Category Archives: Harvesting & Eating

Pepper-palooza: Pepper Recipes to Try

I finally had time to try a few recipes using some of our less common peppers in the Demo Garden. I still have a few other recipes I want to try as well.

Red Paprika Pepper Cream Sauce

I may have to plant hot paprika peppers myself, just so I can make this recipe every week. I adapted a straight red pepper cream sauce to the paprika sauce. A lot of sauces call for powdered paprika, but I wanted to try using the peppers fresh. 

  I ended up using one red bell pepper, two white sweet paprika peppers (Feher Ozon), and two red hot paprikas (Leutschauer). 

This was pretty much the easiest recipe that I never knew I was missing out on. You put two cups of cream and the chopped peppers in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the cream is reduced by half and the peppers are soft (about 30 minutes). If you want something that is lower fat, you can use fat free half and half. (I checked with our foods agent. She also said you could use cream and just use it sparingly to accent your food, rather than drowning your food in the cream sauce.) 

Then I took a stick blender and blended it until smooth. Then I added a little salt and pepper. I served it with pasta and chicken. The hot paprikas added just the right hint of flavor and spiciness. I also tried this recipe at home with plain colored, sweet peppers. It was also tasty, but not with the same depth of flavor. 

Aji Limon Salsa

I had been looking for some good recipes to try with the Aji Limon (Lemon Drop) hot pepper all summer. A Peruvian friend said that for a true Peruvian experience, I needed to use these peppers to make ceviche. While I like fish, I’m not confident in my ability to purchase good enough quality fish in a landlocked state to make fresh ceviche. So I settled for this salsa recipe. (I also have a hot sauce recipe to try out another time.) 

This recipe called for 8 oz. of the fresh Aji Limon peppers, 8 oz. of yellow bell pepper, 2 mangoes, brown sugar, and a bunch of vinegar and lime juice. I’ll be honest…I was afraid of how hot it might be. 

The recipe didn’t say, so I decided to seed all the peppers. I chopped everything up, mixed it together, and tossed it into a saucepan. I let it cook until everything seemed soft and blendable. 

At that point, I brought back the stick blender to smooth out the lumps. 

After tasting, I would characterize this as a “hot” salsa. In other words, comparable to the heat level you might find if you buy a salsa labeled “hot.” If you regularly eat or enjoy spicy foods, this will be a nice salsa for you. If you are not into spicy foods, you will probably want to steer clear. That said, as with any salsa that contains a lot of brown sugar and mango, it is very tasty. 


Pepper Sauce

To use some of the Tabasco peppers, I was tempted to try making homemade tabasco sauce, but I decided to be kinder than that to my office mates. I settled for making a southern-style vinegar sauce.

I started with the Tabasco peppers. The fully ripe ones popped off the plant without the stems, which was handy. I washed them, and then slit them along the side.

 When working with hot peppers, I strongly recommend wearing gloves! As much of a pain as it is, it isn’t as painful as getting capsaicin everywhere I don’t want it. 

Then all I did was heat a cup and a half of white wine vinegar and pour it over the peppers in a jar. You could add garlic or peppercorns, but I decided to stay simple. I’ll give it a couple weeks to “steep” before trying the flavored vinegar.

Still to come in another post: the Espelette peppers, the Fushimi peppers, and dehydrating peppers. 

Garden Recipe Roundup

When we have some less common veggies in the garden, I always try to cook something with a few of them to show how they might be used and to give them a fair taste test. Many of you know that I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I decided that I should give an eggplant dish a try anyway. I also made stewed okra and tomatoes, because I’ve never really cooked with okra before and wanted to try it in a form other than breaded and fried.

First up: Thai Fried Eggplant with Basil

I like Thai food, and we had all the recipe and sauce ingredients on hand, so it worked out well. I used the green Oriental eggplant, the yellow ‘Escamillo’ sweet peppers and one of the purple sweet peppers, one of the Round Purple Asian eggplants, a red onion from my home garden, and a couple ‘Gong Bao’ peppers from my home garden in place of the serranos. I also used Thai basil rather than regular sweet basil.

I found the sauce to be a little heavy, flavor-wise. It probably needed a bit more acid, maybe some lime juice. Overall, it wasn’t bad (for eggplant). The texture still isn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t completely distasteful.

Next up: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

I used the okra and tomatoes from the garden, including some of the big okra that is larger than would typically be ideal. The ‘Ladyfinger’ okra that we are growing is supposed to be tender and usable even at larger sizes, so I wanted to test that out. I would say that it was nice and tender after the stewing, up to about 10″ long. After that, the pieces were still a bit fibrous and woody. I doubt a longer cook time would have solved the problem.

