Browsing Tag

Peppers

In the Kitchen

Homemade Sriracha

September 20, 2015

Homeade Sriracha 2

Today I’m going to share with you my recipe for homemade sriracha. You may know it better as Rooster Sauce, or that ubiquitous green-capped hot sauce that young folks nowadays love so much. At it’s simplest, sriracha is a fermented blend of hot peppers, salt, garlic, and vinegar. Though it’s precise origins are not known, sriracha was used as a condiment in Thai and Vietnamese cooking long before it was popularized by the wildly successful Huy Fong Foods, which made the green-capped, rooster-emblazoned version that we’re all so familiar with.

This homemade version doesn’t taste exactly like the original, but what fun would that be? After all, variety is the spice (ahem) of life. Don’t mind me. I crack myself up. This version tastes a bit brighter, and depending on the pepper type that you use, can be significantly hotter than the Huy Fong version.

This recipe also allows you to customize the level of fermentation. I personally like the complex, umami flavors that are added through the fermentation process, so I usually let mine go through at least several days of fermentation, tasting every day until I find the flavor profile I like. Once you reach that desired flavor, simply add the vinegar, which stops the fermentation process and preserves the flavor as it is in that moment.

Picking Your Peppers

Ripe Red Filius Blues

Sriracha is typically made with fully ripened red jalapeños. (Did you realize that jalapeños eventually turn red if you leave them on the plant long enough? Now you know. Knowledge is power, y’all.) However, I am a big proponent of not making things the way they’re typically made, so my recommendation is to experiment with your sriracha recipe until you find the pepper type, or pepper ratio that you prefer.

I happened to have a bumper crop of a special little pepper known as the Filius Blue growing in my garden this summer, so I decided to use those instead of the typical jalapeños. Filius Blues are so named because the peppers start out a beautiful blue-purple color– at which point they are quite spicy– before ripening into a slightly milder, mature red.

Purple Filius Blue Peppers

Red Filus Blue Peppers

Filius Blue peppers are quite a bit hotter than your average jalapeño. Whereas a jalapeño measures in at approximately 10,000 to 20,000 Heat Units on the Scoville scale, a Filius Blue clocks in between 40,000 and 50,000 Scoville Heat Units. If you’re not up for the heat, or can’t get your hands on these relatively rare peppers, try substituting jalapeños, serranos, or Fresno chiles, for a milder heat.

Another trick for using extra hot peppers is to mix them with a milder pepper. In this recipe, I use half Filius Blues by weight, and half sweet, red bell peppers. The bell peppers help to dilute the extreme spice of the hot peppers, while also adding more available sugars for the fermentation process.

A Peck or a Pound? Weighing Your Peppers

Weighing the Peppers

One last note on experimenting with hot sauces before I unleash y’all on my recipe. I decided to write this recipe by weight in order to make it both more accurate and easier to customize. The ratio of peppers to salt is fairly important. Generally speaking you want to add 2% salt by weight to your pepper mash, or 2 grams of salt for every 100 grams of peppers. Knowing this ratio makes it very easy to scale this recipe up if you decide you want to make four times the amount, or if you decide to triple the ratio of bell pepper to hot pepper for a milder heat. Just adjust the salt accordingly.

Homemade Sriracha

  • 100 grams or approx. ¼ lb Filius Blue peppers*, stems removed
  • 100 grams red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 grams sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  1. Blend peppers, garlic, and salt in a food processor until it forms a paste. Scrape the paste into a clean pint-sized mason jar and cover with a paper towel and rubber band. It will only half-fill the mason jar, but that’s okay. The pepper mixture will rise as it ferments, so it’s good to give it some extra room.
  2. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 2-7 days, stirring the contents each day and checking to ensure no mold is growing. Bubbles should form on the surface within 2-3 days, which means your sauce has started fermenting. This where the rich, complex flavor comes from in sriracha. Try the hot sauce each day until it reaches the flavor you like best.
  3. Once the hot sauce has fermented to your liking, add the fermented pepper paste back into a food processor with the vinegar and blend until uniform in texture. Store the sauce in a tightly sealed container in a refrigerator. It will keep for up to 4 months.

*Filius Blues can be difficult to find if you’re not growing them yourself. Try substituting ripe red jalapeños, serrano peppers, Fresno chiles, or any other hot red pepper for a different heat and flavor profile. Experiment until you find the combo you most enjoy!

Homemade Sriracha

In the Garden

Keep Your Container Plants Alive on Vacation

July 17, 2015

If you have container plants that you water by hand, then you may be familiar with the vaguely terrifying feeling that accompanies going out of town for a few days. Will your precious plants survive the neglect? How long can they go without being watered before they give up the ghost? In drought-stricken California, where I live, it may only be a matter of days before the most tender of potted plants passes the point of no return.

Container Plants

I’ve just arrived back from a week-long sojourn to the east coast, and I’ll tell ya, I was definitely nervous as I disembarked from my airport shuttle and walked back to my apartment. The first thing I would see when I turned the corner to my building would be my handful of container plants, which had been thriving when I left, but hadn’t been watered or checked on in nearly a week. Would they still be going strong? Or would the Palo Alto sun have burnt them to a crisp while I was gone?

