Monthly Archives: October 2013

Butternut Squash Stew with Couscous

A butternut squash grown in the garden is as different from one you get in the store as a homegrown heirloom tomato is from one bought at the supermarket. This is a fact that I was quite surprised to discover.  So, I celebrate my butternut squash by making dishes where the squash is the star.

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This is the case in this stew, it is built around the butternut squash.  It has other textures and flavors, but they all compliment and highlight the squash. Chickpeas, spinach, tomatoes, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, red pepper, and almonds…all come together with the butternut squash for a stew to be served atop couscous.

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I used chickpeas I had cooked from dried chickpeas and then frozen.  I liked the texture of these chickpeas, they had a little more bite to them than canned chickpeas.  But either will work for this recipe; either use 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (from 1 cup dried) or 1 can, drained and rinsed.

This is great as leftovers, so make as much as you want!

Butternut Squash Stew with Couscous

adapted from Food Network Kitchens

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed (from the garden)

1 14.5 oz can whole plum tomatoes, crushed

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 small butternut squash (about 2 lbs), peeled and cut into 1” pieces (from the garden)

2 cups cooked chickpeas

2 1/2 cups chicken broth, low-sodium

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup golden raisins

5 oz baby spinach

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

Feta cheese, optional as a topping

Couscous

1 1/2 cups chicken broth, low sodium

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup couscous

Directions

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.

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Add the garlic, tomatoes and spices and cook about 3 minutes, until the tomatoes are a bit cooked down.

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Add the squash, chickpeas, broth, and raisins and bring to a simmer.  Cook, partially covered, until the squash is fork tender, about 25 minutes.

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Near the end of the cooking time, make the couscous.  Bring the broth, salt and pepper to a boil in a small saucepan.  Stir in the couscous, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.

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Meanwhile, add the spinach to the butternut squash and cook until wilted, about 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and season to taste.

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Mound the couscous in 4 soup bowls.  Spoon some stew over each.  Top with almonds and feta, if desired.  Enjoy!.

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Serves 4.  If you use a deep bowl, the couscous may look hidden…

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Categories: Butternut Squash, Kosher, Main Dish, Recipe, Spinach, Vegetarian | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Cammy’s Halloween Spice Cookies

My self-proclaimed “Top Chef” is back; Cammy has returned to the kitchen!  His first project…Halloween cookies he saw in a book.  He then made his father buy the book for him, so his personal cookbook collection is now up to 3.  He also likes to get story books that include a recipe related to the story.  I love it!

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The cookies are spice cookies that get rolled, cut out, and decorated….

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He has good taste, the cookies were delicious by themselves before we decorated them. Just the right amount of allspice and nutmeg.  And lots of butter.

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The biggest challenge was finding black food coloring for the cats and bats.  It was also hard for me to give up total control of the decorating.  But he had a great time deciding where to put the cats whiskers…

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Halloween Spice Cookies

using the recipe for black cat cookies in “Halloween Treats” by Donata Maggipinto

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg (from Farmer Kim)

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

for the icing:

2 egg whites

4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

food coloring (black, orange)

black licorice strings

white candy balls (for the eyes)

colored sugars (white, orange)

Black sprinkles

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, allspice and nutmeg: reserve.

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In a large bowl, use an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat well.

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Reduce speed to low, add the flour mixture, and beat until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half.

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Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

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Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/8″ thick.

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Using Halloween cookie cutters, cut out the cookies.

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Reroll the scraps.  As you cut the cookies, transfer them to the prepared baking sheets.

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Bake until lightly browned on the edges, 8 – 10 minutes.  Remove to cooling racks and let cool to room temperature before icing.

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To make the icing, place the egg whites in a bowl.  Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until soft peaks form.

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Add the confectioners sugar and lemon juice and continue to beat until thick and shiny.  The icing should spread easily.  If the icing is too thin, add more sugar, if it is too thick, add a bit of water.

For the cookies we made, we started with the ghosts, using white icing, and sprinkling with white decorating sugar.  Cut small pieces of licorice for the eyes.

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Then came the pumpkins:  add orange food coloring to the icing.  Decorate with icing, orange sugar and triangular shapes of licorice for the eyes and nose.

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Black food coloring is added to the icing for the bats and cats.  For the cats, licorice is used for the whiskers and white ball candies for the eyes.

