Thursday, September 4, 2014

Featured Vegetable of the Week: Peppers

by Andrea Yoder

Pepe (and Leonardo) picked a peck of pickled peppers!

Peppers are classified as either sweet or hot and can vary in size from a small pepper that resembles a large bean seed to a big, blocky bell pepper. While it is common to eat green peppers, you’ll find that the flavor of a green pepper is more mild and straightforward without a lot of sweetness in it. This is because green peppers are technically not ripe. All peppers start out as a green pepper. As the fruit ripens on the plant, it makes a transition from green fruit to a colored pepper. As this change occurs, natural sugars develop in the fruit making it not only sweet but also flavorful. An added bonus is that as the pepper ripens and changes color, the nutrient value of the pepper also increases. We will pack a variety of peppers in your box throughout the season. Always check the newsletter “What’s In the Box” section so you can identify the peppers and determine if they are hot or sweet.

Peppers are very versatile in use. They can be eaten raw or cooked and pair well in dishes with other summer vegetables such as potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant. Peppers mark the transition from late summer into early fall, and as such, can dance on the line between summer and fall vegetables which means they also pair well with sweet potatoes and winter squash to name just a few.

Mini Sweet Peppers
Roasting peppers helps to develop their natural sweetness and gives it kind of a smoky flavor. There are several methods for roasting peppers. Fire-Roasted peppers can be roasted over a direct flame, either on a grill or over a gas burner. Just put the pepper directly over the flame either on a metal rack or just hold it with tongs.  Rotate the pepper until the outer skin is charred. An alternative is to roast peppers under a broiler or just put them on a pan in a very hot oven. This last method won’t give you as much of the smoky flavor, but still works great. Once you’ve roasted the peppers, place them in a bowl while they are still hot and cover with plastic wrap so they steam as they cool. Once they are cool enough to handle, pull out the cores and scrape the skin away from the flesh. Now you can chop or slice the roasted peppers and add them to sauces, dips, soups, etc.

Peppers are very easy to preserve as well. The simplest way is to just wash them and freeze them raw. You can also dehydrate or pickle them. Peppers are great to pull out in the winter and add to pizzas, soups, sauces,etc. Have fun with peppers for the next several weeks…summer won’t last forever!

Sweet Pepper Mashed Potatoes
Recipe developed by Chef Andrea Yoder

Serves 6
2 pounds potatoes*
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup sweet pepper, small dice
1 cup onion, small dice
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
⅔ cup milk
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt, to taste

1. Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Place in a medium sized saucepot and cover with cold water. Add 1 Tbsp salt. Place the pot on the stove, cover and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the potatoes are tender, then remove from heat and drain off the cooking water. Turn off the burner you used for cooking and place the pot with the potatoes, uncovered, back on the burner. Allow the steam to roll off the potatoes for about 10 minutes. 

2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add sweet peppers, onions, garlic and 1 tsp salt. Sauté the vegetables in the butter until they are all soft. Reduce the heat to low and add the milk. Simmer just until the milk is warm.

3. Using a food processor or blender, puree the pepper and milk mixture until smooth. Set aside in a warm place while you mash the potatoes.

4. Once the potatoes have steamed dry, mash them using a potato masher. If you are using a starchy potato you can mash the potatoes until they are fairly smooth. If you are using a potato that is a little more waxy, minimize mashing and go for a more coarse mash with chunks in it. 

5. Fold the pepper mixture into the potatoes. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Add more milk if needed to get the desired consistency. Reheat gently prior to serving.
* Starchy potatoes, such as Russets or Purple Viking potatoes, work better for mashed potatoes than waxy potatoes . If you choose to use a waxy potato, try to minimize the amount of “mashing” you do to prevent them from becoming pasty. 

Creamy Roasted Sweet Pepper Dressing
by Andrea Yoder

Makes 1 cup
1 Orange Ukraine pepper or 2 Orange Italian Frying peppers*
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Roast pepper(s) on a grill, under the broiler or use the flame of a gas range. You want to roast the peppers until most of the skin is blackened, turning as needed to roast all sides of the pepper. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl with a cover to steam for about 10 minutes. 

2. Scrape the charred skin off the roasted peppers and remove the stem and seeds. Cool to room temperature, then place in a food processor along with the onion and garlic. Process until almost smooth.

3. Add mayonnaise, sour cream and apple cider vinegar. Blend to combine all ingredients thoroughly. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper as needed.
*May substitute any other sweet pepper variety as well.

Serving & Use Suggestions: 
  • Make a late summer chop salad using the vegetables in this week’s box. Tear romaine lettuce into bite sized pieces and place on a dinner plate. Top with diced cucumbers, halved sungold or grape tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet peppers and thinly sliced raw onions. Add diced, cooked chicken, feta cheese and Kalamata olive halves. Drizzle with Creamy Sweet Pepper dressing and serve as an entrée salad.
  • Use the dressing as a dip for fresh vegetables such as carrot sticks and cucumber slices
  • Drizzle on top of sautéed green beans or grilled zucchini.
  • Use as a sandwich spread.
  • Use as a dipping sauce for grilled chicken or grilled sirloin kebobs.

No comments: