Market Menu: October 14

watermelon radishes!

I honestly can’t tell most days whether it’s supposed to be fall or still summer. The leaves are just starting to change, the root vegetables are ABUNDANT, and occasionally there’s an actual chill in the air in central Illinois.

Since we’re wrapping back around, in a way, to some beginning-of-the-season offerings (greens, herbs, radishes), I thought I’d pull up selections from prior weeks. Do you have any favorites? We’d love to hear from you! Check out our Facebook page and message us!

Carrot salad w/ harissa & feta & mint

carrots

This dish is one of my favorites from Smitten Kitchen, and a great alternative to green salads when you have vegetarians to feed. It’s absolutely amazing when made with locally-grown carrots. If you haven’t had them raw, you’re in for a treat; they’re almost as surprising as a local tomato, I think. This recipe is great with or without the harissa — a spicy, garlic-y paste/spice mix. You can make your own, substitute it with another garlic-y chili paste, or just leave it out altogether.
Pantry Check / Shopping list: carrots, caraway seeds (optional), cumin seeds, paprika, harissa (optional), sugar, lemon, flat leaf parsley, fresh mint, feta cheese. 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetable Frittata with Greens and Potato

eggsHere’s a base recipe for the frittata (from Epicurious).  To that base, add what you have! I like greens, herbs, potatoes, cheese, maybe some bacon or ground pork. If you have leftover roasted root veggies, chop them up (bite-sized) and add them as well; I think it actually works best when you have pre-cooked potatoes (or carrots or sweet potatoes)!

Pantry Check / Shopping List: chives, spinach or kale, eggs, potatoes, milk, sausage (optional), goat cheese (chevre).

Soups:

(Be sure to check out this post on soups generally)

Thai Carrot Sweet Potato Soup (Cookie and Kate, from the Oh She Glows Cookbook) – with red curry and peanut, lime and cilantro!!

Irish Carrot Soup (Food and Wine) – onion and potato, and lots of butter and cream

Polenta with Greens

So easy, though it does call for a lot of stirring. There are a lot of recipes out there for polenta with a braised or steamed green (try beet greens!). This recipe from Food.com has swiss chard and a topping with dried fruits and nuts, as well as cheese (which is a must for polenta, in my opinion).

 

Pantry Check / Shopping List: Swiss chard, crushed red pepper flakes, golden raisins, yellow cornmeal, milk, grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts.

Green Chickpea & Chicken Curry w/ Beet Greens

Green Chickpea & Chicken Curry w/… The recipe is written for swiss chard, but did you know that beet greens are like identical cousins? They’ll do very nicely in this recipe.
Pantry Check: chicken thighs, shallots, green curry paste, chili paste, ginger, coconut milk, chickpeas, greens

Extras:

Magic Sauce – From 101 Cookbooks, this stuff is like liquid gold… use it on eggs, pasta, potatoes, just about anything.
Pantry Check: fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, paprika, garlic, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, lemon juice

 

 

Be sure to check out Jen’s post on beets — we can’t get enough of beets in my house, even though at least half of them end up pickled

Market Menu: October 7

It’s time for another Market Menu!

While fall brings some cooler-weather items back to the market, the list of offerings is HUUUUGE compared to spring! I don’t ever get tired of roasting root vegetables, and I could probably eat them every day, but I might not say that in a couple more weeks. So I definitely want to put some casseroles or soup into the freezer for busy weekdays later on. The roots don’t freeze so well, but most everything else does!

I’d love to get another batch of red pepper soup together, and maybe some chicken and vegetable. Neither are very labor-intensive, and they’re super tasty in the middle of winter. I’ll post recipes on our facebook page, such as they are.

So, what else is on the menu for the week?

Breakfasts:

Fall marks the return of some hot cereal options in my house:

whole wheat berries with fuit and honey and a splash of cream or yogurt. Once cooked (and they take quite a while to cook!), these keep well in the fridge for a second day, so I like to make a batch on the weekend. They’re even tasty cold, in a pinch.

