Monday, September 26, 2011

Roasting Peppers -- I've Figured It Out

This year the only pepper seeds I started for planting in the garden were for an heirloom variety called Chervena Chushka. The plants turned out to be prolific producers and I was able to harvest a good number for roasting.

In the past my attempts at roasting peppers haven't been entirely successful. The idea is to char the skin so that it rubs off cleanly and easily and in the process the flesh of the pepper is rendered soft, sweet and delicious. The method I previously used consisted of taking the grid off one of the gas burners and laying/holding the pepper directly in the flame. When I tried that this time, I got the same results I always have. The skin blistered, blackened and peeled readily on the bulges of the pepper but stayed fresh and undercooked in the valleys, so to speak. I got frustrated with this process and decided to try the broiler method. I arranged the peppers on a baking sheet and positioned them as close to the broiler element as the oven rack allowed and watched closely as the wider parts began to blister and char while the tips remained red and fresh this time. This wasn't any better than the flame. Deciding that at least on the stovetop I could tediously direct the flame at the spots that obviously still needed it, I pulled the peppers from the oven. That's when the discovery happened. Now that the peppers had been pre-roasted or at least had the chill taken off them, they blistered and charred quickly and evenly in the gas flame.

After each pepper was completely roasted I placed it in a pan covered with foil to allow them to steam a little longer and loosen the skin.

After they'd all been roasted and rested, the skins slipped off ridiculously easily revealing the sweet, fragrant flesh.

In the end we stuffed them with polenta and goat cheese and served them with some nice roasted halibut and Tasty Evergreen and Sungold tomatoes also from the garden.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Tasting

Earlier this week I pickled some golden beets and eggs together. I waited a few days and this evening took out a beet and an egg to give them a taste.

The eggs were a little rubbery but not as firm as past ones I've made. Maybe in time they'll get tougher. I'm hoping not. The yolks were just set in the center so if anything I undercooked them. The flavor was delicious, as was the case with the beet. Sweet, spicy, earthy. The gold color hasn't penetrated far into the egg white but it might given a couple more weeks. We'll see if they last that long.

And if you're feeling like hearing me yammer on about pickling, check out my conversation with Steve Howard over on the Growing Your Grub podcast.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pickled Beets and Eggs

Yesterday I was contemplating the heap of beets accumulating in the crisper drawer and wondering what I was going to do with all of them. As luck would have it, I had managed to harvest some of the Burpee's Golden when they were still small--just the right size for pickling. For some added interest, I decided to include a few hard-boiled eggs.

In the past I've pickled the typical red beets together with eggs. The color from the beets works its way into the egg white giving it a rosy pink color. While the color of the golden beets isn't as intense as the red ones, I'm hoping to end up with some golden eggs. They may not protect us from a failing economy, but they'll be fun to eat.

The recipe I used is the "Spicy Pickled Beets" in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, a book I highly recommend to anyone looking to try canning and pickling. As you can see in this shot of the finished product, I didn't use the recommended two-part lid canning jars. I'm treating this batch as refrigerator pickles that will be eaten up in a relatively short time. Now I just have to have the patience to wait a few days for the flavors to develop before I can taste the results!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lima Beans

This year I grew lima beans. On purpose. They're also known as butter beans or butter peas.

I can't remember if they were seeds I purchased myself or got from my garden guru. They were called 'White Dixie Butter' and I find it hard to resist anything with butter in the name, especially a bean. I planted them fairly late compared to the other beans since I planned on picking them as shell beans and didn't worry too much about them reaching the dry stage. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to them, just noticing that they'd bloomed and that pods were forming. Then a few days ago I finally looked up when they should be harvested. I read that they are good when the pods are fatter but not too yellow. Next time I was in the garden I pinched a few pods and could feel the little tell-tale bumps but they weren't what I would call fat. Then I noticed that some pods were dry and brown and a few had been chewed by pests. Popping open one of the fatter pods I was reminded that lima beans are flat compared to the other beans I grow. I looked over the small patch and decided rather than go over them every day or two looking for all the "just right" pods that enough were ripe or beyond. In cut all the plants at the base and brought them home. It was much more comfortable sitting on the deck stripping the pods off the plant than it would have been crouched in the garden.

The co-conspirator pitched in sorting the dry from the fresh pods--which included a number of under-ripe ones and we got to work shelling. In the end, knowing how many seeds I planted that actually grew into plants that produced beans and how much we ended up with I calculated a yield of nearly one hundred-twenty five times what was planted. Had I not wasted some that weren't ripe that number doubtless would have been higher! It occurred to me that the quick bean counting I did a while back was in error. I didn't account for the fact that not all the bush beans planted grew and produced. Beans are often touted as one of the most productive crops you can grow. I know I'm convinced.

"Pick 'em, hull 'em, put on the steam. That's how we fix butterbeans!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tomatoes Again

Got up and canned some tomato puree first thing this morning.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Curry and Connections

Tonight I made a decent Kerala style mushroom curry. I found the recipe via an online friend I first met via an orchid discussion forum. She lives in Mumbai and has an excellent blog of her own that you should check out some time. Something struck me about the fact that when I was looking for advice about authentic Indian cuisine, I was able to get authoritative input from someone I've talked with for years but have never met. Such is the power of the Internet.

Occasionally I'll step back from the keyboard and take a critical look at the role the Internet plays in my life. I recently returned from a wonderful camping vacation where I probably could have but didn't bother to access the Web, email, etc. I really didn't miss them. Sure, I was capturing images I may post on facebook at some point and, yes, I did manage to do one ambient sound recording that may find its way onto Freesound. (It stars a vireo with wolf backup, by the way.) I had plenty of treeware, an ereader and my precious notebooks to keep me busy and I knew I'd be back online soon after returning to civilization.

Best of all I had the opportunity to let my mind slow down and really evaluate how I spend my time, including my Internet usage, and I decided it's a valuable connection to the people and information that enrich my life. I think about the individual and joint projects I've got simmering right now and while it can seem overwhelming at times, they're things I truly enjoy or that I feel are important. While I was jotting down yet another URL in my notebook to check out when I got home I looked at my to-do list. It occurred to me that I really need a to-don't list. It doesn't even have one item on it yet, but I'm getting close to formulating the first one. It goes along the line of "Don't waste time/energy on things you don't really care about." Simple enough, but I have a feeling there's some power in it I haven't quite yet realized.

Meanwhile, the curry was good but it was also a learning experience--what experience isn't? The recipe I used was from one of the sites Sunita recommended, a blog called Vazhayila. I used a mixture of the oyster mushrooms from the almost-neighborhood farmers market and some regular button mushrooms. The onion, garlic, jalapeno and tomato came from our own garden. Spices were from our local Penzey's store. The co-conspirator told me--after the fact--that Penzey's chili powder is a bit on the strong side. That and the extra jalapeno I added were evident when we were sweating and sniffling our way through dinner. A few dollops of yogurt helped cool things down. Next time I'll remember to make a cucumber raita. Finally, local tortillas stood in for the chapatis since I thought we were out of whole wheat flour and I didn't want to venture out into traffic again.