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For the bats, the icing is coated with black sprinkles. Gently press the sprinkles into the icing.20131025-185247.jpg

Enjoy!!!  Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 dozen 4 – 5″ cookies

Categories: Cammy's Cooking Adventures, Dessert, Kosher, Recipe, Vegetarian | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Amsterdam Half Marathon

The day finally came: 7 months in planning, 6 months and another half marathon in training, the decision to do the half instead of the full, a plane trip, a visit to the 1928 Olympic stadium, a day to adjust to the time, and here it was…the Amsterdam Half Marathon!

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The weather forecast was for perfect running weather…for the marathoners who left at 9:30am.  See those blue skies as they were coming into the stadium to finish?

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Our start time – 1:30pm.  The weather forecast…rain starting midway into the run with thunderstorms near the end.  But it was also going to be warm, in the mid 60’sF (15-17C). All my plans for clothing for after the race changed.  Thank goodness my nephew was there as support and could carry a bag of dry clothes stuffed into a trash bag to keep them warm.  But no post-race Birkenstocks and compression socks, water sandals would have to do.

We got into the starting corral and the skies were grey.  But I was very happy, Amsterdam is a beautiful city and the Dutch are so well organized, this was going to be great.

Surprisingly, we got off a few minutes late (perhaps the Dutch were not so efficient after all?).  I felt great, but was running fast, too fast, a 28 minute 5K.  I needed to slow it down.  By 10K I was on a better pace, still faster than I had planned, though.

Then the water/energy drink/banana/sponge stations started, they were great!  I never felt so comfortably fueled up.  I also had my almond-date chews that I made and brought with me.  Those are still my best mid run munchies.

We ran a good bit in the new sections of town before turning to stay in the old city.  We ran past homes where people had set up their own water stations for us.  This was when I remembered an article I read in Runners World about how it makes a water volunteer’s day if you ask them to throw the cup of water at you.  So, I did this just to see what would happen.  She grinned ear to ear and jumped up and down in excitement.  I guess I made her day!  Try  it next time.

I was still having fun.  I was enjoying all the little kids who eagerly handed out water or wanted hand slaps.  But then came the 15km section and the mood swings started.  I hated running, I didn’t know why I was doing this, the good feeling at the end would not be worth how not-fun this was.  The rain hadn’t come yet, I was actually hot.  I slowed way down.  I was really getting bummed.

Two things kept me going forward, well three, no, four:  1 – it really was beautiful; 2 – they had our names on our bibs, so people started cheering me on by name – absolute strangers would say “Go, Andrea, you can do it!” – that really was wonderful, and energizing; 3 -Mahmood was there waiting for me, I couldn’t let him down; and 4 – I really wanted to finish in the Olympic stadium.

I passed the 18K marker and there were only 3K left to go.  3K, that’s less than 2 miles; I could do that any day.  Suddenly my speed picked back up and I was enjoying myself again.  We ran through a beautiful park…Note the sponge helping to keep me cool…

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Then it was just a short 1K to the stadium and the sprint to the finish. It may sound corny, but it really was amazingly cool to run in under those rings and finish the run with a loop on an Olympic track.

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My goal was 2:12.  My time was 2:12:53…I did it!

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They met us with medals and a plastic blanket…and an unbelievable traffic jam of runners trying to exit the stadium (I guess Dutch efficiency only apples to trains and trams). It took 2 hours to run 21K, but another 1/2 hour to get outside the stadium to where the energy drinks, water and bananas were waiting.  No chocolate milk (that made me a little sad, but you can’t have everything)

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The rain never came, no thunderstorms.  But that night, I was highly doubtful I would do another half marathon.  A 15K, maybe, since I committed to a friend that I would run it with her, but why on earth would I ever run another 21.1K (13.1miles)?!  I need to take a break from running.

The next day, my legs did not want to straighten out, my hamstrings were so tight.  But I did a lot of waking and eventually they loosened up.  By that night I was planning a run for the next morning.

Hold on, I was what?!  Yes, I was planning to go for a run through town to explore the Jewish Quarter and loosen up my legs.  And I was looking forward to it – that is the crazy part.  It would be a slow run, but it would be a normal half hour run. I made a few unplanned turns down interesting streets, got my self good and lost, asked directions, and kept on running.  I must have really lost my mind, because not only did I do it, I really enjoyed it.  But then again, how could you not enjoy running when this is what you see?

