Pickled Peppers

Today I had one of those “Duh” moments in life. Jeff and Max and I are huge fans of pickled jalapenos. Jeff loves them on pizza, finely chopped in his burritos, or the standard American form, scooped up with a plate of nachos, and I love to add them as a garnish for soups. Neither of us likes, however,  when they are mushy, and the brand they carry at the co-op is terrible. As I rarely shop elsewhere, we unfortunately go without our pickled jalapeno fix more often than not.

I have canned jalapenos in the past, and was sad to discover that they also turned out mushy. Because of this, I have given little thought to any DIY approach as of late. The “Duh” moment came when I realized I could make them as a refrigerator pickle. In this manner, they spend less time in the heat thereby retaining their crunch. Ah ha!

The “Duh” moment came together as a little vision. I have a couple of these glass jars that are normally used to store nuts, but one of them had been empty for a few weeks alone on the counter looking silly. Then I came across a sale on fresh jalapenos and suddenly had a vision of them floating in the empty jar in brine as a refrigerator pickle. A little on-line research proved my idea was possible, and this is what appeared on my porch!

Note: I took this photo on the front porch as the morning sun was coming up with the hope that perhaps the heat of the jalapenos would appease the kitchen gods, and they in turn, would speak to the sun god to bring Minnesota a little more heat on this first day of Spring!

I followed David Lebovitz’ recipe mostly, but added two white onions and five cloves of garlic. This recipe fits my jar, but it may not fit yours. The Purple Foodie directed me to a Michael Rulman hint to size brine to the container. He suggests packing the jar with whatever you plan to pickle and then fill it with water. Dump the water out into a measuring container, and then remove half of it. Replace the water removed with vinegar. So smart!

Pickled Jalapenos

  • 1 pound fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced
  • 2 medium white onions, sliced
  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • 2 3/4 cups vinegar (I used white distilled vinegar)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns

Directions:

Pack the jar with onions, garlic and jalapenos. Bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, coriander seeds and peppercorns to a simmer in a non-reactive pan. Allow the mixture to simmer for about five minutes. Pour it over the veggies, cover and let cool on the counter. Once the mixture is cooled it can be moved to the fridge. It sounds like these are better after a few days rest and can be kept for many weeks.

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Yellow Curry

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Cooking sure takes on a new meaning when it’s performed after a full day’s work. Now instead of leisurely peeling carrots and marveling at their bright orange beauty, I find myself counting how many strokes of the peeler it takes to clean them of their lovely little roots. Did you know that Foxtail Farm’s carrots each take, on average, seventeen peels. The creamy fresh yellow potatoes take on average twenty-four peels and the same number of knife strokes to dice them! I’ve either developed obsessive compulsive traits, or I have math on my brain.

As many of you know I have spent the last two months exploring the virtues of my CSA box while on summer break from my teaching job. You have benefited from my crazy cooking adventures. Now my energetic and very eager fifth graders are anxiously awaiting the first day of school, and I am busy setting up a wonderful learning environment so their learning can be maximized. I’ve turned my attention away from menu planning and back to lessons. The blog is definitely enticing especially when last week’s CSA box was still lingering in the crisper drawer until just a minute ago. Tomorrow is Thursday, my next CSA box arrives, and my students will be coming to meet me at the Open House. The juggling act begins.

I still have five or six weeks of CSA boxes coming, so I’ll still be cooking. I’ll try to continue to post the recipes that work, but in warning, it could end up being a lot of soup.  We shall see.

This yellow curry uses Foxtail Farm yellow potatoes, carrots, yellow wax beans and delicious yellow onions. Not from the CSA were the garlic, spices and cilantro.

Yellow Curry Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into thin rings
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound yellow wax beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 10 Holy Basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp. brown mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs. cumin seed
  • 2 Tbs. good curry powder (I used Penzey’s Hot Curry Powder)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • water for simmering

Directions: Saute the onion rings on low heat until they begin to caramelize and then add the spices. Turn the heat up just a little and remember, you will hear the mustard seeds start to pop and turn a little gray. Move the spices around and add the garlic. Saute just until the garlic releases its’ fragrance. Next add the potatoes, beans and carrots and enough water just to be able to simmer the veggies, perhaps three or four cups. When the potatoes are tender, gently fold in the herbs. Serve immediately over jasmin rice.

