008: Peppers


Bell peppers! Jalapenos too but this menu is about bell peppers. I haven’t got much experience with bell peppers. Mainly I just stir fry them, like I do with most vegetables, I’m realizing. I don’t even like them all that much in salad or as crudites. They do have a particular flavor though, one that’s easy to enjoy or learn to enjoy.
Something I learned about bell peppers, which seems so obvious now that I know it, is that the different colors represent different ripenesses of the same fruit. Something I learned right now, while fact checking, is that the ripeness thing applies specifically to red and green peppers, whereas yellow, orange and purple peppers are different cultivars.
I didn’t find any purple peppers, but you know I would have used them!

Menu (Serves 5)
Bell Pepper and Orzo Salad-Stuffed Marinated Pepper
Yellow Pepper Soup with Sweet Pepper Poppers
Red Pepper Tart
Jalapeno Ice Cream

Jalapeno Ice Cream

-1 1/2c cream
-1 1/2c whole milk
-3/4c sugar
-1t salt
-3 jalapenos
-1 vanilla bean or 2T vanilla extract
-1/4c molasses
-3T cornstarch

Ice cream first, as always. Do this the day before, if possible. I cut it a little close and ended up with the perfect texture, but that’s a bit risky. You’ll be chilling the mixture for 3 to 4 hours, then churning for at least half an hour, then chilling the ice cream for at least 3 hours. And, depending on what kind of ice cream maker you have, you might need to chill the maker bowl for a day or so beforehand.
So, stir together the cream, milk, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Split the jalapenos and vanilla bean if you have one, and add all of it to the cream mixture with the molasses. Heat it on medium until bubbles start forming. Kill the heat as soon as you see real bubbles (not just from stirring). Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Strain the peppers and vanilla out. Remove 1/2c of the cream to a little bowl, and mix it with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Put the pot back on the heat, and once you’re satisfied there’s no lumps in the slurry, stir it in. If you want the ice cream to have a fun color, like green or red, this is when you add the food coloring. Stir the ice cream in one direction constantly, until it thickens and will coat the back of a spoon (I often feel like that’s a really vague milestone, but in this case it will noticeably coat the back of a spoon). Pour the mixture into a bowl, covering with plastic wrap touched to the surface, and put it in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.
After that time, pour the mixture into your assembled ice cream maker. Assuming you can, watch it spin and monitor the consistency of the ice cream. It’ll become a lot more solid, with big empty spaces trailing the agitator and the ice cream itself piling up on the leading side. When it reaches this point, pour it into a container to go in the freezer. Leave it in for 3 to 4 hours, again. In the stages leading up to solidification, you can add mix-ins (for example I added a small amount of chocolate chips).

Bell Pepper and Orzo Salad-Stuffed Marinated Pepper

-3 red bell peppers (evenly shaped, with straight-ish walls)
-1/2c orzo
-1 orange bell pepper
-1 green bell pepper
-1 red onion
-1 persian cucumber
-1/4c lemon juice
-2T lemon juice
-1/2c white vinegar
-1/4c olive oil
-2 1/2t olive oil
-3 clove garlic
-2t red wine vinegar
-1/2t salt
-1/4t pepper
-1t balsamic vinegar

So first, you have to roast the red peppers. The recipe I linked has a method that employs your oven’s broiler, but for this recipe the peppers have to be whole. Just throw the pepper on there, maybe into spaces in the grill so the flames actually get on it. It’s kinda fun, though it needs fairly constant attention. Keep turning it so that the skin on each pepper gets blackened or at least “touched.” Let the peppers cool down a bit in a bowl, covering it so the skin gets looser. Once they’re cool enough to handle, pull the skin off of them. It’s kind of a pain, and there’ll be parts that stick too well, but it should be easy enough to get the skin off. Cut the tops and bottoms off the peppers, pull out the core, then cut each in half to make two pepper rings. Mix the 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic, and a bit of salt in a measuring cup. Pour this mixture over the rings in the bowl, and let it marinate until you’re preparing to serve dinner.

Chop the orange and green peppers, and red onion to a small dice. Cut the cucumber in half, then into thin half-moons. Boil a cup or two of water, and cook the orzo. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix the dressing: 2T lemon juice, 2 1/2t olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 2t red wine vinegar, 1t balsamic, 1/2t salt, 1/4t pepper. Mix this into the salad.
When you’re ready to serve, place a ring on a small plate, then fill with salad. I garnished with a tomato slice, but whatever!

Yellow Pepper Soup with Sweet Pepper Poppers
-5 yellow bell peppers
-2 Yukon gold potatoes
-1 onion
-1 leek
-3T butter
-5 cups chicken stock
-parsley
-10 mini peppers: 5 red, 5 yellow
-8 oz cream cheese
-1 1/2T capers

Cut the yellow peppers in half and remove the cores. Place them face down on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Set the oven to broil, and put the peppers in. It’ll take less than ten minutes; just keep an eye on the peppers, monitoring their skin. You’re going to be pulling the skin off again, so aim for the same thing as with the red. You can use the burner method for this if you want, but it’s a lot simpler to use the broiler.

