This weekend's farmer's market haul included 4 pounds each of pluots, Asian pears and white nectarines. We also brought home one bunch of cilantro, two bunches of lemongrass, some yellow string beans, a dozen eggs, a zucchini, basket of orange cherry tomatoes, a basket of fairytale eggplants (those small lavender and white darlings sold by Pyramid Farms), and a big bag of assorted peppers.
Often people who are self-described "non-cooks" ask me for easy recipes, and I'm at a loss for how to respond. I mean, I "cook" everyday. How does a "non-cook" eat? I'm sure you guys aren't eating in restaurants constantly. You must be preparing food somehow. Assembling sandwiches? Pouring a bowl of cereal? Do you "non-cooks" go so far as to combine canned soup with noodles and chicken and call it a casserole? 'Cuz that sounds like cooking to me. I've met people before who say, "I don't really cook at all, but I do grill." Maybe that's what you mean. And don't even "non-cooks" get a hankering for homemade chocolate chip cookies so strong that they must act on it?
Here's a quick recipe for Roasted Peppers to help you stock your freezer. After less than a half an hour of grill-time you'll have a versatile ingredient you can freeze and save for up to six months. They defrost under cold running water in about a minute, and from there you can use them in sandwiches and salads, or, should you decide to become a cook, chile rellenos, baked or fried.
Not only that, below are two dinner recipes that include roasted peppers. (But I won't tell if you use the canned variety.) Add a (bagged) salad, and you'll have dinner for four.
Roasted peppers of various varieties are sold in jars and cans in the supermarket year-round. So why make your own?
1. With peppers at their peak of freshness, you have more control over the quality.
2. With peppers selling for $1 a pound, it's economical.
3. Frozen peppers don't have the tinny taste (or the preservatives) that canned peppers have.
Maybe this isn't what you "non-cooks" are looking for, but I hope you'll each try at least one of these three recipes and let me know what you think.
Peppers can be roasted ahead of time, stored in the freezer, and defrosted as needed to provide an interesting smoky spice (or smoky sweetness) to a variety of dishes. Use chopped roasted red bell peppers to add flavor and color to pasta salads. Use Anaheims or other long green peppers to turn an ordinary cheeseburger into a Southwestern Jack Burger. Use poblanos (spicy) or Gypsies (sweet) to make stuffed peppers.
a few pounds of assorted peppers
a splash of cooking oil, such as canola or grapeseed oil
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1. Preheat grill to medium-low. (I use a gas grill. I don't know anything about charcoal grills, because, "I don't grill.") Alternatively, you could use your oven's broiler. In that case set the top rack 4-6 inches from the broiler element.
2. Put whole peppers on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle with oil. Use your hands to rub the oil onto the peppers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Use tongs to put the peppers on the grill. Place them about an inch away from each other to allow the heat to circulate. (Or leave them on the cookie sheet and slide it into the oven.) Close the lid and wait 2-3 minutes, then turn the peppers. Close the lid, wait 2-3 minutes then turn the peppers again. Remove peppers from the grill as the skin gets charred and blistered.
4. Let the peppers cool to room temperature. If using the same day, peel the peppers by hand and pull out the stem and seeds. Otherwise, place roasted peppers on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen transfer to a ziplock bag and store in the freezer up to 6 months. To thaw, hold individual peppers under running water. Running water also makes removing the seeds and charred skin easy.
Chile Relleno Casserole
adapted from my friend, Rebekah Moller
1 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup all-purpose flour or masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
6-8 roasted and peeled Anaheim peppers, with the seeds removed
or 2 7-oz cans whole ortega green chiles
1/2 lb jack cheese, shredded
1/2 lb cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz tomato sauce
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Beat the half-and-half with eggs and flour until smooth. Cut the peppers in half so that they lay flat. Rinse out any seeds and drain on a paper towel.
3. In deep casserole dish (1.5 quart) layer cheese, chilies and half and half mixture (there should be 3 layers of each). Pour tomato sauce over top, then finish with 1/2 cup of cheese.
4. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Linguine with Clams
Adapted from Trattoria Cooking by Biba Caggiano This recipe has been a pantry staple of mine for six years. It's what first motivated me to keep my spice drawer stocked with red pepper flakes.
1 pound linguine (or spaghetti)
1/4 cup of olive oil
about 8 cloves of garlic, crushed, peeled and minced
red pepper flakes (just a sprinkle for a mild dish, up to a half teaspoon for a spicy dish)
2 6-oz cans clams
3 roasted red peppers, skin and seeds removed, chopped (or used jarred)
1 cup grated Parmigiano Regianno or Parmesan cheese (not from the green can; grate it yourself or buy it in the deli section), plus more for serving
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped.
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. Cook linguine according to directions on the package. Be sure to drain the pasta while it is still al dente, which may require a minute or two less cooking time than the package states.
2. Meanwhile, in your largest skillet, over medium heat, cook garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Cook for about a minute or two. You don't want the garlic to brown, just to soften and impart its flavor to the oil. Add the juice from the canned clams and let simmer a couple minutes, then add the clams and peppers. Simmer one more minute, just longer enough to heat the clams. Remove from heat.
3. Drain pasta and add pasta to the skillet. Add parmesan and toss to combine. Garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges and more parmesan.