Preserve Your Peppers Now

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If you live in a spot like Michigan, organic red peppers are plentiful, fresh and reasonably priced just once a year. Since red peppers are frequently sprayed with pesticides and flown from countries I can only hope to someday visit, I like to preserve as much of this harvest as I can for use during the year. I an industrial food preserving technique–IQF (stands for individually quick frozen) to store as many organic red peppers as my freezer will hold.

Here’s how I do it. I rinse the peppers and set them on a towel to dry a few hours before I’m going to slice them. You want them to be as dry as possible when they hit the freezer. Core and seed your peppers, stripping away the pith as well. Cut one pepper into about four sections. Lay it flat and cut it into long strips. Then line all the strips up and dice them.

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Toss them onto a cookie sheet and spread them out in a single layer. Stick them in the freezer and freeze solid. When they come out, I use a pancake turner to detach them from the pan and scoop the diced peppers into a freezer bag. A one quart bag will hold 4-6 medium peppers. The peppers can be used in any dish in which they’ll be cooked–soups and sautes. I recommend using freezer bags over other containers because a little manipulation of the bag will allow you to break off the exact amount you want.

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Garlic Scape Pesto

You’ve seen those funny curli-cues at the Farmer’s Market. What the heck do you do with them? Make pesto, of course! For those of us who grow our own garlic, garlic scapes are a delicious promise of alliums to come. The crop is looking fantastic, which means we also have a bumper crop of garlic scapes, the flower bud of the garlic plant that we break off in order to send more energy to the bulb. Here’s the crop:

And here’s the graceful scape. Snap it off where the stem meets the plant.

Garlic is very easy to grow, by the way. As long as you choose local varieties that you can get from the farmer’s market as well as through nursery catalogs. The stuff in the store right now is likely from China and is sterile–ick!

So, making garlic scape pesto couldn’t be easier. Since you already have the garlic flavor, no need to add extra garlic. And the nuts are salted, so no extra salt is necessary. In this version, nutritional yeast (which can be purchased locally at Nourish Organic Market or Harvest Health) replaces the traditional parmesan. I’ve made this with and without basil; either way, it is very good. The amounts of the main ingredients can be modified to suit your taste–and your crop–I find the food processor is very forgiving.

Ingredients:
1 generous cup of garlic scapes
1 handful of basil (optional)
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 T olive oil

Directions:
Put the scapes and the pistachio nuts into the bowl of the food processor and grind away until the ingredients are finely ground.

Add the nutritional yeast and pulse a few more times until it, too, is incorporated.

While the processor is running, pour the olive oil in a thin stream into the bowl. Again, use as much or as little oil as you want. I process until I have a paste, which I can then freeze flat in a freezer bag to be added by tablespoonsful to soups or stews…

Or I will thin the pesto out with some reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes and make pasta, or use it on crackers. This stuff is addictive! Just don’t spend too much time in the kitchen. It is June in Michigan, after all!

Build Flavor Fast

 

Here is a quick way to have fresh garlic and ginger on hand when you need them.

For garlic, I use garlic I’ve grown, peeled and stored in dry white wine in the fridge. This takes just seconds to mince and toss into the mix. You can also buy garlic at the farmer’s market when it is fresh–and cheap–in July. Look for excess California grown garlic in your supermarket at the same time. Peel and freeze. I replenish my fridge jar with the stuff from my freezer. You can also buy peeled garlic cloves, but don’t get the stuff they’ve de-odorized and is intended for an appetizer.

Ginger also keeps well in a jar of rice wine.  Peel thumb-sized pieces. They stay fresh almost indefinitely and are ready for me whenever I need them.