For something hot and hearty, a big pan of frambled eggs with kale, magic sauce and some local sausage will do the trick. They actually aren’t bad pre-made and portioned into cups for enjoying later in the week. I like to chop the kale and sausage and mix them in with the eggs before putting into individual portion-sized containers. Add magic sauce when you reheat during the week (before putting in the microwave).

For a treat, how about some french toast (Pekara’s Paesano bread is AMAZING for this) with bacon and maple sirup? (if you still have some left!)

Lunches:

Leftovers are a life-saver for a busy October; I’m planning on making more stuffed peppers (before this amazing crop stops producing!), some casseroles and soups to enjoy for easy lunches. But I’ve also been playing with big mash-up bowls of goodies:

hummus, roasted sweet potato, lettuce, pickled beets, watermelon radishes, shaved carrots, quinoa and a little cheese, with some lemon-tahini dressing on top.

roasted carrots and parsnips, toasted bread, hard-boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, and feta or chevre.

Autumn Market Salad – Bon Appetit. With butternut squash, arugula, walnuts, oj and lemon.

Now playing at the market: Winter Squash!!! If you’re a fan of the acorn, butternut, hubbard, kabocha, delicata and other squashes, this is your time!

Dinners:

Potato-Leek Gratin – something to do with your leeks and potatoes besides soup!

Roasted Vegetable Pizza – the combo is up to you! I love little bits of things: pickled fennel, olives, dried tomatoes, sauteed onions (slow and low, to get them caramelized), chevre and pork sausage, with a little shredded mozzarella on top.

Butternut Squash, Apple and Onion Galette w/ Stilton – Food Network (but many versions of this recipe are out there, including this one without the apple, and this one with brie). A galette is a sort of pie with a freeform crust. Instead of baking in a pie plate, galettes are usually baked on a pan, with the edges folded over the ingredients (but not all the way to the center).  Don’t be intimidated by the pastry! A quick trip in the food processor will combine the ingredients, and a large ziploc bag works wonders at bringing the pastry together without making a mess. Galettes are fantastic to have in your repertoire, because you can use the pastry to wrap sweet or savory ingredients. And just like pies, you *could* freeze them for future baking.

Enjoy the last few weeks of the market! And don’t worry – – we’re not going away when the outdoor market shuts down for the season. We’ll be talking to our farmers about their winter cover crops and planning, writing about working through stored produce, and hunting for those elusive winter crops!!

Market Menu: September 30 – The EAT LOCAL Challenge!

Throughout September, the central Illinois chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is hosting the Eat Local challenge.  The challenge is to spend $20 a week on locally grown food during the month of September.

A week of meals based on $20 of local food? We’ve got this!

Five Days of Breakfast:

Carrot and apple smoothie – from Oprah.com
Market items: carrots, apples

Local oats (or wheat berries!) with your favorite toppings – from Epicurious. Oats are inexpensive and store easily, and it just might be chilly enough this weekend for a hot breakfast. The next time I make oatmeal, I’m going to try adding in some of my homemade applesauce — which is basically just chopped up apples left in a crock pot until they’re soft.
Market items: Oats! 

Crispy egg on toast – from Smitten Kitchen
Market items: eggs, bread

Scrambled tofu with greens – from Yup it’s Vegan. This is a great way to incorporate vegetables in your breakfast, if that’s a thing you want to do. You can also add in leftover roasted vegetables – sweet potatoes are delicious in a breakfast scramble, too.
Market items: greens!

Freezer-friendly breakfast burritos – from The Kitchn
Market items: eggs, potatoes, peppers, bacon or sausage

 

Five days of Lunches

Carrot Salad – This is a fantastic grated carrot salad with parsley and lemon, from Once Upon a Chef. While not a meal on its own, it would go well with some cheese and fruit and/or another assortment of things.  I’d put money on this going well with feta cheese, in particular. 
Market items: 
carrots, parsley, cheese, apples

The Peppers and Sausages below make great leftovers, if you chop up the sausages before packing into individual serving containers. Add some rice or bread for a hearty lunch.

