Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer Fest/Fall Fest: Whatever the Name, We're Talking Peppers!

The party continues! We'll continue as Summer Fest 2010 until the autumnal solstice, then we rename our cross-posting project Fall Fest 2010 -- with a cool new logo by Matt Armendariz, too.

In the meantime, this week, it's peppers on the menu! Sweet peppers, spicy peppers. Maybe even some dried peppers.

Many years ago, when I lived in New York, I was invited to a dinner party at which I was served fire engine red bell peppers as the first course. They had been roasted, skinned, and seeded, then arranged on small individual plates as a perfect red fillet, topped with olive oil, garlic, and a sprinkling of herbs. I'd never seen or tasted this before and it made a huge impression on my 23-year-old self. Since then I've always tried to have marinated roasted red peppers in the fridge. They're delicious with an anchovy on a slice of toasted baguette, mixed into a tomato sauce, or topping a pizza.

Now, being so close to Mexico, it's inevitable that I'd have a thing for dried peppers. And hot sauce. Combine the two -- and make your own. Here's a recipe for a delicious, very spicy hot sauce using dried chile arbol.

Consuelo’s Hot Sauce
This is a recipe shared with me by a lovely woman named Consuelo, with whom I enjoy making tamales most holiday seasons at the home of my friend Angela Nava's mother Bertha. Part of the tradition includes eating stews and having crisp tortilla chips around. This piquant sauce she served to brighten the stews (and that I dipped the chips into) was a marvel to me. Consuelo generously -- probably more out of amusement at my enthusiasm -- shared it with me. It's far better than traditional Tabasco and ranks up there with my favorite, Tamarula sauce.

1 2oz.-pkg of chiles de arbol
3-5 cloves of garlic
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
¾ cup distilled white vinegar

1. Remove stems from chiles and place the chiles in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes or until the chiles are very soft.
2. Remove the chiles from saucepan and place in blender or food processor. Let them cool.
3. Add garlic, salt, pepper and about ¼ cup of water and puree.
4. Add vinegar and blend. The result is a vibrant red sauce studded with seeds.

Of course, we're in the height of Hatch chile season. And, while I'm not in New Mexico, San Diegans have enthusiastically embraced the smoky flavors of the long green peppers that make their way here to shops like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms -- and some of the farmers markets. Now, there is no one "Hatch" pepper. Rather, it's a collection of peppers, like Slim Jims, that are grown in the Hatch area. They have a small harvest window, as in now, but the great thing about Hatch chiles is that the best way to use them is after they've been roasted. Now most of us don't have this kind of roaster, which belongs to Richie's Chiles (shown at the Little Italy Mercato).

As you can see, he's got a big batch roasting. You can buy the chiles from him, either roasted or raw to roast yourself. Simply put them on the grill or under the broiler until they blister. Let them cool, then bag them for the freezer (you can wait until you thaw them to pull off the skin and seed them.) They freeze well so you can keep them for cooler weather dishes, like my friend Laura Merrill-Levy's Hatch Chile Stew. This is a favorite of mine, made with pork, potatoes, and masa, that I've written about before.

Of course, you can chop and add Hatch chiles to all sorts of other dishes that call for chiles. And use them whole and stuff them with cheese and other ingredients to make Chiles Rellenos. And, Richie also sells dynamite pepper jams and Hatch chile powder.

Well, let's see what everyone else is up to with peppers:

Alison at Food2: Making Hot Pepper-Infused Tequila
Michelle at Cooking Channel: A Peck of Perfect Pepper Recipes
Kirsten at the FN Dish: Chiles Rellenos and More Stuffed Peppers
Liz at Healthy Eats: 10 Ways To Eat Sweet Peppers
Margaret at A Way to Garden: Oven-roasted peppers, and freezing how-to
Caroline at The Wright Recipes: Homemade Harissa & Sweet and Spicy Peperonata
The Gilded Fork: Dossier and recipes on peppers spicy and sweet
Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Pickled Serrano Peppers
Paige at The Sister Project: Grilled Tomato Salsa with Jalapenos
Alana at Eating from the Ground Up: Homemade Hot Sauce and Why Gloves are a Good Idea
Cate of SweetNicks: Summer Panzanella

Now It's Your Turn!
This collaborative effort won't be much fun without you! The more info we all give, the more we'll all enjoy summer's harvest. Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? You can contribute in various ways, big or small.
  • Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. 
  • Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog any upcoming Wednesday, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and then we're all cooking with some great ideas. Or go big: Publish entire posts of your own if you wish, and grab the big red tomato Summer Fest 2010 badge above (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites). We'll also be tweeting using #summerfood as our hashtag until Sept. 21, then we'll switch to #fallfood. Here's the schedule:
Sept. 1: Sweet and Spicy Peppers
Sept. 8: Garlic
Sept. 15: White (or colorful “white”…but not sweet) Potatoes
Sept. 22: Spinach
Sept. 29: Apples
Oct. 6: Fall Salads
Oct. 13: Pumpkin and Winter Squash
Oct. 20: Pears
Oct. 27: “Mad Stash” (as in what you’re freezing/canning/drying, etc.)
Nov. 3: Root veggies
Nov. 10: Brassicas: incl. Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage or other
Nov. 17: Sweet Potatoes
Nov. 24: Bounty to Be Grateful For

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