cayenne pepper probably moved from kitchen to kitchen by my mom.

The hotter chilies are no longer to be grown in any great quantity since they are primarily for me. However, three poblano plants and four sweet feed us bountifully during the summer, and gives me plenty to slice and freeze for winter’s soups and stews. So, while the black flea beetle clings to the leaves of my eggplant feeding its addiction, just across the path my peppers grow tall, bushy and don’t seem to want to stop flowering. While the summer sun pours down baking rays I will dry a couple of batches for homemade ancho chilies otherwise, it is another incarnation of peppers tonight.

Wilted Peppers with White Beans – serves 4
4 poblano peppers – seeds discarded

1-large onion – thinly sliced
2-garlic cloves – thinly sliced
13.5 ounce canned white beans – drained and rinsed
2-tablespoons olive oil
1-cup cherry tomatoes
1-tablespoon chopped summer savory leaves
3-cups packed chopped amaranth or spinach leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

After removing the seeds from the peppers slice them into no more than ¼-inch thick strips.

In a 10-inch sauté pan add the peppers, onions, garlic, white beans and olive oil, and cook over a low flame for about 45 minutes to an hour. Stir the mixture every so often in order not prevent it from scorching. Mix in the cherry tomatoes, summer savory, chopped leaves, and salt and pepper. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer. Serve warm on a crostini or over a grilled pork chop.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Heaping Scoops

It has been a difficult summer for me. Packing up the old house and going through a renovation, and the subsequent cleaning that it generated. Finally, the kitchen is complete and the boxes have been broken down and discarded (we are never moving again). Now, I can get back to the business at hand – playing in the kitchen. I have missed almost two months of garden and farmer’s market offerings due to the fact I only had my grill functioning, and the counter adjacent to the sink in the mudroom was all work area the new house had to offer. I have done very little puttn’ up, which means I am in overdrive to try and catch up.

I have sorely missed making ice cream, not that I am saying I have spent half the summer season without the creamy, frozen concoction. No stove to make the custard base, a single freezer crammed with the items that were accommodating the temporary loss of my back-up unit; and, the general mess and debris floating through the air just did not make it conducive to have ice cream churning away – Rocky Road is not a favorite flavor. But, now, life has been dusted, vacuumed and repeated numerous times I felt it was safe breakout the ice cream maker – enough with comforting myself with a pint of someone else’s.  I may have also failed to mentioned, that my husband has a nightly requirement of three scoops and he has become accustomed to requesting a flavor or inquiring what combination I was working with – I hate to let him down, and only be able to dole out a commercial bowlful. So, with my yearning to score some love points and satisfy my need to freeze a summer moment I let it rip. I don’t think this quart will last more than a few days.   

Rose scented Geranium and Cinnamon Ice Cream - yields approx. 1-quart
2-cups heavy cream
2-cups half-and-half
2-cups sugar
5-rose geranium leaves
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
6-egg yolks

In a 1½-quart saucepan add the cream, half-and-half, sugar, rose geranium, and cinnamon sticks, and over a low flame allow the sugar to completely dissolve.

In a work bowl beat the egg yolks until thickened and a pale yellow. Add to the warmed cream mixture, and cook over a low flame for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean work bowl, and refrigerator for a few hours for up to 24-hours. Then pour the chilled ice cream base into the freezer compartment of an ice cream, and proceed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the ice has set up transfer into a freezer container, and place in the freezer for an hour or two before serving.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Right from my own backyard

It has been a whirlwind for the past 6 weeks. Closing on a new home and starting a renovation – of course the kitchen had to be blown out. We spent the month of July shuttling from the old place to the new one, while juggling the day in day out commitments that actually allow us to buy the bills. There still is some rehab work to be completed. So, while we have fully moved in, it is more like glamping. The new kitchen is a tad incomplete – the range is en-route (fingers crossed a few more days). And, because of the size and location of the range in the kitchen, the refrigerator is safely encapsulated in its packing material in the garage until the behemoth arrives and can be maneuvered in. The pool is in fine working order, so there is plenty of refreshing cool water to take the edge off a summer’s day. And, my grill is all hooked up and has supplied at least a piece of nightly charred flesh.

I did not realize I would miss cooking beans, grains, and the simple act of boiling water. I have suffered, stress suffered, K-cup coffee for the past few weeks, and all I can say, at least it staves off a 3pm caffeine headache. I hope my French press does not think I have abandoned it. Frustrating to have this wonderful new cooking space, and I don’t even have the ability to boil water. Then there was the discovery made over the weekend. We had a few days of rain, and a quick summer cool down, and this house is tucked away on 15 plus acres of old growth pine, maple, and oak trees. Needless to say, there are fallen leaves and failed branches all over the property. Driving in there looked to be a cluster of chanterelle mushrooms. I was apprehensive to collect them for fear of a missed diagnosis, but my husband insisted they were the ones he foraged as a boy. So we did. At the house, I put on my Wellies and set out into the woods to make sure we had more then just three. Within a half hour I was home with a small basket-full -- prefect amount for the two of us. Even though I was only half convinced these were edible I planned to cook them. I figured we would have a lovely surprise on our plates that night, or travel on some woodland inspired trip, or rush to find the nearest hospital.

Without a stove I pulled out my cast iron skillet, and heated on the grill. I wilted those meaty fungi with garlic, onions and summer savory, which smothered the pork tenderloin we were having that night. We awoke the following morning alive without having suffering any bizarre dreams. I learned have to forage my first mushroom. This glamping this is not so bad, but I really miss my morning java jolt.