My favorite and most reliable lunch these days is chicken and sweet potatoes and applesauce. We’re in the heart of sweet potato season now, so I suggest that you stock up. I like to peel and cut my sweet potatoes into large chunks and boil them (and then mash), or else cut in small-medium (1/2″) cubes and roast. I’ll bake the chicken with a glug of italian dressing and foil over the baking dish, and then retain some of the liquid that remains after cooking (otherwise the chicken can get dry). If you’re going to chop the chicken up after cooking, be sure to let it rest first — otherwise, you’ll definitely have dry chicken.

 

Five days of Dinners

Spicy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – filled with rice, spicy pork, and fresh napa cabbage. Made by the Serious Eats folks, in their “Cook the Book” series, from Faith Durand’s Not Your Mother’s Casseroles. As the Serious Eats staff note, the filling can easily be customized for your family’s tastes:  less or more spicy, different vegetables, substituting ground beef for pork, etc.
Market items: Ground pork

Peppers and Sausages – done in the slow cooker, to serve in a bun or over rice.

The recipe is dead simple, and takes only 10 minutes in the morning.  Slice the peppers and onion (I’d probably do this the night before, and wrap gently – who wants to go to work with onion hands? not I!). Then you add whole-grain mustard and beer, and put the whole sausages on top, and let it cook for the day.

Not only has the weather turned perfectly just in time for hot dinners, but this has been an AMAZING season for peppers! Just check out these beauties at the market!!
Market items: Peppers, onions, sausages

 

 

Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs and Cabbage – from Food52. This calls for a head of green cabbage, and chicken thighs or drumsticks, and a simple quick marinade of sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sriracha and salt and pepper. The cabbage goes in later – this is the key with sheet pan dinners, is getting the timing right. If you haven’t roasted cabbage or brussels sprouts before, you’re in for a treat. If it were me, I’d make some mashed potatoes to go along with this hearty dinner.
Market items: cabbage, chicken, potatoes

Roasted Root Vegetables and Hummus – if you’ve ever felt like making a dinner of appetizers, then this is your recipe. A combination of roasted vegetable chips and three different hummus recipes, to which I’d add some cooked quinoa and roasted broccoli, and maybe a hard-boiled egg. Some crusty bread, maybe.
Market items: beets, turnips, radishes, broccoli, eggs, bread

Vegetable Mulligatawny Soup – I adore this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. I’m not a vegetarian, but I make this at least once every fall, with an array of local vegetables. It calls for a long list of vegetables, but a small quantity of each: potatoes, carrots, turnips, basil, garlic, onion, plus fennel, cumin, coriander and peppercorns that you dry-roast in a pan and then grind fresh. It calls for vegetable stock, but chicken would be just fine if you eat chicken.
Market items: potatoes, carrots, turnips, basil, garlic, onion

The Eat Local Challenge: Eating Well at the Market, On a Budget

Throughout September, the central Illinois chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is hosting the Eat Local challenge.  The challenge is to spend $20 a week on locally grown food during the month of September. When Buy Fresh Buy Local asked us to collaborate on the Eat Local Challenge, Steph and I jumped at the chance to share some resources and ideas for eating well at the market without breaking the bank.

Deals at the Market: Buying in Bulk

September is an amazing time to get deals at the market. Vegetables like summer squashes, peppers, and tomatoes are nearing the end of their season but are still producing at a prolific rate. Traffic at the market also sometimes slows down, so farmers find themselves with a lot of produce that they are willing to sell in bulk, which is a boon to shoppers.

Keep your eyes peeled for signs that offer “two for one” bunches and “bulk” anything! The key is knowing which veggies are “bulk-ready” and using those items in your meal planning.