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I will be taking a break from running training for a couple of months.  For now, I need to focus on my core and upper body.  It is time to get in shape for cross-country skiing… just in case we get some snow.

Then, who knows, there are some interesting looking races next year…

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Categories: General | Tags: | Leave a comment

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Chili

If you are reading this right after I post it, I will have just run my half-marathon in Amsterdam.  So, while I am otherwise occupied, I thought I would share a dish I made shortly before I left.  This chili used a whole variety of produce from my garden – butternut squash, garlic, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, peppers I can’t remember the names of, and oregano.

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It is a very satisfying, tasty, and healthy chili.  That is, until I decided to make some home-made tortilla chips to go with it (at least I used safflower oil).

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You can top it with any of your favorite chili toppings; we used plain yogurt and our own pickled jalapenos.

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili

Adapted from Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash, Bon Apetit, Feb 2011

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

8 garlic cloves, chopped (from the garden)

2 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp ground coriander

2 14.5-oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes

1 lb dried black beans, rinsed

1 to 2 cups peppers, seeded and chopped (use a variety, poblano, jalapeno, anaheim, etc) (from the garden)

2 tsp dried oregano (from the garden)

2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2” cubes (from the garden)

1/2 cup quick-cooking bulgur

Toppings

Plain yogurt

Grated cheese (cheddar, jalapeno jack)

Diced red onion

Pickled jalapeno peppers

Directions

Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook until soft and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes.

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Add garlic; stir 1 minute.  Add chili powder and coriander; stir 1 minute.  Stir in un-drained tomatoes, beans, peppers and oregano.

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Add 10 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.  Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

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Stir in squash and bulgur.  Simmer over medium-low heat until squash and bulgur are tender, about 30 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Serve in bowls with toppings.  Enjoy!

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Serves 10.

Categories: Butternut Squash, Kosher, Main Dish, Recipe, Vegetarian | Tags: | 3 Comments

Kuku-ye Sabzi (Persian Herb Frittata)

A Kuku is the Persian version of a frittata or omelet.  The kuku I make most often is tuna, like the Lemon Pepper Tuna Kuku.  But I have been in the mood to experiment with them more., such as with the Eggplant Kuku from last week.  SInce I have a garden full of parsley and chives, I decided to try a kuku-ye sabzi (sabzi means green).  I added scallions, and my greens were complete (although I think this would also be good with some chopped fresh spinach and a little less parsley).

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It is a quick dish to make, and very satisfying to eat.  Just add a good bread and tomato salad, and the meal is complete.

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Kuku-ye Sabzi

slightly adapted from persianrecipes.net

about 2 lbs mixed green vegetables (parsley, chives, scallions, spinach) (from the garden)

4 large eggs (from Farmer Kim)

1 Tbsp chopped and crushed walnuts

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp whole wheat flour

3 Tbsp canola oil, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Wash the vegetables and pat dry.  Chop and fry in 2 Tbsp oil for 5 minutes.

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Let cool completely.

Beat the eggs well.  Add baking soda, salt, pepper, flour and walnuts.

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Add the vegetables and mix well

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Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high until it is hot.  Pour in the mix and flatten with the back of the spatula.

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Cover and reduce heat a little, cook for 10 minutes until the bottom is cooked through.

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Remove the cover.  Cut into 4 pieces, flip over and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Serve and enjoy!

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I like mine with a good pico de gallo or salsa.  A bit untraditional, but good!

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Serves 4.

Categories: Kosher, Main Dish, Persian, Swiss Chard, Vegetarian | Tags: | 2 Comments

Apple Bread

It is apple time again!

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One of my official shifts to fall is the change from zucchini bread to apple and pumpkin baked goods. The first treat of this year is Apple Bread.  This recipe is from Mollie Katzen’s The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook. I love this recipe, the bread is moist and not too sweet. Perfect for eating with butter, cream cheese, Nutella, or just simply with preserves.

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The recipes calls for nuts, but since my son’s school does not allow nuts, I made a nut-free loaf so that he can take it to school with him for lunch.

