Tag Archives: peppers

How to Char Any Pepper 101 – Really Handy Pantry Item!

Charring peppers is a cinch, and they are so great to have on hand. They are quick and easy to prepare and can be cooked right when a recipe calls for them. Also, make a whole ton when you are so overrun with peppers when they are in season and you don’t want a single one to go to waste.

roast the cayenne peppers too

Charred cayenne peppers from my garden

I roast peppers and keep them in a jar in the fridge with extra-virgin olive oil and they last for weeks. You can get even more adventurous and add things to the oil like fresh herbs to infuse more flavor, but they are so good on their own too.

the spectrum of color

You can do this to jalapeno peppers too!

The oil that the peppers marinate in also takes on a lovely flavor and can be liberally used whether you are using the peppers in a sandwich, a salad or a stew. Sometimes I even drizzle the oil by itself on a piece of toast for a snack: really delicious.

roast the peppers & onions

Any pepper can be roasted and stored

Once you get the hang of charring peppers you will find yourself looking for excuses to use them. The process intensifies the sweetness or heat, depending on the variety, and the smoky flavor is right up front.

georgous roasted red peppers

These peppers were charred on the grill

My friend Tom does the same thing but he loves to use his grill, hail, rain or shine. His pepper choices are on the scary hot side and I’m sure at this point he has burned all of his taste buds!

really hot!

Really hot!

So, no matter what kind you like, I suggest that you start burning peppers and see where it leads you.

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Method:

Place your oven rack about 4 to 6 inches away from the broiler and turn broiler to high.

1 – Wash and dry whatever peppers you choose to use and place on a baking sheet.

lucious peppers, and lots of 'em!

luscious peppers, and lots of ’em!

2 – Place the tray under the grill and broil peppers on all sides until charred (blackened). You will eventually get use to the timing, but it is important to check every few minutes.

grill peppers until charred

4 – When they have cooled (but still warm – about 15 minutes or so, depending on how many peppers in the bag), remove the charred skin by peeling off with your fingers. Then remove the seeds, stem and veins. DO NOT do this by rinsing under the tap as this will wash away lots of lovely oily flavor.

dice peppers

dice peppers

6 – After that you can cut into strips, dice them or leave whole, depending on what the recipe calls for. Store in a glass jar with some good quality olive oil and store in the fridge for several weeks.

They are great in rice, stir-fry, salads, Quiche, stews, pizza topping, pasta dishes and sandwiches.

guyg

Yum

Mexican Aperitivo and… Strutto! Strutto! Strutto!

If you are ever in Italy ( or you live in Italy), and you want to make flour tortillas, you might want to save yourself some time and frustration, and read this post!

Mexican Aperitivo or Day of the Dead??

As you may or may not know, I am living in Italy for the next few months, and while here, am cooking as much as I can (in between all the other fabulous things one can do).

I knew the day would come when I would pine for chicken fajitas served with home-made flour tortillas. I planned for this by packing a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce into my suitcase.

Ready for an Italian Fiesta

These peppers would go a long way to making sure the chicken would be flavored with the right amount of Mexican-ness (you know what I mean). I was happy to have them when I discovered that jalapeno peppers and cilantro were alien ingredients, and impossible to find. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Italy, for the most part, still eat vegetables that are in season, and what is grown regionally. This is the best way to eat, but inconvenient when one has a yen for something different.

A street in Siena

My problem of authentic flavor was solved with my can of chipotle peppers, and my new “soul-sister” Rebecca (this is what she said we were, and that’s a good enough explanation for why we get along so well, for me!), who lives in Cortona, was going to help me satisfy my craving further, by picking limes from her tree, and making guacamole.

The illusive Strutto

Since I was going to all of this trouble to make this dish, I also decided that I needed to share the experience by making it into a sort of “getting-to-know-you party” and invited the entire faculty at the school.

It also happened to be another new friend of mine’s birthday, and why not make it a birthday party as well!

basic flour (finer than what I usually use)

With everything in place, the last ingredient I had to make sure I had, was the all-important lard for the tortillas. This turned out to prove far more difficult than anticipated.

Production mode

I asked Rebecca what I should ask for and where I should go to find it. After a bit of indecision (she had never make tortillas before, or probably nothing that ever involved lard whatsoever) and said I needed to ask for lardo, or something called lardo?

From what I could gather, lardo is cured pork back fat. I told her I wanted something more like Crisco, which is a soft, pure white vegetable lard. This is what I use to make my tortillas at home, and it works like a dream.