Prices on vegetables at the market can also change over time. According to Katie Bishop of PrairiErth Farm, when a crop first comes into season, there isn’t much of it but there is a lot of demand – think of those shoppers lined up for first-of-the summer tomatoes. Farmers may leverage this demand (that is, charge a little more). After a few weeks, they will drop the price because the supply is so much greater and they need to sell it. Tomatoes that were $4 per pound in July are now $3.25 in September – and they are probably available for far less if you’re buying in bulk. (Click here and here for ideas on preserving bulk tomatoes for later use.)

Potatoes also tend to cost less as the season goes on. “New” potatoes must be hand-dug and washed, says Katie Bishop. It takes a lot of hands-on labor to get those beautiful spuds out of the ground. But potatoes in October are mechanically harvested and machined washed. There is less work for the farm, so they can drop the price. (And who doesn’t love potatoes?!)

Ask For Seconds

Most farmers put only their most beautiful products out at the market – but they’ve probably got a few bins in the truck that hold less-than-perfect but still perfectly edible items. Farmers would far prefer to sell those items than to compost them (especially if they don’t have to haul it back to the farm). Ask your favorite farmer if they can offer any deep discounts on these veggies. With a few extra minutes of prep (to cut off bad spots, for instance), you’ve saved a lot of money but still ended up with great food.

One great item to ask about is carrots. “Juice carrots” might not look beautiful but can be pureed, juiced, peeled, shredded, etc. – and the taste is just as good as the cosmetically perfect carrots. Peppers are another item that can be incredibly cheap in bulk and as seconds (try cutting them up and freezing them in small amounts to use later in soups, a stir fry, or chili).  Peppers can also be roasted and frozen for a range of uses later.

Resources for Eating Locally On a Budget

Our blog focuses on easy meal preparation that features great, fresh, local food. For that reason, we love Lee Ann Brown’s Good and Cheap – a cookbook designed for families utilizing SNAP benefits (formerly known as good stamps). Shoppers can use the Illinois Link card to purchase items at The Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market every Saturday.

Good and Cheap is available at no cost here. Brown’s website is also fantastic, featuring an extensive recipe index and other great tips. Her recipes are for everyone who likes tasty food with easy prep!

Buy Pantry Staples in Bulk, Too! Other good things to buy (and cook/prep/freeze) in bulk include:

Both Green Top Grocery and Common Ground Natural Grocery in Bloomington have extensive bulk selections. (Green Top is a cooperative grocery, and is owned by members – and anyone can shop there, no membership needed.) We’ve got some great ideas on prepping and freezing in earlier blog posts, too. (More tips on buying in bulk here.)

Recipes for the Eat Local Challenge

You might be surprised how far you can make $20 go at the market. We are also happy to feature a number of recipes from Good and Cheap below.

Five Days of Breakfast:

Lunches and Dinners:

Did you accept the Eat Local Challenge? We would love to hear from you.

Have a great week, and see you at the market!

 

 

 

Market Menu: September 16

by flickr user simpleprovisions

While there’s plenty of grain, flowers, lavender, meat and other produce at the market, the theme of this week’s Market Menu focuses on all those hearty late-summer vegetables that we love to ROAST.

Pretty much everything you could ever want in your midwest farmer’s market is available right now, and it’s getting to be the last chance for some of the summer vegetables, so seize the opportunity! Gazpacho season is passing quickly. But personally, I’m excited to see all the winter squash and cooler-weather root vegetables, because they all take to roasting so well — and it’s such an easy way to enjoy fall flavors.

So instead of our usual breakfast / lunch / dinner arrangement, I’m going to separate this into some vegetable-specific groups that include roasting:

Carrots:

Winter Squash:

Turnips:

Sweet Potatoes:

Brussels Sprouts:

New Potatoes:

Beets:

What I really love to do with roasted veggies is use them throughout the week as the primary ingredient in Buddha Bowls. Along with homemade hummus or beans, some greens if they’re handy (even finely-chopped kale will work), and some brown rice or farro (or the grain of your choice), they make a really hearty lunch or dinner. If you want more protein, roast up some chicken or bake some tofu and add it to the bowls. A nice garlicky lemon-tahini dressing brings it all together nicely.