I came around the bend and breathed a huge sigh of relief– they were alive! My tomato plant was a bit bedraggled and was clearly ready for a sip of water, but my pepper plants were looking fabulous and were dripping with new peppers.

Poblanos

Scotch Bonnets

I’m not sure they would have made it though if it hadn’t been for a little trick I used to keep them watered for a couple of extra days. Most of my pots were inherited from a friend and didn’t come with the water-retaining saucers that go underneath the containers to keep dirt and water from staining the ground below. Since I didn’t have any friends in the building to water for me while I was gone, and no time to pick up any handy self-watering gadgets, I had to get a little creative. I grabbed a couple of large mixing bowls, filled them halfway with water, and then placed one under each of my containers, which I also watered deeply.

Mixing Bowls Under Containers

My tomato plant was too big to fit a mixing bowl under, so I used the only thing I had handy that was big enough to hold the plant and some extra water– my laundry hamper! While I’m not sure I would recommend that (too much fuss to clean out later), a big ice bucket or washtub would work well here.

Keeping Your Container Plants Alive on Vacation

If you happen to have a kiddy pool, or other large water-tight container available, you could group all of your potted plants together in it instead.

The extra reserve of water allows your plants to suck up the moisture as they need it, giving you a couple of extra days before their supply runs out. Employing this technique before going out of town for a couple of days could be the difference between coming home to find healthy plants or dying, water-stressed plants. Despite the extra water, my tomato plant was still starting to wilt after a week away, so I wouldn’t recommend this as a long-term solution for vacations more than a week in length. But for just a handful of days, it’s a simple solution that will allow you to rest easy, knowing your plants are cared for while you’re gone.

In the Kitchen

CSA Saturday

July 11, 2015

Whew! Is it Saturday again? Time does fly when you’re cooking up a storm. Welcome to the 3rd edition of CSA Saturday. Let’s jump in, shall we?


CSA Produce

This week I came home with corn, more peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, an onion, and a melon. Not pictured here– potatoes. Those naughty potatoes jumped right into a pot before I could photograph them with their vegetable brethren, but fear not! I have provided photographic evidence of their existence below!

Zucchini & Cherry Tomatoes

It happened to be the 4th of July when I picked up my box, so a good portion of our produce ended up either on the grill or on top of something that got grilled.

Can you spot the zucchini amongst the madness?

Zucchini

Check out those grill marks! Yum!

After being grilled, the leftover zucchini got chopped up and added to a simple pasta dish with egg noodles, olive oil, the cherry tomatoes, grilled chicken, and a hearty grating of parmesan cheese.

Zucchini Tomato Pasta

Onion

Like much of our produce this week, the onion succumbed to Fourth of July preparations. Here it is, caramelized to perfection and ready to be piled high atop many a burger or brat.

Onion

Potatoes

Aha! There are the sneaky potatoes, running off before the group picture.

Sneaky Potatoes

As punishment for their sneakery, they got cut into cubes, steamed, and smothered in potato salad fixin’s. A just punishment, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Potato Salad

Melon

Sliced and devoured. Sometimes it’s the simple things.

Peppers, Tomatoes, Corn

The peppers, several of the tomatoes, and the corn made their way into my Corn & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers, which I posted a recipe for earlier this week.

Roasted Peppers

Tomatoes

The remaining tomatoes that weren’t sliced onto burgers or cooked into stuffed peppers ended up making it into one of my very favorite summertime dishes– an open-faced tomato sandwich. It’s as easy to make as it is to eat, and boy is it easy to eat. You may not be able to tell in this photo but there is bread under that stack of tomatoes!

Tomato Sandwich

The essentials: a  slab of good crusty bread, mayo, salt, tomatoes. As much as I can be a purist about my tomato sandwiches, I also have been known to mix it up form time to time, and this is an easy sandwich to customize. Swap out plain french bread for sourdough, whole wheat, or, as I did in this case, kalamata olive-studded. Add cheese. Add avocado. Drizzle with balsamic. Top with basil. With so many options, tomato sandwiches are an easy, tasty option for lunch or dinner that I never tire of.

That’s it for this week folks. Happy eating!

There will be no CSA Saturday next week as I will be away traveling and unable to cook for a week. CSA Saturday will return the following week with new recipe ideas and suggestions for making the best of your vegetable bounty!

In the Kitchen

Corn & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

July 6, 2015

Remember how I told you I had a special recipe in the works that I was saving my chives for? Well, this is it. Full Belly Farm, the farm that I get my CSA from, asked me to contribute a recipe to their weekly newsletter for next week!

I was so excited by the opportunity to put together a special recipe that showcases a number of the seasonal products that will be in all the Full Belly CSA boxes this coming week. I wanted to make something that would be accessible regardless of dietary restrictions, so whether you’re vegetarian or gluten-free, this recipe should work for you! I think you’ll like it. I know I do. So, without further ado, here’s my take on a spicy vegetarian stuffed pepper dish using Full Belly Farm‘s Flamingo peppers, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and chives.