Again, let them cool, and cover them if you want to loosen the skin more. Pull the skin off. Chop the onion and leek. Don’t worry about getting them even or anything. Cut the potatoes into chunks. Cut the peppers roughly. Melt the butter in a dutch oven or heavy pot. Saute the onion and leek with some salt, until soft. Add the potatoes, peppers, and broth. Simmer the soup until the potatoes are soft. Turn off the heat, and let the soup cool off a bit. The recipe says room temperature, but that’s probably not necessary. Pour the soup into a blender and puree it. Put it back in the pot, over low heat to keep it warm.

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the tops off the mini peppers, and cut out the insides. Keep the shell of them intact! Mix together the cream cheese and capers. Fill the peppers, pushing the cheese down to fill the whole thing. Fill them straight to the top, and re-cap them with the tops you cut off. They probably won’t stay on, but maybe they will! Put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray, then lay the peppers out on it. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Chop the parsley fine. Spoon out the soup, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve alongside a red and a yellow pepper.

Red Pepper Tart

-3 red bell peppers
-5T butter
-salt
-3T sugar
-8 phyllo sheets

First, prepare the pastry. I used phyllo dough, which I’ve never used on my own. Preheat the oven to 450. Melt 2T of the butter in the microwave. Take individual sheets of dough and lay them into a tart pan. Press the dough into the sides and “corners” of the pan, brush with melted butter, then lay down another sheet. I ended up with a ton of excess dough, so I just cut it away from the pan.
Cut the peppers into hearty chunks. Melt the remaining 3T of butter in a large pan, then saute the peppers in it. Once they’re nicely softened, push them to the sides of the pan, making a hole in the center. Drop the sugar in there. Let it cook for a bit, then stir it up with the peppers. It’ll caramelize as you cook. When it coats the peppers to your liking, take it off the heat. Pour the mixture into the tart. Bake for 10 minutes.

Report

Pretty dang good! Some real standouts, and nothing went really wrong. I finally got ice cream right, my sweet pepper poppers worked perfectly, the soup was pretty good, and the tart, although it looked kind of plain, was delicious. I was least pleased with the salad, but it went over alright as well.

When I made the salad I chopped the vegetables a bit too big. I did this on purpose to make them easier to eat with a fork, but when the salad was actually served we realized it would work better with a spoon. So, small dice. The orzo was also a little thin when I made it, so I guessed at a good amount when I wrote out the recipe. Aim for half orzo, half peppers. I also felt the dressing was a little lame. It was passable, but not great or memorable. The marinated pepper was good. I like the presentation a lot on this one.
The soup was nice. I didn’t have enough stock, like at all, so it came out thicker than I think it was supposed to. But, I like thick. It had a delicate flavor, but it was distinctly sweet pepper. Though I would have liked a stronger taste, I’m glad the ingredient came through like it did. It was almost vegetarian, too. I barely had a cup and a half of chicken stock, and the soup still came out. It could easily be subbed by vegetable broth, or even just water. The poppers were delicious. Super easy, and a great choice for a general appetizer or hors d’oeurve. My sister can’t stand eating whole capers, but they went really well with the cheese and peppers. 
The tart came out alright. The crust was way too thin on the bottom; I followed the directions, not sure if it was supposed to be that way or what. The pepper filling was great. However, it didn’t fit very well with the tart. There was nothing holding it on the crust, and what should have been the most substantial part of the meal was one of the lightest. If I made this again, I would maybe use a custard tart shell for a thicker crust, and definitely goat cheese underneath, to hold the peppers better and to make the tart heavier. Having it so light didn’t sit well with me.
The ice cream. The ice cream! The ice cream was incredible. Molasses gave it an amazing butterscotch flavor. The jalapenos were just steeped in the cream, but they released a ton of oils or whatever. The first bite of ice cream is old-timey butterscotch heaven, and then the jalapeno’s heat comes in and slaps your face and doesn’t stop slapping. Slap slap slap. It’s really tasty, and really fun, and like most ice cream, really easy. Make it.

My sister and her boyfriend wimped out and gave me their leftovers.
So, this menu came out pretty well. Like I said, no flops, and a couple excellent dishes. Another thing to note is that I probably made the greatest by-volume use of the ingredient this time. While that’s cool, I feel like the dishes were a little obsessive. I didn’t think enough about what to pair with the peppers, and ended up just pairing them with themselves. I wouldn’t say this about any of the dishes on their own, but as a menu it did feel one-note. My main goal was to avoid making stuffed peppers as the main course, so I guess it counts as a success!

Next Week: Avocado

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1 Comment

  1. Julie

     /  July 29, 2012

    Loved the little stuffed peppers! The jalapeno ice cream was amazing; I think it would have been even more amazing with chocolate sauce on top instead of chocolate chips.

    Reply

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