Monday, October 12, 2009

Last Chance

This time of year cooking is all about abundance. The harvest is in and we must use it or lose it. This is when preserving methods come in to play. After harvesting my garden herbs I make logs of herb butter to freeze and use all winter. If I am lucky to get my hands on them I will make batches of stewed tomatoes to use in soups, stews and sauces to last me through the growing drought.  I have already cut up the last great peaches I came across and have them in my freezer.

Sage makes a really tasty herb butter, so good on roasted squashes.

Bell peppers are on my mind right now and it is all about roasting. What better way to bring out the flavor and extend their shelf life? I keep all types and colors of roasted peppers topped with olive oil in the fridge and use them in so many dishes like frittatas, salads and pilafs.

Roasting methods are pretty basic, either on top of the stove directly on the burner, or in the oven on a sheet pan or on the grill. Oven baking at 400 F takes about 25 minutes. I have used all these roasting techniques interchangeably, depending on what I am doing in the kitchen. I try not to turn on the oven to roast a few small peppers if I am not cooking anything else in there. In those cases I will use the stove top method, which is a bit messier because you  have to clean up the juices that inevitably escape from the pepper onto the cook top, and well, I don't really like cleaning up as much as I like cooking. If I have peppers on hand when I am grilling outdoors I try to remember to throw them on the grill even if I am not serving them at that meal because they keep so well and they taste so good.

In all cases the roasting process is simple. Cook the whole pepper, turning them a few times to get all sides of the skin softened and blistered. Once cooked, remove from heat and cover the peppers to allow them to steam at room temperature. Sometimes I just put a bowl over them or throw a dish towel on top to do that job. I hate to waste a large clean zip-lock baggie for that task as I so often see being instructed in cookbook recipes and in cooking demos. It doesn't have to be an airtight seal, you just want to trap some of the steamy heat coming off the pepper to help remove the skin. Leave them to steam until they are cool enough to handle and the skin should slide right off. This is an easy task, but not necessarily a neat one. Remove the seeds too and you will be left with a deep glossy flesh. I will then cut the peppers into strips and store in a small container covered with olive oil to keep in the fridge for as long as they last. Usually not long.

A very yummy treat is a roasted pepper and feta cheese dip that tastes great with crudite or chips. I made some this weekend and slathered it on top of sandwiches. It stores well and tastes even better the next day.  It makes a really elegant dip that would be nice with a great wine to start a meal. Any ideas about that Amanda?

Roasted Pepper and Feta Dip
2 roasted red peppers, skin and seeds removed
8 oz feta cheese
1 garlic clove peeled
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 teas. paprika
1/4 teas. cayenne pepper
1/2 teas. salt
1 Tbs. lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend till smooth. Store in a container. Serve with crudite or pita chips. Make the night before to allow flavors to develop (but it tastes good immediately  after making too!).

Yum Yum! This sounds terrific and rather straightforward. Before getting to my wine comments, I wanted to mention the delicious cauliflower soup that I made from your recipe yesterday. Though I had every intention of making it last week, it actually came to fruition only yesterday. There's never a shortage of interruptions in my household! The soup was easy to prepare,  which is great if your time is limited. I added some carrots I had on hand and wanted to use up, as well as some onion. As mentioned, I also bought some kale to include as well. Love to get those dark leafy greens in anyway I can. It was great. Perfectly comforting! I will enjoy it all week for lunch. Thanks for sharing it!

Hmmm. Roasted red pepper and feta dip. Sauvignon Blanc. Look for Sancerre, which is located in the Loire Valley region of France. It is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and has wonderful acidity and minerality. Think crisp green apple flavors. Pascal Jolivet produces wonderful Sancerre. His wines should be pretty easy to find as well. But if you want to be adventurous and try something new, you could also consider Feta's Greek routes and stick within that "theme". Moschifilero is a white grape which produces highly aromatic, fresh and floral wines. Flavors of melon and citrus abound. It is grown in the AOC region of Mantinia, in the Peloponnese. A well-known producer of Greek wines is Boutari, and they make a terrific premium white made from 100% Moschifilero grapes. With all of the holidays coming up, this would be a perfect combination to bring to a get-together. And fun, too! Especially if the crowd includes wine lovers. Why not bring a bowl of this dip, some pita for dipping, and a bottle of Moschifilero!

1 comment:

  1. Another great way to preserve and have on hand for stir-fry dishes through the winter, or for chili, is to cut the peppers up to desired size and shape, put in a ziplock and freeze. You can just continue to dip into the supply as you need it.


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