Corn & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 4 Flamingo peppers*
  • 2 large tomatoes or 3-4 small tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup red onion, chopped finely
  • ½ – 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped finely
  • ½ bunch of chives, minced (approx. 1/3 cup)**
  • ½ cup instant grits
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese
  • ¾ tbsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut off the top half inch of the peppers and remove the cores and seeds from inside. Slice a tiny sliver off the bottom of each pepper, if necessary, to get it to stand upright. Stand peppers in a rimmed, greased baking pan or ovenproof pot.
  3. Roughly chop the tomatoes into cubes, and cook on the stove over medium heat with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until the juices release and the flesh starts to fall apart (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and let sit.
  4. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add cooked tomatoes and mix until evenly moistened. Spoon mixture into hollowed out peppers until full. Replace pepper tops and cover the entire pan with tin foil.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Serve warm. Don’t worry if the peppers get a little bit charred and wrinkly looking—they’ll still taste great!

* This recipe makes more than enough stuffing for four average-sized peppers. I personally like to cook the extra stuffing in a separate pan. It gets nice and crispy and you can serve it with the peppers for those that enjoy a higher filling-to-pepper ratio, but you could also buy two extra peppers and stuff those instead.

** You can substitute scallions for the chives in this recipe.

Roasted Peppers

I hope you enjoy my recipe for vegetarian stuffed peppers! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

In the Kitchen

Happy 4th & a CSA Saturday

July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day! I hope your day is filled with good friends, good times, and most importantly, good food. Which brings us right to the point of today’s post because it’s that time again– time for another CSA Saturday!

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not summer until I’ve bitten into the first vine-ripened tomato of the season, which makes June 27th my personal first day of summer, since that’s when I got the first tomato in my CSA box. It was beautiful– not quite round, not quite red, completely delicious. It transformed, almost like magic, into a decadent pizza with almost no input on my behalf. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s a take a look at what else arrived in my box this week.

CSA Produce

Bell peppers, tomatoes, and corn, oh my! The trifecta of summer. Not to mention that juicy honeydew melon. I’m not talking about those bland watery green balls you buy at the supermarket. We’re talking sweet, delicious honey-flavored flesh. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Excuse me while I go cut off a slice…

…and we’re back. What else? Let’s see. We’ve got some kirby cucumbers, a mess of green beans, three heads of garlic, and a bunch of chives.

So what did I cook up in my kitchen this week with all that deliciousness? Stick with me, and we’ll find out.

Garlic

I’m putting garlic first on this list because those three heads of garlic became the base of most of my meals for the week. First, I roasted the heck out of them.

Roasty Toasty Garlic

Then I spent the rest of the week squeezing out the melty roasted cloves and smearing them on everything in sight. They got spread across thick-cut slices of toast, covered with smashed avocado, and topped with a fried egg. They got whizzed into a mouth-tingling roasted jalapeño-garlic aioli and smeared on grilled corn.

Roasted Garlic Aioli

Most importantly, they formed the basis for my next recipe…

Tomatoes & Peppers

Mamma mia, it’s a pizza! Whole wheat pizza with roasted garlic smashed right onto the crust, smothered in tomato sauce, and topped with more roasted tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It was good. It was real good. It hit the spot.

Tomato & Pepper Pizza

Sweet Corn

That first pizza was so good, in fact, that I made a second pizza, just so the first one wouldn’t feel lonely in my belly. This one got the leftover pesto treatment (from last week’s CSA!) before being sprinkled with sweet corn kernels fresh off the cob, chopped zucchini and a judicious amount of cheese. Heck yeah.

Pizza

A couple more ears of corn got tossed on the grill and smeared with the aforementioned jalapeño-garlic aioli. It was a revelation. I’m never eating plain corn again, and you shouldn’t either.

Melon

Melon is a beautiful invention. I like to think of it as nature’s bowl. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and you’ve got yourself the perfect little cup to hold a helping of yogurt. The combo of sweet melon and sour yogurt is a big winner in my book.

Melon

Cucumbers

Speaking of sour, this week we got all kinds of pickle-happy in my kitchen. I mean that in a strictly culinary sense, I promise you. Check out these dill cucumber spears, made with the randomly sized cukes we inherited in our box this week. I can barely wait the week it takes for them to fully soak in the brine! They look so good now.

Cucumber Pickles

Green Beans

This was our second week of green beans and we went in a radically different direction this week. Last week we made a Green Bean and Potato Curry. This week we made… more pickles! This is a special little recipe I’m developing for hot ‘n garlicky fermented green beans and okra. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out! I’m no psychic, but I’m seeing lots of Bloody Marys in these pickles’ future.

Green Bean Pickles 2

Green Bean Pickles 1

And that’s all for this week folks! You may have noticed I didn’t use the chives in any of my meals this week, and that’s because they got saved for a special recipe that I’ll be releasing sometime in the next week and a half, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Now go grill things! Happy 4th.