Roasted vegetables are also good for quick panini or doctored-up grilled cheese sandwiches. You can toast some nice hearty ciabatta or other bread (the Paesano loaf from Pekara would be amazing for this) and spread hummus and some warmed vegetables, or add the veg to a grilled cheese before putting the second piece of bread on. It’s the one place where I prefer provolone cheese to all else, but I’m sure others like gruyere would be amazing.

 

Saving Seeds, or What? How? What? Three Excellent Questions

Let’s say you just had the most delicious little cherry tomato you’ve ever eaten, and you want to preserve that exact flavor for ever and ever and ever, but you’re not sure you’ll ever find that same variety again. Well… I’m here to tell you that you CAN.

If you have a garden (or you are interested in starting one), why not save the seeds from that little tomato, and plant it in the spring? And yes, you can do that!

Tomatoes are annuals, and that means that the plant reproduces (via seeds) and dies off in the same season. The seeds of the tomato are particularly easy to save, because they’re mature when the tomatoes are ripe (clever, eh?) Smash that tomato, and grab those seeds!!

Well, not quite that fast. There’s a sort of jelly around the seed, and I can tell you from experience, that if you don’t get it off those seeds, there’s a good chance that the seeds won’t germinate when you plant them in the spring. The generally-recommended method is a little gross, but easy: smoosh the pulp into a cup, and leave it out on the counter to ferment the goo, so that it separates from the seeds. See, I told you it was a little gross. But effective.

Once the seeds sink to the bottom of the cup, just pour off the goo and rinse (well) and dry (really well) the seeds. I generally lay out a sheet of paper towel and spread the seeds on it. If they end up sticking to the paper towel, I don’t bother trying to pry them off; just tear up the paper towel and store the seed as it is, stuck on the paper. Wax paper envelopes are good for keeping over winter; plain paper envelopes are fine, too. Plastic can lead to condensation, which isn’t ideal. Seed Savers’ Exchange has a great video on the process.

An even easier seed that you can save? Cilantro. I’ve been saving and replanting the same cilantro for many years (except for that year when someone pulled all the cilantro plants from the garden just as they were going to seed!)

If you’ve ever grown cilantro, you’ve probably noticed that at some point in its development, just as you’re starting to get used to having a cilantro plant in your garden, it gets all feathery and makes white flowers. You can curse the heat, or the plant’s short life, or you can just plant some more. Eventually, flowers turn to little green balls (shown at left), which dry into mature seeds!

Once they’re light brown and dry, snip off the whole flower head, and put them somewhere dry for about a week. Once you’re sure they’re really dry, you can gently separate seeds from stems, and store the seeds in a paper or wax paper envelope.

Saving seeds from a dill plant is exactly the same. Let the flowers die off and dry; you’ll see the seeds appear at the end of the flower head — one of the most gorgeous flowers you can grow like a weed around here, imho. Snip off the whole head, put them someplace dry for several days, then gently separate from stems.

These three plants tend to have seeds that are so hearty, my garden often saves them for me. Every year, we get tomato “volunteers” that I can’t bear to kill off, so I find a place to plant them and hope they’re a variety we really like. This year, all the volunteers have been either the super sweet orange cherry tomatoes, or the large and sweet red cherry, but regardless, it’s a win!

So right now, as we’re entering the final part of tomato season, think about saving some of those precious seeds! We’ll have a post in midwinter about starting them indoors, and how to transplant (and WHEN) into your garden or an outdoor container.

Market Menu: September 8

Do you remember September?

