Monday, January 14, 2013

Harvest Monday - January 14, 2013

Harvest Monday is here again, but I don't have much to show off this week. Actually, I didn't manage to take any photos of my harvests this week, so there isn't anything at all to show off. Besides, what I did manage to harvest was not show-off material, the birds took care of that. The little birds, I'm not sure what exactly, discovered the delicious greens in my garden and attacked like they hadn't eaten anything so yummy is years. The lacinato kale, which I was just about to get a nice harvest from, now looks like green lace. I covered that up with netting, so the LBB's (little brown birds) moved on to the Tronchuda Beira and Apollo Broccoli, those didn't start turning into lace, they simply started to disappear. I also had to drape the emerging fava beans with netting because the little boogers were scratching around and digging up the seedlings as they appeared. For whatever reason they have not attacked the Lark's Tongue kale or the chard, yet... Enough about that.

In lieu of showing off a current harvest I'm taking the opportunity to talk about what I am doing with a previous harvest. I harvested an abundance of ripe thin fleshed sweet peppers, aka frying peppers. They are delicious eaten green or ripe, pan fried or fresh in salads, but there was no way that I could keep up with eating them fresh from the garden. I harvested almost 22 pounds of frying peppers, which was just a fraction of my total harvest of almost 122 pounds of peppers. I ended up drying a lot of them and I never pulled out my dehydrator. This past pepper season I dried most of my sweet peppers in a 200ºF oven, some of them just to a point of dryness and other ones (not always intentionally) to a more toasted state. Either way they are delicious and my favorite way to use those dried/toasted peppers is to grind them up.

Toasted Sigaretta Dolce peppers

The extra crispy toasted peppers tend to come out somewhat powdery and only a bit flaky when they are ground up.

Ground toasted Sigaretta Dolce peppers

My favorite method for grinding chiles and sweet peppers is to run them through the food grinder attachment for my mixer.

Some larger pepper flakes from the less crispy peppers tend to get stuck inside the grinder, but it is easy to just chop those with a knife and add them to the mix.

The peppers that aren't crispy dry come out more flaky than powdery. I removed the seeds and cores from some of the peppers before I dried them. They dry more quickly that way and produce seedless flakes or powder. I like my ground peppers both ways. One of my spicier chiles, my beloved Aji Angelos, are totally sweet when dried without the seeds and cores, and medium spicy when they are dried whole and ground with the seeds and cores intact.

Ground oven-dried Sigaretta Dolce peppers

So how do I use my ground peppers? The spicy ones I use in place of buying store-bought chile pepper flakes, all the usual ways. The sweet ones I use much more liberally. I often times enrich tomato sauce with a tablespoon or two. They are a delicious addition to vegetable soup. Sprinkle them on vegetables, eggs, meats, or into salads. Add them to a marinade. They are excellent on anything with melted cheese. What else...

I grind up a batch and keep them in the refrigerator for longer storage, typically the spicy ones since I don't use them as much. The sweet flakes disappear much more quickly so I just keep a jar right to hand on the kitchen counter.

Big change in the weather this past week. The graph when from really spiky to more flat down in the cold (for us) range.

The closest National Weather Service station recorded lows down to 28 the last couple of nights, but my weather station recorded a low of 24.5 this morning, just slightly colder than the previous morning.

It's not often that I find this out in the garden.

Back to the harvest. Here's what the garden produced last week:

Apollo broccoli - 4 ounces
Tronchuda Beira cabbage - 1 lb., 5.8 oz.

The total harvests for the past week came to 1 lb., 9.8 oz.
Which brings the total harvests for the year to - 5 lb., 13.4 oz.

The broccoli was blanched to get rid of the aphids and caterpillars, of which there were almost none for a change, then briefly sauteed in olive oil with lots of chopped garlic and finished with some aged moscatel vinegar and some sweet pepper flakes. The Tronchuda Beira went into a soup with the last of the 2011 Petaluma Goldrush beans, celery root (not from the garden, mine are still tiny and likely to stay that way), canned tomatoes, carrots (none from the garden this year), onions, and ham. Perfect for a cold winter night.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Preserved Sweet Peppers (Updated October 2018)

If you've been following my blog for a while you may have noticed the bumper crop of peppers that I harvested this past autumn. The final pepper tally ended up at 122 pounds, more than half of which were thick fleshed peppers suitable for roasting. Roasted sweet red peppers and green New Mexico type peppers are a couple of my favorite things. I prefer to prepare them by blackening the skins over an open flame. Then I put the blackened peppers into a stainless steel bowl and cover it with a lid from one of my skillets and let them sit until they are cool enough to handle. Alternatively, the skins can be blackened in a very hot oven and then transferred to the covered bowl to cool. Some cooks like to put the peppers into a bag to cool or even wrap them in plastic wrap, but I've found that the bowl method works just fine and is less wasteful, no bags or plastic wrap to toss in the trash. The peppers are easily peeled by just rubbing the blackened skins off, I like to rinse my hands off and use my wet hands to wipe off any excess black spots rather than rinsing the peppers themselves, that leaves more of the roasted good flavor on the peppers.

