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Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Produce Plus Weekend: Sweet Peppers, Edamames, and Cucumbers

We spent the better part of our weekend in the kitchen. But, as I've written before, spending time in the kitchen with a large glass of wine and some good tunes with the one I love is a beautiful thing. So, what did we make? Well...

On Friday, Andy brought home a large pail of cucumbers from his colleague. What a generous lady! We decided to make those in the crock like we did earlier this year. The recipe for that is here. Our first batch is in the fridge, and the pickles are wonderfully crunchy. So, we figured why veer away from a good recipe? (Well, other than the fact that our fridge is very near capacity...we really need a second one to store all of this live food we've been creating.)

On Saturday morning, we picked up 5 pounds of mini sweet peppers and 10 pounds of edamame from the Harmony Valley Farm stand at the Farmers' Market. Juan happily handed us our boxes in return for our check. We love produce plus opportunities ~ they always lend themselves to weekends in the kitchen, preserving up food for the winter, but we are relishing the day when our gardening skills are so fierce that we won't even be tempted to order and pay for produce plus. We look forward to the day when we're swimming in tons of tomatoes and crowded out of the house by piles of edamames and peppers. But until then, produce plus is a perfect way to support a local, sustainable grower, while making an effort to eat  both seasonally and locally.

Funny thing about this week's produce plus pepper purchase is that we had no idea what we'd do with the sweet peppers once we got them. When we received the email that for the first time ever, these mini bursts of goodness were for sale in huge increments, we leaped at the chance. We began receiving these in our box about two years ago, and since then, they're one item we can't seem to tire of. As the summer winds down, at least there are mini-sweet peppers!. Honestly, they are mouth-poppingly delicious. Andy and I both eat them raw, plain or stuffed with cheese. So, what to do with 5 lbs of them? We tossed around roasting and freezing some, just freezing others, pickling them, making them into jelly, or even candying them. But then, this week's CSA newsletter featured mini sweets and provided a recipe for sweet pepper marmalade, and we were sold on that idea. The cans of red, yellow, and orange sweetness are gorgeous, and we're looking forward to sharing some over the holidays. The newsletter suggested serving with pretzels or crackers and cream cheese or goat cheese. Don't those ideas sound absolutely delicious?

...oh...and about that gardening goal, we saved a ton of sweet pepper seeds.

And, as for the ten pounds of edamame, simple! We blanched them (in shells) for three minutes, put them in a water bath, divided them up into freezer bags (2 cups per bag) and froze them. How great will an edamame salad be in the middle of a Wisconsin winter? So good. I'm already planning out my day of "summer eating" on a negative degree day: frozen watermelon juice-vodka drinks, edamame salad, and grilled veggie burgers perhaps?  I think I need to start getting bikini-ready for that fun day inside the confines of my cozy home now.

Here is the recipe we used (courtesy of Harmony Valley Farm) for the pepper marmalade:

1 cup sweet peppers, small dice
1 cup onion, small dice
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup white distilled vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4-1/2 tsp chili flake

Combine all ingredients in a medium saute pan.

Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer another 20 minutes or until liquid is syrupy. You can store in the fridge for several weeks or can and process 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Our weekend totals are:
1 crock full of pickles
approx. 6 pints of sweet pepper marmalade (1/2 quart for the fridge)
17 frozen cups of edamame

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Homemade Hot Sauce!

Cayanne, Seranno, Joe's Round (missing jalapeno)
We're addicted to hot sauce. We like hot sauce on our eggs. We like hot sauce on our potatoes. We like hot sauce on our burgers/veggie burgers.We like hot sauce on our popcorn. Aside from desserts, we like hot sauce on just about everything. So, as you can imagine, making our own has come to mind.

A few years ago, we made a sort of buffalo-type hot sauce. Of course, that was before this blog, so we can't remember how we managed that at all. I do remember that it was fabulous over some oven-baked potatoes, sprinkled with blue cheese.

This year, we're trying the old-fashioned pepper fermentation method. Included are a lot of Cayenne peppers (thanks to Andy's colleague!), Joe's rounds (super hot!), jalapenos, and Serrano peppers. They're mashed up and fermenting as we speak. In fact, they've been fermenting since Saturday.

To do this, we simply (and with gloves on!):

1. removed the stems.
2. put all of the peppers in the Cuisinart
3. added salt (1.5 teaspoon per cup of mashed peppers)

4. put the mash in a Ball jar (though you could use a crock or a food-safe plastic container)
5. weighed down the mash with another jar, and
6. covered the whole operation with a towel

...and now we'll wait for a month or more for the flavor to develop. Throughout this process, we have to make sure that the liquid covers the mash; it's a crucial part of the fermentation process. If there is not enough liquid to cover the mash, we'll add salted water.

Soon, we'll be left with hot sauce to put into a bottle or two and store in the fridge.

I can't wait! I'm sure whatever I make for dinner the day it's ready will be a perfect meal for hot sauce.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tomato Flops: Perfect for Pizza

We are in love with our dehydrator. Slice produce up, season it (or not), and place it all on trays. Turn the dehydrator on, slide the trays in, and forget about it. Half a day later, poof! Dehydrated, preserved garden goodies.

One example is what we call Tomato Flops. We got this idea from The Genius: Mrs. Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but have adapted it over the past few years to our own liking. These flops are stupendous on pizza in the winter. They pop like little bursts of summer in your mouth!

Here's how we made ours:

Roma Tomatoes
Dried Italian herbs (Oregano, Basil, Parsley, Savory, Thyme, etc...)
Garlic (if desired)

1. Slice Roma tomatoes in half. 
2. Sprinkle with desired amount of herbs. Top with a very thin slice of garlic, if you enjoy that sort of thing. We did one tray with garlic and herbs, but the rest were just covered with herbs.
3. Dehydrate until desired consistency. We recommend not completely dehydrating them. We let ours go about 12 hours.
4. Since we don't dry them completely, we freeze them in bags for winter use.

Last weekend, we froze 10 bags, with a dozen flops each. They're piled in the freezer, waiting to bring us a bit of sunshine in the middle of our Wisconsin Winter.