We had some other fun today in the kitchen today – dark chocolate acorns! I found a picture of these on Pinterest and just had to make them. Nothing local (except that Hershey, PA is only 118 miles from our house), just a fun treat to celebrate fall.

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Apple Bread

from Mollie Katzen’s The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest

A little butter or oil for the pan

1 1/2 packed cups peeled, grated tart apples (I used unpeeled Granny Smith apples)

3 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp grated lemon rind

1/2 cup light brown sugar

4 Tbsp melted butter

1 egg (from Farmer Kim)

2 cups unbleached white flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup minced nuts (I did not use this)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a medium-sized loaf pan.

Combine the grated apple, lemon juice, and lemon rind in a medium-sized bowl.

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Beat in the sugar, butter, and egg.

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Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into another medium-sized bowl. make a well in the center, and add the apple mixture, along with the vanilla and the nuts (if using). Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. Spread into the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. (I took this picture with my husband’s phone and the color came out really weird, thus the black and white version, my apologies)

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Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes,

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then rap the pan sharply and remove the bread. Cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before slicing.

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Serve and enjoy!

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Makes 1 loaf.

Categories: Apples, Bread, Breakfast, Recipe | 3 Comments

Kuku-ye Bademjun (Persian Eggplant Omelet)

I still had eggplants in my fridge from Farmer Kim.  I needed to do something with them, I had held them for as long as I would ever want to.  My husband wanted more Khoresh Bademjun, but we had already had it twice in 2 weeks, so I was determined to make something else.  Time to try Kuku-ye Bademjun – Persian Eggplant Omelet.  Fried eggplant, onions, saffron and eggs – how could I go wrong?  The result…It was so very tasty!

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Cam, of course, decided he did not want to eat what we were, he wanted “plain” eggs – aka cheesy scrambled eggs.  But he also wanted to make them himself.  Yay!  Cam is back in the kitchen!

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Kuku-ye Bademjun

3 – 4 small eggplants (from Farmer Kim)

4 eggs (from Farmer Kim)

1 large onion, sliced

1/2 tsp saffron

Saffron oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Prepare the saffron: grind the saffron with some salt in a mortar and pestel.  Add a few spoons of hot water to dissolve the saffron.

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Peel the eggplants and slice thinly.  Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Let the eggplant sweat for 20-30 minutes.  Rinse and wipe dry with paper towels.

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In a large nonstick skillet, add 1 Tbsp oil and fry the onions over medium heat until slightly golden.  Remove to a plate with paper towels.

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Add more oil to the skillet, to about 1/4” deep.  Fry the eggplant in batches until golden browned.  Drain on paper towels.  Allow to cool.

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Beat the eggs in a bowl with salt and black pepper to taste.  Add the saffron and mix well.

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Add the eggplants and onions, mix and adjust the seasoning.

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Wipe out the pan, leaving a light coat of oil. Heat until hot.  Pour in the mix, flatten the surface with the back of a spoon and cook over medium heat until it starts to set through, about 5 to 10 minutes.

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Cut the kuku into 8 wedges, turn over and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

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Serve and enjoy!

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Serves 2 – 3.

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Categories: Cammy's Cooking Adventures, Eggplant, Kosher, Main Dish, Persian, Recipe, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Pasta with Baked Grape/Cherry Tomatoes

Of all my tomatoes, the cherry tomatoes have come in the best this year.  The only problem – they are eaten by my kids before I can do anything with them.  Although that is a ‘problem’ I won’t complain about. It did mean that I had to go buy tomatoes to use to make this dish.  I still used other ingredients from my garden – garlic, basil and parsley.

This is an adaptation of a recipe by Lidia Bastianich. Although I usually do not alter her recipes, I like the changes I made to this better than the original version, I think the garlic flavor is more intense and the overall dish more flavorful.

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The leftovers also taste very good chilled from the fridge, which was a pleasant surprise.

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Pasta with Baked Grape Tomatoes

adapted from Lidia Bastianich

3 pints grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta pot
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 pound spaghetti, gemelli, or penne
10 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced (from the garden)
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped (from the Garden)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed (from the Garden)
½ cup parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated, plus more for passing
4 ounces ricotta, or ricotta salata

Directions

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees.

Toss the tomato halves in a large bowl with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil.

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Sprinkle the bread crumbs, salt, and pepper flakes over the tomatoes; toss well to coat the tomatoes evenly.

