Self-Preservation: Roasted Red Peppers September 2, 2010Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cooking Series, Food, Freezer Meals, Garden.
Tags: Cooking, freezing, gardening
Ah, summer, when everything’s in season, and you can’t eat it all at once!
If you’ve been a reader here for any amount of time (a week or more, anyway), you’ll know that around here, we’re all about puttin’ up stuff – whether it’s a big old pan of lasagna, trying our hand at pectin-free apricot preserves, making our own mayonnaise, or even curing our own bacon – in most cases, it’s tastier, healthier, cheaper, and often, not all that difficult, to make it yourself – whatever “it” may be.
Earlier this week, we dried a whole oven full of tomatoes – we haven’t had to buy those lame store-bought sun-dried tomatoes in years!
So how about roasted red peppers?
Have you priced those lately? I sure haven’t.
And guess why not – go ahead, guess.
OK, you got it – I buy them in season and roast them myself. Piece of cake.
It’s really pretty simple – you start when they’re in season and you can get a bunch of big beautiful peppers cheap – I just picked up 4 for a buck at the market – I figure, at that price, I’d be crazy not to, huh? (Last year, I got some at 6 for $1, as I recall, but, well, there are no guarantees, you know?)
So you start with your peppers, and go ahead and wash them if you want. I’m going to be honest here – unless they’re visibly dirty, I usually just give them a quick wipe. We’re going to be peeling the skin off of them anyway.
Now I’ve seen directions for roasted peppers that tell you to take a single pepper, hold it in a pair of tongs, roast it over the burner on your gas stove.
I mean, I guess that’s OK if you have one pepper – and the patience of a saint.
You know, in for a penny, in for a pound. In other words, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.
So anyway, we’ve got 4 (or 6) red peppers, and we’re not about to hold them, one by one, over the kitchen stove.
If only there was something that had an open flame we could use for roasting these peppers.
Something, maybe, with a grate for setting things on over that open flame.
So I’m sure you’ve figured it out already – I fired up the gas grill and just stuck all the peppers on the grate. Let them cook over a high flame until they’re somewhat scorched – the charring ultimately makes them easier to peel.
(That, and it’s easier to tell that you’ve already grilled that side.)
Once you deem the peppers sufficiently blackened, just pull them off the grill and transfer to a steel bowl (remembering, of course, to shut the gas off), then cover with plastic wrap.
I’ve heard of people putting the peppers in a paper bag at this point, but I’ve never done that so couldn’t say how it works.
But I’m pretty sure, as the peppers cool, you wouldn’t get the neat-o shrink-wrap effect in a paper bag.
Simple things amuse me. What can I say?
So. After about an hour of cooling while you’re doing something else, your peppers will be ready to seed and peel them – and truly, nothing could be simpler!
Start by cutting the top of the pepper off – you want to get rid of the stem. The skin on the very top won’t have gotten as charred as the rest of the pepper, so it will be difficult, at best, to peel off, anyway.
Cut your pepper from the top to the bottom – it should easily open up – kind of like a flat pepper book. (Or something.)
Remove the seeds and membranes from the inside, then flip the pepper over and peel the charred skin from the outside.
Assuming your peppers are well-charred, you shouldn’t need anything but your own fingers to, basically, just rub the skin off.
If there’s a stubborn bit that wants to stick, it can just be scraped off with a paring knife.
And once the peppers are skinned and cleaned, I like to lay them flat on a lined sheet pan, set it in the freezer until they’re frozen solid, then slice them and pack them into a gallon freezer bag.
And there you go – a few minutes of active time (maybe 10 at the grill and another 10 to clean and peel the peppers) and a buck – and now I’ve got all the “fire-roasted” red peppers I could possibly need for those winter pasta dishes!
Self-Preservation: Tomatoes August 31, 2010Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking Series, Food, Garden.
Tags: Cooking, gardening
While I’ve been bemoaning the eventual demise of our gorgeous summer, I’ve also been planning ahead. Oh yes I have, because, really, that’s one of my best things.
Remember the grasshopper and the ant? And how the grasshopper spent the whole summer at the beach, drinking margaritas and partying all night, but the ant worked in the garden and got a new roof and, in general, prepared for winter?
Well, once winter comes, what do you suppose that old grasshopper is going to do for sun-dried tomatoes?
I’ll tell you what she’s going to do. She’s probably going to go to her local supermarket or even Amazon and spend ridiculous amounts of money for a couple of ounces of the silly things.
Yeah, and what do you think the wise old ant is going to do?
She’ll go to her freezer and haul out her baggie of homegrown, that’s what. (Tomatoes. Homegrown tomatoes, that is. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, you know.)
Me, I’m more an ant than a grasshopper – that partying all night? I’m far too old and tired for that anymore. Give me a nice home in the suburbs, a garden, and some zip-loc bags, and I’ll party all I need to, thank you.
So I’m going to tell you what you need to know about “sun” dried tomatoes.
First off, you don’t actually need the actual sun (well, except in the sense that you need the sun to grow the tomatoes, but you know that’s not what I mean, right?)
And you don’t need any fancy equipment like a food dehydrator.
Nope, what you need is your oven, a sheet pan, and a wire rack. That’s it.
And, of course, an understanding of tomatoes.
See, here’s the thing. Tomatoes are mostly water. Water is not really conducive to dried food – the idea behind drying is to remove the water and retain the, well, the other stuff.
So the first thing we do is split the tomatoes in half and remove most of the liquid. (And the seeds – who wants dried seeds in their whatever-they’re-making?)
Lay the tomatoes – cut side down – on a wire rack set over a sheet pan.
I like to line the sheet pan with a silicone mat (or parchment, or even foil) because, well, no matter how hard you try, you’re never going to get all the liquid out of the tomatoes, and it WILL drip onto the pan. Silicone is easier to clean than stainless.
Always thinking, I am.
Speaking of thinking.
Let me share a lesson I learned last summer.
All those seeds and that liquid that you’re scraping out of the tomatoes? You do NOT want to compost it. I mean, sure, it seems like it’s exactly what the composter was made for, doesn’t it?
But trust me. If you throw those tomato seeds into the compost bucket, next summer you’re going to have random tomato plants popping up all over your garden, and every time you pull one up, you’re going to ask yourself “what if.”
You don’t want to go there, do you? I thought not.
So take your tomatoes and lay them out flat on a wire rack (and if you’re clever, which I know you are, you will have sprayed the rack with non-stick spray first because, really, why not?), and pierce them each several times with a fork.
Yes, those are all my tomatoes. Actually, they’re not all OF my tomatoes – they were actually about half of my tomatoes at that moment. But they all came from the garden.
I’ve evidently got some juicy tomatoes. They need a little extra, um, incentive to dry, I guess.
Did I mention that all this tomato cleaning usually goes on directly after I get home from walking the dog?
Yeah, I try to get them in the oven by 6 – then I go upstairs and get ready for work.
Oh yeah. I leave the oven on when I go to work. And Peeps gets home several hours later (around noon-ish) and he finds a note asking him to check the tomatoes.
Tomatoes which are significantly shrunken, but not yet “dry.”
You can see, at noon they were still pretty puffy, weren’t they?
That’s not quite what we’re going for, so he just left them in the oven.
I shut the oven off and just let the residual heat finish the job – in other words, we had puppy swim at 4 and didn’t have time to take care of them, and we didn’t want to leave them in a hot oven for yet another couple of hours.
(But I’m going with residual heat.)
Once the tomatoes are dried to your satisfaction, pull them from the oven, let them finish cooling, then just bag ‘em up, pop them in the freezer, and wait for winter – when you can go to the supermarket and scoff at the little tiny bags of sun-dried tomatoes, secure in the knowledge that what you’ve got in your freezer is far superior to anything you’re going to find in a pouch in the produce department.