One of my husbands favorite dishes featuring roasted sweet peppers is a Spanish salad of pepper strips arranged on a platter with chopped egg, best quality olive oil packed tuna, and green olives scattered over the top and dressed with a good quality red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. This is always a much anticipated dish when the season for peppers starts. Unfortunately, we have only been able to enjoy this dish during the local pepper season because I refuse to buy hot house peppers imported from thousands of miles away during the off season and my usual method of preserving roasted sweet peppers by freezing doesn't produce pepper strips that have the right texture for salads. 

But now I've come across a method of preserving sweet roasted peppers that makes excellent salad quality peppers. Hank Shaw over at Hunter Gardener Angler Cook came up with a hybrid pickling-sott'olio method of preserving roasted peppers. His method is to dredge the roasted peppers in a good quality vinegar, then pack the peppers into jars with a salted mixture of the pepper juices and more vinegar, top it off with extra virgin olive oil. The jars do not need to be processed, just store them in the refrigerator where, according to Hank, they should keep for up to a year. So far, at three months, my store of peppers seems to be keeping quite well and they are so good that I doubt that I will have enough to test the one year mark.

I opened the jar shown above last night, not to make my husband's favorite salad, but to accompany some burrata cheese. One of the beauties of Hank's method for preserving the peppers is that they are already seasoned and ready to eat straight from the jar. But for this salad, I added some dried sweet marjoram (from my garden) and some fresh ground black pepper. I also seasoned the burrata with some red sea salt and a drizzle of my very best extra virgin olive oil. We enjoyed this with some toasted rustic bread - smear some cheese on the bread, top with some pepper strips and yum!

Update from 2018: I've standardized the amounts that I use per each jar to get consistent results. For each 16-ounce capacity jar I use about 10 to 11 ounces of cleaned roasted pepper segments tossed with 1/2 teaspoon of Diamond kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar. All that goes into the jar which then gets topped off with enough extra virgin olive oil to completely cover the peppers. I keep them in the fridge. The peppers will keep for up to a year.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Good Morning!

Since I don't have a lot to blog about the garden, how about a little morning delight, as in - the light was lovely this morning...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Harvest Monday - January 7, 2013

I am in a blogging rut, if it weren't for Harvest Mondays you might never hear from me, at least of late. So, here I am again, it's Harvest Monday! I'm tempted to make a New Year's goal to be a more active blogger, but of late I'm just too preoccupied with other things to tackle it now. Later, come spring, I promise...

Thank goodness I've got some colorful chard to harvest otherwise all the harvests would be a monotonous green.

Parade "scallion",  Apollo broccoli,
Flamingo chard and Golden chard 

I used the scallion and chard to make a version of Eggs in a Nest. I sliced the chard stems and sauteed them with pancetta, the sliced up scallion, chopped garlic, and sweet pepper flakes; then chopped the greens and wilted them into the mix; and finally made some gaps in the mixture to make four "nests", dropped a pat of butter in each nest and cracked an egg into each, covered the pan and cooked it all slowly until the egg whites were set but the yolks still runny. That was dinner last night. I love eggs for dinner.

More of the usual green...

Parsley, Dorato di Asti celery, Tronchuda Beira cabbage

The Tronchuda Beira went into a pot of soup and this time I sliced the stems and added them to the pot as well. The soup also featured the celery and parsley shown above, along with carrots, onion, garlic, dried sweet peppers, and home-canned tomatoes, and also some chopped ham, lentils, and the last of the frozen broth from the Thanksgiving turkey. Perfect on a cold winter night!

with a touch of purple...

Purple Peacock broccoli and Apollo broccoli

The broccoli is coming in slowly and I've just finally accumulated enough shoots yesterday to be able to serve the two of us tonight.

and more green...
Dorato di Asti celery

The stalks from this harvest of celery were filled with salted toasted almond butter and sprinkled with some medium hot Aji Angelo pepper flakes for an appetizer for two. Yum.

The weather graph is really looking spiky lately. We had a break from the rain and I was on the verge of watering all my potted plants and then on Saturday night it rained off and on all night long. Not unusual for this time of year.

Here's the harvests for the first week of 2013 (I'm having a hard time writing or typing that 3):

Apollo broccoli - 7.2 oz.
Purple Peacock broccoli - .3 oz.
Dorato di Asti celery - 12.3 oz.
Flamingo chard - 12.9 oz.
Golden chard - 8.9 oz.
Tronchuda Beira cabbage - 11.8 oz.
Parade "scallion" - 13.2 oz.

The total harvests for the first week of the year 4 lb., 2.6 oz.

Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne on her blog Daphne's Dandelions, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.