Preserving Peppers

Cukes may be classics when we think of making a batch of pickles, but they can’t beat peppers for ease and versatility in preserving. Small, thin-walled peppers dry easily and look beautiful hanging in your kitchen, while juicy poblanos, long hots, or jalapenos are great roasted and almost any pepper keeps perfectly in the freezer. Here are a few methods that will allow you to hang onto summer’s heat.

Dry: Run a needle and heavyweight thread (or fishing line) through the pepper stems, and then create a small loop to hold each pepper in place. Space peppers about 1” cm apart and then hang to dry in a well-ventilated area. When peppers feel totally dry and leathery, snip them from the thread and store in a sealed jar or container to protect them from dust and humidity.

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Green Cabbage Som Tam

Hot peppers may not provide the foundation for many seasonal meals, but they can help transform some basics into something far from ordinary. Instead of another batch of coleslaw, try mixing up this local twist on Thailand’s som tam using green cabbage instead of the more typical green papaya. This CSA-friendly meal requires no cooking and little more than a splash of fish sauce and a chop of chili to transform a simple cabbage slaw into something nutty, sweet, hot, sour, funky and wonderful. Once you’ve chopped your cabbage, it’s a dish that comes together quickly and requires little more than some rice and grilled chicken to make a meal. 

I learned to make som tam from a roommate who employed the typical method of pounding the ingredients together in an enormous, cone-shaped mortar and pestle. The friction bashes the juice from the limes and tomatoes, softening the green beans and transforming the cabbage from dry shreds to something saucy. In the absence of such a mortar and pestle, I make som tam by layering the ingredients in a quart sized wide-mouth canning jar and crushing them with a wooden muddler, but a rolling pin or a wide wooden spoon handle would also do fine.

 

Green Cabbage Som Tam 

Half a head of green cabbage, finely shredded

1 lime, quartered

12 green beans or 4 long beans, trimmed and cut into 1” segments

1 clove garlic, sliced

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

3-4 Thai chilies, seeded if you prefer less heat

1-tablespoon palm sugar or light brown sugar

1-tablespoon fish sauce

¼ cup dry roasted peanuts

In a large, sturdy, narrow vessel (like a quart-sized wide mouth canning jar) layer all ingredients. Beginning with a small handful of cabbage, followed by a lime segment, a few tomato halves, and a few slices of garlic. Add more cabbage and add a few green bean segments, and a chili. Repeat, alternating cabbage with other ingredients until the jar is ¾ full. Add sugar and fish sauce.

Using a muddler, or another sturdy wooden kitchen implement, pound all the ingredients together until the tomatoes and chili begin to break apart and the cabbage and green beans start to appear juicy instead of dry and things wilt down a bit. About 30 seconds.

Continue building layers on top — at this point you should have used up most everything except for the shredded cabbage — and resume pounding.

Once everything in the jar looks uniformly saucy, empty the contents of the jar into a bowl with any remaining cabbage and the roasted peanuts. Mix thoroughly and taste. Add more sugar, lime juice, or fish sauce to taste. Allow to marinate at room temperature until you’re ready to serve.

Emily Teel is an alumna of Fair Food, Philabundance, and Greener Partners and a food freelancer profoundly dedicated to sustainable, delicious food in Philadelphia. See more of her work at www.emilyteel.com

Cucumber Melon Agua Fresca

The cucurbitaceae family reunion is full of all types. The sturdy, steadfast grown-ups of the group are the pumpkins and winter squash. They’re hardworking and seasoned; intimidating at first, but rosy and sweet once you get past their tough exteriors. The gourds, bulbous and freckled, are eccentric great aunts, strange and special. Visiting from Mexico, chayote cousins socialize with zucchini and summer squash along with the baby pattypans. Nobody knows quite what to make of those strange in-laws, the luffas.

Every year, the melons are the life of the party. They’re always first to crack open the vodka or oil up for a dip in the pool. Big, eager, and syrupy sweet, they’re all juice and spitting seeds and sticky cheeks. Cucumbers, the sullen teenagers of the family, find them eye-rollingly chummy. Cukes are aloof and reserved, with a faint note of bitter superiority.

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Overlooked Winter Veggies: Consider the Sunchoke

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Sunchokes are available from October through March, and they store well in the fridge for a couple weeks after purchase. It’s up to you whether you peel them or not; just give them a vigorous scrub and leave the skins on for maximum nutritional benefit. Rich in vitamin C, potassium and iron, sunchokes are crunchy and nutty when raw, with a texture similar to water chestnuts. When roasted, baked, or cooked into soups, they make a great substitute for potatoes.

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Known as Swedish turnips (or swedes) in their native Europe, rutabagas are round with smooth cream-colored skin on the bottom and purple on the top; and their butter-yellow flesh is sweeter and denser than their turnip cousins. Their low moisture content makes them ideal candidates for mashing and roasting, and is probably the reason they are most commonly used in soups, stews and braises. However, the crunchy raw flesh is also delicious in coleslaw and salads (like this Rutabaga Apple Salad, for instance).

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Russet Potatoes: This spud's for you

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After much begging, my parents relented and helped me bake a loaf of cranberry bread. I loved the way the tart berries popped in the tender, slightly sweet bread. Since then, cranberries have had a firm place in my top 10 favorite ingredients, and I’m determined to show that they’re good for a whole lot more than jelly and juice.

I’m always looking for ways to use fresh cranberries. I stir them into baked goods, add them to braises, scatter them over roasting vegetables, and even pickle them for cheese platters and cocktails. They give a fatty braised pork butt a tangy, fruity counterpoint. The combination of roasted butternut squash and cranberries makes for a sweet/tart side dish. And the combination of berries, sugar, vinegar and spices is wonderfully electric on the tongue.

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The Latin Road Home: Jose Garces’ recipe for salmorejo from the November cover

Our November cover story features Chef Jose Garces and the farm he recently opened alongside his home in Ottsville, Pa. In the article, Garces talks about a salmorejo he makes with tomatoes from his farm. The recipe, which he shared with us below, is taken from his new cookbook The Latin Road Home (Lake Isle Press, Oct. 2012; $35). Read the full cover story here. 

Salmorejo: Gazpacho with Strawberries, Eggs and Olives

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All in the Family: The many shades of winter squash

story and photos by Marisa McClellan

A few years ago, at the end of the summer’s growing season, I decided to challenge myself to try a new kind of squash each week. I discovered that I loved the flavor and ease of roasted delicata. I spent a full week cooking through a giant neck pumpkin (they look like overgrown butternut squash). And I discovered that the more warts and bumps a pumpkin has, the sweeter it will be. I made soups, quick breads, casseroles, stews and purées. I swapped out my family’s traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole for one made with Kabocha squash and pumpkin. I created a salad that included cubes of roasted cheese pumpkin in place of croutons, and I ate dish after dish of roasted acorn squash puréed with grated ginger and a little cream. It was a delicious season and one that has continued to influence my winter kitchen.

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Recipes: Stem to Root

Americans throw away about 40 percent of the food they buy. Horrifying, isn’t it? But there are many ways to reduce your food waste. You can shop more carefully, plan for leftovers and use every inch of food you buy.  Previous generations were well acquainted with this last technique. Vegetable trimmings were saved for soup stock, onion skins became non-toxic dye, and unused animal fats were transformed into either soap or candles.
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Food: Minus the Moo - Fire up the Weber, it's burger season

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