An enormous pepper from the market in Camucia

The big problem here was not knowing the correct word for the soft lard for making tortillas. Rebecca was at a loss, and trying to ask the local supermarket and butcher shop was virtually impossible with my non-existent Italian. The butcher gave me a hunk of lard, and the grocery shop gave me a tiny bar of soft, yeasted,  something-or-other. Where would I find the fat for my tortillas? There was no way to have great Mexican food without them (at least in my mind).

Limes from Rebecca's lime tree (I'm not jealous and I don't hate her for this!)

We all happened to be going to Siena on a field trip and I thought I would have better luck in a bigger city. I walked the streets with Andrea (yes, another new friend), and tried as many places as I could, with no luck.

Self-service from my tiny oven

I had one breakthrough, as I was explaining what I needed to yet another specialty shop owner. Through some miracle (or was it my creative sign language), she understood what I needed. She did not stock it, but she called it “strutto”. I left the shop mouthing the words “strutto, strutto, strutto” over and over again so as not to forget it. Now, where to find it?

they were a big hit!

Right as we were dashing for the bus to take us back home to Cortona, Andrea spotted a small supermarket and dragged me inside. I was a bit anxious as we were on the verge of being late. When I was confronted by the lady at the meat counter, my mind went blank, “what the hell was that word!” I managed to remember a version of it, and she led me right to cartons of Strutto piled neatly in an open refrigerator. I grabbed two containers and we flew out the door.

Not the prettiest of Birthday Cakes, but it served it's purpose (even though Mario forgot to make a wish)

On the bus, I opened it and it certainly looked, and felt like the illusive ingredient. Yes, I was pretty happy about all this!

Of course I then fretted about it not working, and serving all of these new acquaintances of mine lack-luster tortillas.

A lovely after dinner bread from the hands of "Ma Fred"

I’m pretty happy to report that they were excellent, maybe even surpassing all of my other efforts. Those, along with the rest of the dish (fantastic red, yellow, & green peppers, and marinated chicken), made the evening a culinary success.

Ready for shots

Rebecca supplied a dynamite guacamole and zippy little limes. Everyone else came with all sorts of great wine, prosecco, even a bottle of tequila, and the Aperitvo turned into dinner. There was so much food and alcohol; there was no reason to leave.

An odd mix of Italian and Mexican foods, but somehow it worked!

I was left with a spare container of strutto and a half can of chipotle peppers. You know what this means of course…another night of the same!

Happy Birthday Mario!

If you want to make these tortillas (and the rest of the dish) type Tortilla & Fajita in the search box to the right of my blog.

Also, if you are using actual strutto and Italian flour, modify the ingredients as follows, and follow the same method as instructed in previous post:

¼ of the strutto (from a 250g box), 2 cups flour (tipo 0), ¾ cup warm water, 1 tsp coarse salt.

Creamy Squash and Pepper Side-Dish (serves 6)

I wanted to revisit this great recipe. Sometimes when I make a side-dish to go along with my main meal, the accompaniment can get lost in the shadows.

I wanted to give this little gem it’s very own spotlight, and get you excited about using squash to go with some of your hearty, robust winter dinners. Besides adding a lovely flash of color to your plate, it is also so good for you, and delicious beyond  belief!

Consider cooking this the next time you have an unwieldly squash sitting in your kitchen, and you don’t want to make soup!

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You will need: 1 winter squash, peeled , scooped & diced, 2 tbs oil, 1 tbs unsalted butter, 1 small yellow onion, small dice, 2 long skinny red peppers (Anaheim), OR, 1 green pepper, diced, 1/2 tsp of curry powder, (if your curry is very mild, use 1 tsp), 1 sprig thyme, 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 tsp sea-salt, (I use Maldon Salt), several grinds cracked black pepper.

blanch squash

1 –  Put a pot of water on and when it boils, add the diced squash and cook covered for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

saute peppers & onions

2 – Put saute pan on medium heat and add the oil and butter. When it has warmed, add the onions and peppers and cook for 12 or so minutes, until vegetables are soft.

3 – Add the squash and thyme sprig, and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper and stir into vegetables. Add cream and turn heat down to low. Keep warm until ready to serve (you may want to thin it out more, and you can do so by adding a tbs of cream or broth  until you are satisfied with the consistency).

Hungarian Chicken Stew with Spanish Heat (serves 6)

Dinner last night; Heartwarming and zesty

Wow, this was pretty darn good!

While driving my car yesterday with the kids in the back, out of the blue, my son told me he was going to close his eyes and imagine what dinner he wanted that evening. I gulped. This could mean anything from sea urchin delicately wrapped in dried seaweed (is there such a thing?), or something laborious like slow roasting a pork shoulder to be used in some sort of extravagant broth?

He started to describe the dish, “chicken, cooked in a paprika infused broth, with tomatoes and peppers, served on a bed of basmati rich” As he went through his ingredients I was checking them off in my head “have that, have that” and, when he was finished expounding, I said “sure!” I didn’t even have to make a trip to the supermarket to grant him his culinary wish!

That is how this dinner came about, and if you are in need of something warming, with a hint of the exotic, and, don’t want to do much to achieve this, then I suggest this dish strongly. The Hungarian influence came from the smoked paprika and the Spanish bit was the addition of hot paprika (it is very hot so use timidly)

It was nothing short of pure delicious (hey, just look at the pictures),  and my daughter declared it to be her “2nd favorite dinner!” High praise indeed.

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You will need: 4 to 6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 8 chicken thigh cutlets, 3 chicken fillets, 1 lrg sweet onion, large dice, 1 lrg yellow pepper, large dice 28 ox can plum tomatoes with their juices (I used San Marzano), 3 tbs all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tbs smoked Hungarian paprika, 1 1/2 tsp hot Spanish paprika, (optional, it is very hot, so if you don’t like a little heat in your dish, don’t bother with it),  1 tsp sea-salt (more to taste), 1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube, 5 cups water, 1 cup fresh, flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, 6 cups fresh spinach.

* If serving with rice, you will need to do the following: for stove-top, use 2 1/2 cups of rice and follow instruction on package. for rice-cooker method, use 3 cups of rice using the rice-cooker measure and follow instructions. Put rice on while chicken is in the oven.

Preheat oven 400*

1 – Put big saute pan, or roasting pan (you will need to be able to cover this when you put it into the oven), on high heat. Add 3 tbs of oil and let it get hot. In the meantime season the chicken with a sprinkle of sea-salt and black pepper. Cook in batches until golden on both sides. Do not crowd the pan to get the job done faster as your meat will not brown. You will need to add more oil as you go.

sear chicken

2 – Turn heat down to medium and add the peppers and onions. Cook for about 8 minutes.

saute onions & peppers

3 – Add the paprika and stir. Add the flour and repeat the stirring bit.

add paprika & flour

4 – Toss in the tomatoes and their juices, along with the bouillon cube into the pan. It will bubble and begin to thicken. stir for about 1 minute.

add tomatoes

5 – Add the liquid and turn up heat. As it begins to get hot, add the chicken, followed by the parsley. Stir everything gently and making sure the chicken is in an even (ish) layer.

Cover and place in oven for 45 minutes.

add liquid, chicken & parsley

6 – Remove from oven and add the spinach. Put lid back on and let the chicken rest while the spinach is wilting.

cook in oven, then add spinach

Serve a nice portion to each person with lots of broth. If you are adding rice to this dish, put it into the bottom of the bowl first. You can also cut the chicken or leave it whole.

Time to knuckle down!

Fabulous Breakfast Burrito for Dinner (serves 4)

What do you make for dinner when everyone wants to eat in under 30 minutes? Luckily for me I had some homemade flour tortillas leftover from the other night and I decided to make them the backbone of the meal. If you haven’t tried your hand at making these delicious floury envelopes, you should make a stab at it soon!

more peppers - help!

Also, my pepper harvest won’t go away!!! I know I will long for just one beautiful piece of fresh produce in the dead of winter, but right now, I feel like I am being tortured by peppers – -aaaggghhhh!

Breakfast for dinner

I made dinner in 20 minutes and there were no complaints whatsoever! My flour tortillas win them over every time. I could fill it with grass and fish eyes and they would be satisfied (hint, hint; make the tortillas!)

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You will Need: 2 to 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 tbs unsalted butter, 4 eggs, 2 tbs milk, 1/2 tsp sea-salt, freshly ground pepper, 1 red pepper, diced, 1 green pepper, diced, 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, sliced, 4 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced or sliced, 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated, 4 pieces of bacon, 4 tbs sour cream, hot sauce (I used Tapatio brand), 4 flour tortillas (homemade or store-bought)

1 – If you are going to make the tortillas, do it first thing. Type flour tortilla in my search box to the right for great recipe and method).

2 – Fry bacon until just crispy. Set aside.

3 – Put saute pan on medium/high heat and add oil. When it is hot add the peppers and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to bowl and keep warm.

Fry peppers

4 – immediately add the spinach to pan, (you may need to add more oil) and toss for 3 or so minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

fry spinach

4 – Break eggs into a bowl and add the milk, salt and pepper. Mix vigorously with a fork for about 1 minute. Add the butter to the hot pan, followed by the eggs. Cook until scrambled. Turn heat off.

scramble eggs

5 – Warm the tortillas on the rack in your oven and put each one on a plate. (This will take less than a minute!)

fill flour tortilla

6 – Time to fill; first add the bacon, followed by eggs, peppers, spinach, sour cream and hot sauce.