Both recipes were fairly easy, did a nice job featuring the vegetables, and were tasty. If you are looking for a recipe to use for eggplant or okra, give these a try!

A Summer Recipe Roundup

It has been quite some time since I’ve gotten around to posting some recipes on the blog. I wanted to share both some recipes I’ve tried as well as our Saturday Sampler recipes from this year.

This is one of the recipes that Denise sampled on Saturday for our Saturday Sampler. The pizza crust is made with zucchini! It was a big hit. Here are links to this year’s Saturday Sampler Recipes:

Rhubarb

Swiss Chard

Summer Squash

It wouldn’t be summer without some sort of tomato salad! This simple salad didn’t even have a recipe. I just sliced up cherry tomatoes, cubed up some lemon-basil bread from the store, added mozzarella cheese, basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Then I gave it all a mix! Yum!

A while back I tried this recipe. Skillet Gnocchi with Chard, White Beans, and Tomatoes. It was a delicious and filling vegetarian meal. I used some frozen roma tomatoes I had from last year, fresh chard, and canned beans. Yum!

This is another recipe that I just kind of threw together this spring with what I had on hand. There’s some leftover ham and brats, boiled potatoes (turned fried potatoes), sugar snap peas, asparagus, and some herbs all sauteed in a little bit of oil.

Have you tried any delicious recipes with your home grown produce this year?

Cooking Our Garden-Grown Beans

I know it has been awhile, but waaaay back in the summer we were growing some different beans in the garden. In the Italian garden we had some borlotto beans growing and in the Indian garden we had both chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and cowpeas (black-eyed peas) growing. We harvested them and shelled them when they were dry, and they have since been sitting on bags on my desk, waiting for me to do something with them. This week was the week! I made a different dish with each type of bean so that everyone could sample them.

Step 1: Sorting

I’ve always sorted the beans when I buy bags of dry beans, but usually you are looking for small rocks and things like that. In this instance, I wasn’t concerned about rocks. I was concerned about looking for moldy beans (stored before fully dry) or damaged beans (primarily munched on by bugs).

Here are the culls. There were quite a number, particularly cowpeas, that had been munched on. Different challenges with homegrown beans!

We ended up with about 3/4 cup of the ‘Black Kabouli’ Chickpeas, 1.25 cups of the cowpeas, and 1.5 cups of the Italian borlotto beans.

To put that in context a bit more:

18 sq. ft of Italian borlotto beans yielded 1.5 cups.

17.5 sq. ft. of chickpeas yielded 3/4 cup.

17.5 sq. ft. of cowpeas (that sprawled everywhere) yielded 1.25 cups.

So…certainly not a spectacular yield. It’s not to say they weren’t fun to grow, but they are more of a novelty item that a really productive use of space.

Step 2: Soaking

If you’ve never cooked dried beans before, after the sorting step you need to soak them overnight.

These are the Italian beans. I put them in a large bowl and covered them with plenty of water.

By the next morning they had absorbed quite a bit of water and were nicely puffed up.

Step 3: Cooking/Par-Cooking

Because the recipes I wanted to use called for canned beans, which are essentially pre-cooked, I decided to cook the beans plain first, and then save them for the recipes I wanted to try.

I put each type of bean in a pot, covered them with water, added a little salt, and turned on the heat. They took about an hour of simmering to get to the cooked-but-not-mushy stage. Sorry, I didn’t take any pictures. Pictures of beans boiling is only slightly more exciting than pictures of beans soaking, and I already subjected you to those!

After they were cooked, I drained and rinsed them, then refrigerated them to use later.

Step 4: Cooking into Something Tasty

I wanted to use each type of bean in a semi-authentic recipe, so the next step was finding the right one.

Chickpeas

I was planning to make hummus with the chickpeas, but the skins didn’t crack when I cooked them. I didn’t want to take the trouble to remove the skins and making hummus with the skins on would have resulted in a gritty, grey-colored hummus (the chickpeas had black skins). I ended up making Crispy Roasted Chickpeas. There are about a thousand recipes on the web for different spice variations if you care to try several flavors. I used cumin, coriander, salt, and cayenne pepper. You toss the chickpeas in olive oil and the spices and then roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until crispy. Ironically, the skins and whole peas split while roasting, after refusing to split while boiling. Oh well.

Italian Borlotto Beans

For the Italian beans, I found a recipe for Fresh Stewed Borlotti Beans that called for fresh rather than dry beans. We were past the “fresh” stage, obviously, so that’s why I par-cooked the beans first. Beyond that, it was pretty straightforward. Cook the aromatics (celery, onion, garlic) in oil, add the beans, tomatoes, and parsley. Cook until the beans are the texture you prefer.