Green Beans Spicy

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Ever since my friend, Kate gave me a copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, I’ve been playing around with Indian spices. I’ll be the first to tell you that I have no idea what I’m doing, but have been getting some pretty tasty results. Every time I mess with Indian, I imagine one of the Chowdhury family mamas is over my shoulder tisk, tisk, tisking me! Tonight I actually looked to see if somebody was there.

I love the spices, and I am sure there is a provincial rhyme or reason as to why some go together and some do not. At this point in time, I am experimenting to see what I like – being the great fusionist that I am! I love putting the brown mustard seed into hot oil until it pops and then sprinkling the other spices in and watching them bubble furiously in the oil. The aroma they give off just sends me to the moon! Fabulous.

These green beans got simmered in savory Indian spices along with some Thai hot chiles from the Kingfield market and some basil from the CSA. This is truly a simple dish to be enjoyed with a side of brown basmati and coconut chutney (p. 663 in World Vegetarian).

Green Beans Spicy Recipe

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans

2 or 3 Thai Chiles finely minced

8-10 large basil leaves finely minced

1 Tbs. canola oil

1/2 tsp. brown mustard seed

1/4 tsp. turmuric

1/2 tsp. cumin powder

1/4 tsp.  ground coriander

splash of water

salt to taste

Directions:

Clean and cut the beans into small pieces. Mince the chiles and basil. Heat oil in saute pan and add mustard seed. When mustard seeds begin to pop, add the other spices. Stir them and let them cook for a moment. Then add the beans, basil, and chiles. Mix them around in the spice mixture to coat. Add a splash of water and cover the pan to cook for five minutes. I like my beans firm, so you may choose to cook them a little longer. Salt to taste.

Roasted Pineapple and Black Bean Salad

Roasted Pineapple and Black Bean Salad

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Beans may very well be at the center of many people’s food psychosis. Often bean consumption can cause anti-social behavior, anger management issues, or even severe emotional response to deep-seated traumatic childhood bean experiences. Many people refuse to eat beans for fear of gas while others refuse to eat beans because they are a pain to make. Every time I make beans I have to work through the trauma of the day the lid blew! Growing up, my mom used the pressure cooker method to prepare beans, and I remember avoiding being indoors while the beans softened under extreme pressure. I always feared the pot. The pot that looked somehow militaristic with its’ gauges and locks and submarine-looking lid – the pot that induced talk about whether there would be an explosion or not. These were scary images and ideas for a little girl and I’m surprised not to have permanent psychological scars.

Even though I was traumatized, it ended up being the pot that caused the fear for me and not the beans, so I have spent much of my adult life fine-tuning the cooking of the bean without using the pressure of a militaristic submarine. There are a couple of tricks I have discovered. You know how on the bag of beans they tell you to wash them? Well, not only does this remove little bits of dirt, but washing them helps eliminate some of the gas inducing enzymes. Wash away your fears!

How you wash a bean is important, too. I use a colander and the cooking pot. I put the beans in the pot and cover them with water. Then I swirl them around with my fingers to break up little clumps of dirt and force any spoiled beans to float to the top. I remove the damaged legumes and then dump the good beans into the colander. I repeat this process two or three times until I am sure the beans are clean. Check under the colander for dirt or debris. Then I cover the beans with water and bring to a boil. I usually let them cook for about ten minutes and again drain the water, bathe and rinse. This wash is to help eliminate gas. Finally, I fill the pot again and let the beans cook until they are done – here they get a final wash and rinse.

By now I’m sure you have discovered my other trick to cooking beans: cook in large volume! Cooking beans is a time-consuming process, so I never make a paltry little pound. I usually cook four pounds in a large stock pot, and once I complete the final wash, I divide the beans into freezer containers and have many easy meals to come! It’s worth it. If you go through this process, you will not only avoid the gas found in canned beans, but you will also save money as dry beans are very inexpensive. Once new healthier habits and behaviors are formed, you will forget you ever had a bean psychosis!

Now on to the salad.