Monday Musings: 07.19.2010 Edition July 19, 2010Posted by Toy Lady in Food, Food & Wine, Garden, Musings, random stuff.
Tags: Cooking, Food, gardening, Musings
First thing – if you haven’t entered our giveaway, be sure to skip on over there and leave a comment for a chance to win the drawing for a $40.00 gift certificate from CSN Stores! We’ll be firing up the Random Number Generator Tuesday at 5PM Eastern time, and we’ll announce the winner next Wednesday, so be sure to get your entry in!
Remember how, back about a month ago, I was too old for that picking strawberries foolishness?
Yeah, well, the same goes for blueberries.
I only picked 10 pounds. . . the problem is that I actually enjoy it.
While I’m doing it.
The next day . . . not so much.
*sigh* I’m not 22 anymore, I guess.
But on the bright side – one of our local liquor stores is still running their 3 for $8 sale on wine – which is absolutely perfect to keep us in sangria for the rest of the summer!
We still haven’t decided whether we prefer white or red sangria, though – so I bought 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.
You know what’s coming into season?
I love melon – and Saturday, I went to the market, and I smelled that tell-tale smell – the scent of ripe cantaloupe.
I wasn’t prepared to make cantaloupe gelato (or whatever it is), but that won’t stop me from enjoying the ripe, juicy melon on its own!
And that I filled three sheet trays, ran out of room in the freezer, and still have a quart left?
Yeah. But you know, a bunch of blueberries, a bit of vanilla yogurt, and a drizzle of honey – NOT a bad breakfast, let me tell you!
The corn guy was at the market this weekend, too.
This is a farmer who, on Saturday mornings, fills the bed of his pickup truck with fresh corn, hauls it to the market, and sells it for 15 for $3.
And he’s very friendly too – he even threw in “one for the baby!”
I explained to him who “the baby” is – and he laughed!
I have a tomato starting to ripen! It’s almost . . . orange-ish! Stay tuned for updates!
And, um, speaking of ripening.
I went out to the garden the other day to pick some green beans for dinner.
Between the hot days and the soaking rains – it’s evidently been PERFECT weather for beans – I picked 4 pounds of green beans!
Now, mind you, I have a single row of beans, and it’s only 6 feet long.
It’s crazy, isn’t it? And it’s just a good thing we like fresh beans, huh?
And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan. Wow, I still can’t believe how the summer has flown by! Not only that, but we’ve done a pretty poor job of clearing out the freezer, so we’ve declared a moratorium on buying any more anything to go in the freezer – with the exception of in-season fruit and veggies, and that in moderation. (The emphasis is mostly for my sake.) So we’re looking forward to figuring out what do with what we’ve got.
Monday – We stocked up on various single-serving fishes when they were on sale for $1 per serving. Salmon with Lentils and Mustard-Herb Butter will use up a couple of salmon fillets, along with some of the French green lentils we picked up a while ago. Round it out with a nice tossed salad, and we’ll be all set.
Tuesday – I picked up a boneless leg of lamb a while ago, and we divided it into a few lamb steaks and several packets for grinding – this week, we’ll thaw some of the steaks out and try lamb with peach-ginger chutney – lamb works with fruit, right? Also, I picked up some broccoli at the market, and some steamed rice will just round it all out.
Wednesday - Peeps suggested meatball sandwiches for this week, which sounded like a FINE idea! In addition, we found a recipe in this month’s Food & Wine for oven fries with herbs & Pecorino – which just seems like it’ll be perfect together, don’t you think?
Thursday – We’re going to try some simply marinated chicken only, instead of the Greek influence, we’ve got some lime and a TON of out-of-control tarragon. Since the green beans are close to out-of-control, we’ll be enjoying some more of those, along with some baby potatoes, possibly all tossed with any mustard-herb butter left from Monday.
Friday – And it’s pizza night! You know, it’s really nice to have one night a week we don’t actually have to think about . . .
Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.