The beans had an interesting nutty and sweet flavor, so I didn’t cook them down too much. They were softer than they started, but still pretty much whole, not to the mushy stage.

Cowpeas

The cowpeas had ind of an interesting grassy/earthy taste after the initial cooking. Not bad, but very different from the other two. I decided to make a Cowpea and Potato Curry using them.

If you don’t routinely cook this type of dish, it is the one that you will probably have to make a special trip to the grocery store or a specialty store to find all the ingredients. We cook a fair amount of Indian-inspired food at home, so I have all of the spices on hand. Things you may not have include: cumin, turmeric, garam masala (you can find it at Spice Merchant if you are in Wichita), fresh mint and cilantro, garlic-ginger paste (or fresh ginger to make your own).

This recipe starts by sauteing the onions, garlic, ginger, and spices, then adding the potatoes. After a few minutes you add the chickpeas, tomato puree, water, and simmer until everything is cooked. Last you add the mint and cilantro paste and cook a few more minutes. Served over rice, it will make a great vegetarian meal.

So, that is that! I have to say that cooking dry beans that you grew yourself do taste even better than cooking dry beans from the store and MUCH better than using canned beans. Each type of bean also has its own flavor profile. Still…growing dry beans is more of a fun project than anything else if you don’t have much space.

Two Fennel Recipes

One of the things we had in the Fall Italian Garden was bulbing fennel, which you may sometimes see in the grocery store labeled “Anise.”

This is the fennel that was harvested before the cold weather set in a couple weeks ago. Most of it was pretty good sized. As a recap, we started the seeds indoors and then transplanted in early August. It is edible at any size of bulb development, and I know that sometimes people like the smaller ones to roast whole. The bulbs were good sized a few weeks before we harvested, but I always like to see how big we can grow things in the fall and how long they will last in the garden.

So…what do you do with bulb fennel? I had tried a fennel gratin recipe several years ago that was pretty disgusting, so I went looking for some better options. I ended up with a recipe for Roasted Fennel, Carrots, & Shallots and another recipe for a Radicchio, Fennel, and Olive Panzanella (bread salad). It was a bonus, since we had radicchio in the garden too!

I cut the tops off the fennel, quartered it, rinsed it well (there was some dirt between the layers, but not too much), and tossed the pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I sliced the carrots, and topped the red bunching onions. The original recipe called for shallots, but I had a whole bunch of these red bunching onions from the garden as well that were pretty sweet, so I opted to use them instead. These were also tossed with oil, salt, and pepper, then spread on a baking sheet.

Everything was roasted at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

The finished product! (Technically the recipe called for garnishing with parsley and a few fronds from the fennel tops. Oh well.) This dish was a huge hit, even though it was so simple. Sometimes the simple dishes are the best. Almost everyone really enjoyed the flavor of the roasted fennel.

The second recipe was actually a bit more complex, even though it was a salad. I also didn’t manage to get pictures of every step, so bear with me. Here’s a link to the original recipe: Radicchio, Fennel, and Olive Panzanella.

The first step was to toast the bread. The cubes of bread were tossed with lemon zest, oil, salt, and pepper. Then they were toasted in the oven until just crisp. (Not all the way to crouton stage.)

The dressing was pretty simple: minced shallot (I subbed the red onion again), chopped parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper, all whisked together.

The fennel was easy to deal with. I just took a couple of the smaller bulbs and thinly sliced them. Done!

Then the radicchio…

Eew! When I harvested it, the outer leaves looked good, but as I peeled it down to the inner head, I got to this slimy layer. I don’t know if this is normal, if the plants were too crowded, if it was too warm and wet for most of the fall, or what the story was. I’m sure that many of you, getting to this point, would have just chucked the whole thing in the trash and moved on. Luckily you have me to delve through the slime to find out if there was anything good underneath!

What do you know! There was something worth having! One of the heads that I stripped down still had some good green leaves before getting to the red interior leaves. The others needed to be cleaned further, down to the red leaves. But the radicchio “hearts” were just fine to use. No sliminess in evidence at all.

Here’s the bigger “green exterior” head sliced. The center is nice and red. (Recap again: the radicchio was also started inside and transplanted in early August.”)

The final salad: the bread, radicchio, and fennel were tossed, as well as some halved green olives, chopped parsley, a little cheese, some salami and the dressing. It was a colorful and interesting salad. Because the greens were all radicchio, it had a stronger, more bitter flavor than our American palates are used to. Some people really liked it and others didn’t care for it. To make it appeal to a broader audience, I added some sweet lettuces (like bibb lettuce) to cut the bitter greens a bit. The fennel really wasn’t very prominent in this dish by the time everything else was added, but it was a great use for radicchio!