Wait, it’s only early September…still PLENTY of veggies pouring into the market every week. (By the way, this song plays in my head every year, basically all September long. Now it’s your ear-worm. I am sorry. It’s groovy, though! Dance with your veggies…) Look, it’s been a long week (you, too?) and I offered to help Steph with the Market Menu this week and I might be a little goofy-punchy today.

But that’s because the confluence of school getting into full swing, days getting shorter, and the air getting cooler means I’m totally energized by the beautiful veggies that are available this time of year. It’s pretty amazing, because you have the tail-end of (still truly fresh and delicious) summer veggies like peppers and tomatoes, the return of more delicate greens and lettuces, and NEW potatoes, squashes, and various root vegetables. To me, that spells menu inspiration.

Steph and I were chatting about what we love to make and eat this time of year – and we both landed on soups and salads. It’s really a perfect match for that summer-into-fall mood. Maybe we’re not ready to let go of summer’s bounty, but (admit it) we’re kind of excited to see fall colors and maybe even shift our energy level to a different space. The recipes below play off the idea of combining those seasonal vegetables in straightforward, fresh ways. Serve with bread and you’ve got a great lunch or light dinner.

Summer-into-fall minestrone and roasted beet salad with goat cheese

Yukon potato soup (optional add-in: bacon) and vegetarian Italian chopped salad (any sturdy lettuce will work here; salami or other cured meat optional)

Moroccan red lentil harira soup and cucumber pepper salad

Tortilla soup and Mexican cabbage salad

Roasted Thai-inspired carrot soup and cucumber melon salad with mint

What’s that, you say? Pressed for time? Right there with you. How about some hands-off, slow-cooker recipes for weeknights?

Red and Green Chili (great for those market sweet and spicy peppers) and roasted carrot salad

Sweet Potato Soup and arugula and watermelon salad

Vegetarian Black Bean Tacos with Fresh Cabbage Slaw

Got just a bit more time on your hands? Here are some things I love to make when the temperatures start to dip just a bit:

Sauteed Delicata Squash with Parmesean

Roasted vegetable lasagna (you can do it without noodles too)

Spicy green bean stir fry (you could use any protein here)

Arugula and tomato salad

We hope your fall is getting underway beautifully – and see you at the market!

 

 

 

 

Market Menu: September 2

I don’t have any idea how we got to September already. I mean, SEPTEMBER?! Where did July and August go? Every year, the summer seems to fly by, and I find myself wondering if it was all just a dream. But then those tomatoes keep coming, and I know it wasn’t a dream. (though with our weather forecast tonight, those tomatoes might need some cover soon!)

What should you expect to see this weekend at the Bloomington market?

The return of some salad greens! Arugula, lettuce, and some other cooler-weather (spring/fall) greens, in addition to kale. Also, the return of some cooler-weather vegetables like radishes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, and swiss chard. Plus, all the midsummer veg like tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, eggplant, onions, scallions and herbs.

So, what could we make from a market haul?

Breakfasts:

Is there anything at the market this week that might change your breakfast selections? I’m not above having toast with butter or cream cheese and tomato for breakfast… or for second breakfast, or elevenses. Enjoy those beauties while you can!

Slightly cooler weather, even a temporary string of it, definitely makes me think of hot cereal in the morning. Don’t forget about those berry preserves and syrups you made while the berries were coming so quickly! They make a tasty addition to oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice, or any other hot cereal.

If you’re in the mood for something hearty, these breakfast frittata squares from the Food Network might have to be a weekend freezer prep, they look so simple and good. And I can’t imagine why the squares couldn’t be shrink-wrapped and frozen. You’d have to experiment with thawing and heating temperatures and time, but my first instinct would be to thaw overnight and heat in the microwave for about 40 seconds. They look eminently portable though, and that’s a huge plus.

Mark Bittman first made a name for himself as a food critic in the New York Times and has recently become an evangelist of a “mostly plant-based” diet. Check out his ideas for breakfast bread pudding and other unique breakfast ideas (recipes in the article). You can easily sub the fruit in the recipes for whatever is in season.