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Pour the tomatoes onto the parchment-lined sheet, and spread them apart in a single layer. Bake until the tomatoes are shriveled and lightly caramelized (but not dried out), about 25 to 35 minutes.

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Meanwhile, fill the large pot with salted water, and heat to a rolling boil. When the tomatoes are nearly done, drop the pasta into the pot, stir, and return the water to a boil.

As soon as the pasta is cooking, pour the remaining olive oil into the big skillet, set it over medium- high heat, and scatter in the sliced garlic. Cook for a minute or two, until it is sizzling and lightly colored.

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Stir in the chopped parsley, keep over low heat.

As soon as the tomatoes are done, remove them from the oven.

When the pasta is al dente, lift it from the water, drain for a moment, and drop it into a large pasta bowl. Toss pasta quickly with the garlic-and- parsley sauce and 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, then slide the baked tomatoes on top of the pasta.

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Scatter the basil shreds all over, and toss everything together well, until the pasta is evenly dressed and the tomatoes are distributed throughout. Add the grated cheese and toss again.  Shred the ricotta all over the top of the pasta. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Serves 6.

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Categories: Kosher, Main Dish, Pasta, Recipe, Tomatoes, Vegetarian | 3 Comments

Preparing for Amsterdam

My half marathon in Amsterdam is less than 2 weeks away and, unlike my trepidation before the Chicago run in July, I am feeling very ready for this run.

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For this training, I didn’t just focus on building my mileage, I included at least one speed-work workout each week and interspersed 5K races periodically.  The training has worked, my speed has improved,

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and in the last few weeks I have set new personal records in the 10K and 5K.  Both of these were set during training runs when I wasn’t even trying to go fast; I was focused on relaxing and the speed just came.

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But the big test came with my 18.1 K run (11.25 miles).  In July I bonked during my 11 mile run and walked about 3 miles of it.  I decided to run a slightly longer version of the same route so that I would have to face my demons.  I was hoping for a cool October day, but we are in the middle of a heat spell and it was 68F and humid before the sun came up – Demon #1.  So, I got myself out the door at first light.  My run started off slow; I reminded myself that that was a good thing, so I went with it.   The other demons popped up their heads at each point where I had trouble the last time, I argued them back and kept going. I hit the road that defeated me last time and heard the demons telling me  I would fail.  I told them that I felt strong and added a loop through a neighborhood along the road for good measure – Demon destroyed! I ended up speeding up throughout the run and had my fasted kilometer at 15K.I did it, I did it in 1:52; so I am ready.  Amsterdam, here I come!!!

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Categories: General | Tags: | Leave a comment

How to Roast and Freeze Poblano Peppers

This was the first year I grew poblano peppers. I don’t know whether it was the cool, wet summer, or whether this was typical, but the plant took a long time to start bearing fruit. Starting in September, however, I got a steady flow of nice-looking poblano peppers.

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A steady-enough flow that I couldn’t keep up using them all. So, I decided to roast a bunch of them, use what I needed and freeze the rest. I needed 2 roasted poblanos for dinner – 1 for the guacamole and 1 for the quesadillas.  So there were several left for me to freeze for use later.

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How to Roast Poblano Peppers

Step 1 – Char the peppers.

There are several approaches.  You can hold the peppers over the flame from the stove, use an outdoor grill or, as I did this time, use the oven.  To char the peppers in the oven, turn on the broiler.  Place the peppers on a rimmed baling sheet and place on one of the upper racks in the oven.  Char the peppers on all sides.  This takes between 5 and 10 minutes per side.  You are better off over-charring them than under.  A pepper that still has green on it is difficult to peel.

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Step 2 – Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  

You can also place them in a sealed paper bag.  Let them sit like this until cool enough to handle, 10 minutes or more.

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Step 3 – Peel the charred skin off the peppers, remove stems and seeds.

Note – if you are using the peppers whole, do this very carefully.

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How to Freeze Poblano Peppers

Step 1 – Slice the roasted peppers into strips.

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Step 2 – Place in an airtight container in single layers with plastic wrap between the layers.  

The single layers makes it easy to access the amount needed for each dish.

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Step 3 – Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.

Seal out the air as best as possible.

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Enjoy!

Categories: General, Recipe | Tags: | 1 Comment

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