Roll, and eat!

Roll your lovely tortilla and eat. Make as many as you like!

Curried Chicken Tortillini Soup with Hot Peppers (serves 6)

Last night’s dinner was all about FAST! I was very tired and not really up for spending much time in the Crappy Kitchen. This is what I came up with, and it was splendid!

Curried Chicken Tortillini soup with Hot Peppers

All I can say is, if you keep a well-stocked pantry you do not have to do what my man suggested and order Take-Out. I decided I could have something ready in the time it took to make the phone call,  wait for food, unpack it from all those wasteful containers, and eat.

I had a 1 lb package of 6-cheese tortillini and I was set. I scrounged up some peppers from the garden and decided to test out my cayenne peppers. Yep, they were hot, but, I have to say, the chewy tortillini balanced the heat out quite a bit.

This was oh so comforting and filling. We loved every bite!

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You will need: 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 heaped tbs all-purpose flour, 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced, 1 large sweet onion, diced, 1 orange peppers, thinly sliced, 1 green pepper, thinly sliced, 2 cups white mushrooms (6 0z approx.), sliced, 2 cayenne peppers, thinly sliced, 1 tbs mild curry powder (I used Madras), 6 cup chicken broth, 2 cups water OR 1 large veggie or chicken bouillon cube & 8 cups water, salt and pepper to taste, 1 lb cheese tortillini (I used the fresh packaged kind from the Fresh Food section of my supermarket)

1 – Put big soup pot on medium heat and add the oil. When it has warmed, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers and onions and continue to cook for another 10 minutes until the peppers soften. Add the curry powder and flour and continue to cook and stir for another minute.

Saute veggies

2 – Add the liquid and chicken, and bring to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

add liquid & chicken

3 – Add tortillini, and when liquid comes back to a simmer, cook for a further 3 minutes. Taste a tortillini and if it is soft but still has a “bite”, it is cooked. Add the cayenne peppers and let soup sit for 5 minutes before serving.

add hot cayenne peppers

Serve soup in warmed bowls.

Eat the whole cayenne pepper at your own risk!

Delectable Shrimp Burritos (makes 8)

Dinner was late as usual, mostly because I had forgotten to defrost some sort of meat, and I made a phone call to a dear friend who I hadn’t talked to in forever.  I consequently became more interesting in my conversation with her than in my pursuing dinner!

Delicious AND Delectable Shrimp Burritos

Because it was late I defrosted some shrimp and while I was on the phone I made some lovely flour tortillas. It is a mindless task, so was not much of a problem to hold the phone in one hand and roll out dough with the other. 

Fresh veggies..

It was only while I was doing this that I had the idea of making burritos. I had a drawerful of peppers, and quick frying was a great way to use a good portion of them up!

Lovely juicy tomato from my garden

This dinner was all about freshness and it certainly delivered. It was light and crunchy, and of course the home-made tortilla reigned supreme.

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If you are going to make your own flour tortillas (and I recommend that you do!), type flour tortilla in the search box to the right of my blog and you will find a great recipe to make 8 mouth-watering tortillas! You should make the tortillas before you do anything else. (Of course you can always save time and buy them)

Making your own flour tortilla is key.

You will need: 1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined (use the 31-40 count size), 2 small red onions, halved & sliced thinly into half moons, 4 – 6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil,  1 red peppers, 1 green pepper, 1 yellow or orange pepper, all thinly sliced lengthways, 1 hot, or 2 mild jalapeno peppers, 1/2 lb white mushrooms, sliced, juice of 1 lime, 1 head romaine lettuce, finely chopped, 2 good quality, ripe medium tomatoes, chopped, 1 cup sour cream, hot sauce (I use Tapatio),

prep shrimp

1 – Prep shrimp and place in bowl with a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper.

2 – Prep all vegetables as instructed above.

3 – Put big saute pan or wok on high heat. When it is hot, add 3 tbs of oil. When it is very hot, add the peppers and mushrooms. When the peppers start to get soft and a little charred on the edges, transfer to a bowl.

saute peppers & mushrooms

4 – Add more oil to the pan and add the onions. Cook for 2 minutes before adding the shrimp. Cook until shrimp are done (about 4 to 5 minutes)

Saute shrimp with red onion half moons

 5 – Put the peppers and mushrooms back into pan and give everything a stir. Turn off heat.

Ready to be stuffed into a tortilla!

To serve: place warm tortilla on your plate and add a portion of the shrimp mixture. Next add some romaine leaves, sour cream, followed by some hot sauce and a squeeze of lime juice. Fold up and devour!

Freshly chopped romaine and sour cream, with a squeeze of lime juice add tons of flavor.