If your weekend includes hosting guests for brunch or a snack, check out these easy lime buttermilk scones. (I vote for adding a handful of ripe, seasonal berries, too.) Local buttermilk is available from Kilgus Farms at Common Ground Grocery and Green Top Grocery.

Lunches:

Are you a fan of Medici in Normal? It’s easy to make their popular Moroccan Ragout at home, and it takes to variations very easily. A close match is the harira recipe on Epicurious. Although this recipe uses chicken, I usually leave it out (doing so makes it a very close cousin to the Medici soup).  Add zucchini or some diced potatoes for additional heft and flavor.

You know what’s great about your having already bought local buttermilk for scones? (See: breakfast.) We are headed into prime lettuce season once again, and you might be craving a great bibb salad with homemade creamy dressing. In this quick recipe, you can use those precious summer tomatoes (and, really, any kind of sturdier lettuce lead will work great). If salad is your midday meal, you could also add chick peas (or any bean) or chicken for protein.

We’re still inundated with summer vegetables, and this is the time to enjoy them (they’ll be gone pretty soon!). Peppers are prolific right now. You can toss chicken or beans into any of these raw sweet bell pepper salads:

Mediterranean Pepper Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Feta (tips on roasted red peppers here).

Broccoli and Pepper Salad

Dinners:

Cooler weather inspires us to bake and to cook satisfying, one-pot meals – I’m thinking chili and cornbread. Chili is so flexible (we know, we know! Please don’t report us to the Texans…) and you can pile in the veggies. Get inspired by summer vegetable black bean chili or beef and summer squash chili. Here is a summer vegetable and pork chili that you can do in your slow cooker while you’re at the Labor Day BBQ.

And you can’t have chili without buttermilk jalapeño cornbread…yet another justification for that buttermilk.

Use those radishes that are coming back as a topping for your chili or slice them in a cucumber radish salad on the side.

And then there is THIS chili-lime melon salad. I will leave it at that.

 

Saving Summer: Roasted Red Peppers

peppers 4

School has started, and the weather lately has been decidedly fall-like. But don’t let the cool breezes fool you: this is prime time for peppers and other height-of-summer vegetables. You’ll find piles of sweet bell peppers at the market right now.

No one ever minds eating them raw (plain, or with hummus or yogurt dip, etc.) but if you’ve got an hour or so you can char them in the oven, slip off the peels, and stack them in freezer-safe containers to brighten the grey winter days.

In the last few years, I’ve scaled back some of the cooking and preserving that I do every summer. One thing that I never miss, though, is restocking my freezer with roasted sweet peppers. Like my parents did when I was growing up, I make pots of sauce for pasta all year round. We always freeze a container or two from each batch for later. My mom, my dad, and I have each developed our own individual stamps on the sauce we make. My dad favors a heavier dose of dried oregano. My mom often makes meatballs, but neither of them put meat in the sauce. I always use crushed fennel seed and a chunk of the roasted red peppers from the freezer.

You can roast peppers very easily in the oven or even on the grill. (I am partial to the oven method myself.) I lay the peppers out on a cookie sheet – plain, no oil, just clean peppers – and turn the broiler on. Periodically (say, every 5 minutes) I peek to see if they are getting charred, and using a set of oven-safe tongs I turn the peppers over so that all sides get roasted and the skins start to bubble up.

Once all of the peppers are roasted, use tongs to put them into a bowl and cover it with a large plate to steam for a few minutes. Remove the plate. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, you can slip the skins off and pull the stem out (if needed). I usually do that and pile them on the cutting board, where I can portion them into containers for the freezer.

There is plenty of advice out there for roasting peppers, so check out your options.

What can you do with your roasted peppers? Here are some ideas:

Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Tomato and Pepper Soup

(Lots of soup ideas out there)

Or…add to your favorite pasta sauce!

Enjoy.

 

peppers 3