Ingredients:

1/2 fresh pineapple cored and diced

4-6 cups black beans

1 red pepper diced

2 cups corn cut from cob

5 scallions thinly sliced

1 bunch cilantro chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

2 hot peppers minced

1 tsp. salt

2 limes juiced

3 Tbs. olive oil

Directions:

Dice and slice the red pepper, scallions and pineapple. Place the pineapple on an oiled cookie sheet under the broiler. Let the pineapple brown on one side, turn it and let the chunks brown on the other side. Meanwhile, start a pot of water on the stove to boil the corn. Once the water is rapidly boiling put the cobs in and time it – two minutes is all they need. Remove the cobs and run under cold water to cool. Slice kernels from the cob. Mix beans, corn, peppers, scallions and pineapple together in a bowl. Next, mince the garlic, cilantro and hot peppers in a food processor and add to the salad. The salt, lime juice and olive oil can be added directly to the salad and mixed well. I like this salad to have at least an hour to marinate and bring all the flavors together.

Sofrito Salsa

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Sofrito Salsa

Doesn’t it just seem too dang hot for real food? I’d rather jump in the fridge with the vegetables than to cook them. I’m just not in the mood for anything that requires much time in the kitchen. So, I check in the fridge to see what’s NOT from the box, and under all the greens, I stumble upon this dash of red. It’s a six pack of red peppers from Costco – not fresh, not organic, but deliciously red – goes with the heat, you know.

I’ve always got black beans on the ready, so I decide to make some quick “Burrito Bowls” with what I call a “Sofrito Salsa.” Sofrito reigns from the warmer climates of places like Puerto Rico, Cuba and Haiti where it’s a base for much of their cooking. Simply, it’s onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes sauteed in a bit of oil. It get’s a little sweet from the nearly caramelized onion and pepper, but I spiced it up a little with a Serrano pepper. It was easy to cook up a pot of green rice and eat the whole mess with crema and romaine from Foxtail Farm.

The Grain Belt Premium was inspired by my friend, Mark Johnston, whose film commercial for Grainbelt won third place. http://www.grainbelt.com/ Check it out! He eats meat, but hasn’t lost his creative juices!

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Sarah plates a meal – boring!

But Jeff plates with pizazz!

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Here’s the Sofrito Salsa recipe:

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. olive oil

1/2 red onion

4 cloves garlic

1 red pepper

1 roma tomato

1 serrano pepper

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

1 small bunch cilantro finely chopped

1 lime juiced

Directions:

If you don’t have a food processor, you need one! Put the onion and the garlic in the processor and chop fine. Toss in heated pan with olive oil and saute. Stir frequently. Let the onions and garlic cook for about five minutes or until the onions lose most of their pink color. Meanwhile chop the pepper and tomato in the food processor and add to onions and garlic. Cook this for another three or four minutes. Add water and mix. Put sofrito mix into the freezer to cool for a few minutes. Chop the Serrano and cilantro in the food processor. When the sofrito is cool, add the Serrano, cilantro, salt, sugar and lime juice. Mix this all together. If it seems too thick, add a bit more water and stir again. Serve it up!

From the Box: Romaine Lettuce

Spicy Fried Tofu

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Spicy Fried Tofu Recipe

Ingredients:

Extra Firm Tofu cubed- I used Wild Wood Organic Super Firm

Canola oil – enough for about 1/16 inch in pan

2 cloves garlic

1 inch fresh ginger

1 tsp. garlic chile paste

1 tsp. soy sauce

Directions:

Chop garlic and ginger in the food processor. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok. Toss in garlic and ginger for just enough time to turn fragrant, but not begin to crisp. You need to watch it carefully and stir carefully. I try to keep the garlic and ginger in a tidy pile, so when it is fragrant I can easily scoop it out. Scoop it out and set it aside in a bowl. It will later be mixed with the tofu. Keep your oil at a medium heat and toss in the cubed tofu. Let it brown up for a few minutes then turn to brown the other sides. The frying takes a few minutes and you do need to keep an eye on it. Continue to turn the tofu every few minutes so that each cube is lightly browned. When it is finished scoop the tofu out and place in a large mixing bowl. Toss in the lightly sauteed garlic and ginger as well as the chile paste and soy sauce. Mix carefully to evenly coat the tofu.