Category Archives: Vegetables

Roasted Red Peppers


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Okay, I know that a lot of you are going to think I am crazy for making my own roasted red peppers. You’ll say, “Fig, they’re so easy to get in a jar at the store and they are really relatively inexpensive.” Sure. I agree with you. But my counterpoints are as follows:

1. At least at this time of year, you can buy the peppers at a farmer’s market and know they were locally sourced and organically/sustainably grown
2. You can control the amount of salt added and avoid any preservatives
3. They are so easy to make if you have a little patience and a gas stove
4. They make your kitchen smell amazing
5. They taste fresher than those in a jar

So, here’s how to do it. First off, don’t think you have to babysit the peppers, in spite of the fact that you are putting them on an open flame. The point is that you want to actually burn the skins to the point where they are as black as possible. All you do is turn on the flame of your stove top (adjust to whatever is comfortable to you — I go to a medium high) and then place the pepper directly on the grate of the burner. You’ll want to go a little off-center so that the flame hits the skin directly; remember you are charring the peppers, not lightly toasting them. My next advice is to do something else in the near proximity, but don’t hover. You really need a good char on all sides for this to work, so each time you turn the pepper, go do something else like wipe up the counter or finish the dishes. Ultimately, you want the pepper to look like the one above.

Once you achieve maximum char (there will still be a few uncharred bits in the deep creases of the pepper), place the pepper into a paper bag and roll it closed so that it continues to steam. After it is cool enough to touch, simply rub the charred skin off into rubbish or compost and you end up with pepper that looks like this:

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Use in any fashion you see fit. I find they are especially good on sandwiches and in the next (kick ass) recipe I plan to post.

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Quick Questions: Green Bean Abundance!


So, I just got a message from my friend Mike about what to do with an abundance of green beans. Specifically, he asks:

“We got this thing from Frog  N Snail* that had the following:
– fava beans
– sliced asparagus
– kale succotash
– corn
– green beans
– lima beans

Since we have an ABUNDANCE of green beans at the moment, I was thinking of making this thing tomorrow, but I’m not sure what will bring them all together (like salt, pepper, oil – I have no idea) – any thoughts on how I could tie those all in?”

The great thing about this time of year is that you don’t need to fuss make delicious food; with a bounty of fresh ingredients, all you need is simple seasoning (as Mike suggests) and, in my opinion, a little care in preparation. To bring the vegetables that Mike lists together, I think you have a couple of options. The first would be a soup that highlights freshness, maybe something along the lines of this.

The other, and what I think is probably more appealing for the next few warm days, is a salad that can be served at room temperature or even chilled. The tricky thing here is trying to keep the green beans bright green and vibrant – not an easy task. All the other ingredients (favas, asparagus, kale, corn, limas) should be steamed or boiled, and then immediately shocked in ice water to stop the cooking and preserve color. The green beans should be treated the same way, but should be added to the mix last, just to try and keep them as green as possible. To dress the salad, I say go simple – some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. If you have some fresh herbs on hand, I think some chopped basil or chives mixed in right before serving would be a nice little addition.

If anyone has additional ideas for Mike, speak up!

*Undoubtedly one of my favorite new spots in Chicago

How Do You Cook Collard Greens?


Collard Greens

I actually get questions from people about vegetables a lot, even at the grocery store.  On more than one occasion, the cashier has asked me what a produce item is (just for the purposes of looking up the code for it), but then gone as far as to ask me how I cook it.  I always find it a little unnerving to answer the question right on the spot, but I’ve realized that there are just a lot of people who are just curious what to do with certain fruits and vegetables.  Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert on anything (persimmons still remain a mystery to me), but my mother was the kind of adventurous eater that made me excited to try new things.  The fact that she sometimes made it seem like we were hiding something from my dad (a notoriously picky, boring eater) made it all the more intriguing.  Artichokes and pomegranates are fun to eat, but a lot more fun when it seems like you are doing it on the sly.

So, here now is a series dedicated to fruits and vegetables (“How do you…”).  Some will be ordinary to you, some might be unfamiliar.  It is the great thing about the world wide web – there are a billions of perspectives for each post.

Gonna start with collard greens.  Now, I never really ate collard greens as a kid, but when I did, it was in the south and they were simmered for a long time along with some kind of smoked meat, and most often seasoned with hot sauce to taste. They were good. Really good.  However, I don’t usually have the foresight to plan a day-long cooking process for dinner, unless it is a weekend or a special event.  Through some recipe research (and trial and error), I figured out a way to make quick, tasty collard greens in two versions – one  vegetarian and one omnivorous.

The technique is for both is the same. The trickiest part is taking out the tough center rib, which you don’t do when cooking collards in the southern American way, since they cook so long that the ribs become tender. Here’s a little demo on how to do it:

Next, you just roll the leaves into the tightest bundle you can and slice them pretty thinly – like this:

Sliced Collards

Again, when you make collards in the southern style, you just tear the leaves and don’t need to slice them so thinly, since they cook for so long. You want thin slices for this new version, since the cooking time is so short.

Once you have the leaves all sliced, place them into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water – many greens, especially those from farmer’s markets, tend to be rather dirty. Once clean, heat a deep pot large enough to hold all the greens on medium high with a few tablespoons of olive thrown in.

Next, you have the choice of being meaty 0r veggie. For veggie (shown here), throw in a few cloves (five, in this case) of minced garlic until fragrant. For a meaty version, you can add diced ham or Canadian bacon instead of (or in addition to) the garlic. Either way, you will want to add the greens, which will still be somewhat wet from the rinsing process, to the pot before the garlic starts to burn. The water on the greens will create some steam, so capture it by putting a lid on the pot immediately. Stir occasionally until the collards are bright green and glossy, like this:

Glossy Greens

Season with salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes, if you like) to taste. Grab a fork and make sure that they are done to your liking and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Enjoy with or without hot sauce. I had mine with pork chops. =)