Monthly ArchiveMay 2007

Seasonal Cooking 14 May 2007 10:50 pm

Baby Bell Peppers

The move is nearly here. Less than a week from now Dave’s Kitchen will relocate two block down and across the street to a new apartment, blown by the changeable winds of rental life. I’m very sad to leave the kitchen in my current place – the new one is a bit smaller, but promises to be quite functional. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to tell as I learn my way around it. Baby bell peppersAnd of course as the move gets nearer I’ve had no time for the kitchen, except to put the kitchen into boxes. I’ve been subsisting on takeout, spending my time packing stuff, sorting stuff, selling stuff off at a stoop sale. I’ve missed out on a beautiful month of spring weather and – worse – a month of my favorite spring food.

One weekend though I did manage to pick up these oddities. They looked like jalapenos, but came in the red, yellow and orange of fancy bell peppers, which is, in fact, what they were. Baby bell peppers. I’m sure I’d never seen them before. Two of the produce markets on Court Street – Pacific Green and Jim & Andy’s – had them on the same day, and I bought them wondering if they’d grill up next to the farm-raised steaks I’d bought at the Borough Hall farmer’s market. Oh, and indeed they did. They needed no more prep than a wash and a thin coat of olive oil, then onto the grill 10 minutes or so before the steaks went on. I turned them frequently and watched closely so they wouldn’t burn, and soon the smell of charcoal and searing beef was perfumed with the tang of roasting pepper. They charred nicely, proved tough enough to stand up to the grill, and went directly onto the plate – no need to de-vein or de-seed or peel off the skin. Delicious and a perfect compliment to the steak.

The next week I was invited to a BBQ (the last ever John Fritz rooftop party, as it happens), and thought I’d bring a bag of these delicious treats to throw onto the grill.  But at Jim & Andy’s I found only the last wrinkled dregs of the previous week’s crop. Same luck at Pacific Green, where the shopkeeper brought out the leftovers from the store-room (they were too withered and ugly for display) and offered to sell me as much as I wanted for a dollar a pound. I came away with a pillow sized bag of them, then sorted out the worst of them when I got home. They tasted just fine coming off of John’s grill, and I think all the partygoers liked them but then again I may have eaten them all myself.

But they left me with a mystery. What were these strange little peppers? The sign in the market called them “baby bell peppers,” but they couldn’t’ve been just young bell peppers, which are green. No doubt they’re a variety bred to ripen small, and with the benefit that they don’t need the extensive prep work of a full-sized roasted pepper. I’ll ask around in the markets and maybe someone will have them again, but if not I’ll look for them next year.

Guests 06 May 2007 08:27 pm

Incredible Pot Roast in the Crock Pot

My first guest post, from my friend & hostess extrordinaire LJ Lindhurst. Thanks LJ!

I got this recipe from my friend Murt in L.A.—ever since she told me about it, I’ve been dying to make it. The original link for the recipe is here.the finished dish

This turned out VERY good, and made a LOT of food. I was originally afraid it wasn’t going to feed the seven hungry adults I invited for dinner, but this proved to not be a problem in the least, as I’ve got a huge Tupperware full of leftovers in the fridge right now. I served it with a big basket of rolls and a nice green salad with goat cheese, beets, walnuts, and apples. For dessert we had sour cream pound cake (I used this recipe, which turned out great).

Despite the daunting number of ingredients in the pot roast recipe, it was a lot of fun to make, and I made every effort to follow the recipe to a tee. The only variation I made was the cut of beef—the recipe calls for “chuck roast or top round” and all I could find at the store was “bottom round”. (Dave suggested I look up the difference—from what I can figure out, it’s simply considered a less tender cut of beef. This did not seem to be a problem with this recipe, however—the meat turned out perfectly tender and delicious).

This recipe starts by layering simple stew vegetables: potatoes, red onion and carrots. You toss in springs layering the vegetablesof rosemary and thyme, and then cover it with a cup of beef broth, a big can of crushed tomatoes, some honey and garlic.

Preparing the beef was the fun part. You make a “spice mixture” to rub into the beef. Be warned, though—this recipe calls for making a LOT more spice mixture than you could possibly use. I made mine in a little jar in anticipation of this; now I have a really great spice mixture that I can use next time I make meat. Also be warned—this spice mixture turned out a little bit on the pepper-y side. I think the red pepper and the Cajun spices are ok, but the large amount of black pepper it calls forthe spice rub can probably be cut down to half. One way or the other, I felt like it needed a bit of adjusting, but this is a nitpick; no one except me complained about the spiciness, and it wasn’t so spicy that it was unpalatable.

After you rub down the roast with the spice mixture, you set it in the crock pot on top of the vegetables. You then pour 1.5 cups of wine over it. This doesn’t SOUND like a lot, but it is indeed a great deal of wine. The entire mixture turned red, but that could be because I had a VERY hearty, quite expensive bottle of red wine here (and had forgotten to stop at the liquor store to get an actual burgundy wine). I was hesitant to use such a good bottle of wine, but well, then it was open, and… well… it WAS 11:30am, which is cocktail hour SOMEWHERE in the world, right?

And yes, I was making this at 11:30am because it is worth noting that this dish cooks for a full eight hours on high in your Crock Pot. After the eight hours have passed (and you’ve polished off the rest of your bottle of wine), the meat is super tender and practically falling apart. You remove it from the Crock Pot whole (if you can) and check the vegetables/sauce for thickness. I found that mine needed a LOT of Argo to thicken it up—but then again, I could have been going overboard here because once you shred the meat, it gets pretty thick on its own.

The recipe says to serve this in a bowl—and we did, but at the last minute decided to whip up some mashed potatoes, which went with it fantastically. Next time I make this recipe, I think I’m going to omit the potatoes from the dish itself and simply serve it over a big spoonful of mashed potatoes. It was super good, and very filling!