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A couple of weeks ago we went to the Farmer’s Market down the street from our home, and there we scored a terrific deal: a bag full of small eggplant (literally 25 of them or so) for $2. Now the natural question was: what to do with all of them eggplants? And the only obvious reply: make eggplant caviar.

Since that great score and brilliant idea nearly two weeks time elapsed. The eggplant were getting along in years, and had not yet been utilized. But today I made good on my plans, and completed yet another project (YES!) of making that eggplant caviar. But, since we’re aiming more for keeping the vitamins and goodies intact, and less for preserving the stuff for the cold winter months, I didn’t fry the mixture as long as I should have, and made quite a delectable eggplant stir-fry paste-like dish instead.

Here is the before:

These are the ingredients:
Several (dozen) small-medium eggplants
Half a white/yellow onion
Long carrot
Several tomatillos
One pepper (type depends on your level of hotness preference)
Spices to taste (pepper, salt, garlic salt, etc.)

And simple cooking instructions:

1.Chop everything.
2.Oil up a frying pan, heat it, then fry onions until they turn yellowish golden brown
3.Add carrots, brown them too.
4.Add everything else, fry for several minutes on high.
5.Add a half a cup of water, turn heat to medium, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6.That’s it! Enjoy on toast, with potatoes and meat, fish, or whatever. If you want it more pasty, simmer longer, if you want it more crunchy – don’t simmer at all.

Here is the after:

Here is the “after a day”:

This is my prediction...

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Well since we’re all trying to get back to the natural way and the simple way and the green way (at least that’s how it feels reading many an inspiring and heart-warming blog about raising chickens in the city and urban homesteads and…and…), I thought it would be hip of me to share my latest endeavors in pickling.

A few months ago we had some festive occasion at work, and one of my co-workers brought freshly picked/salted baby portabella mushrooms in a sour-cream sauce. Of course I had to have the recipe, he gave it to me, verbally explaining: a smattering of this, a smidgen of that, and off I happily went to make pickled mushrooms my reality.

Huffing and puffing over the stove, I proceeded to brew my concoction, dumping in loads of garlic cloves, finely chopped dill, black peppercorns, spiders, snakes, and lizard heads…. and, of course, the portabella. The results were less that inspiring, and only my husband could ingest them, though I warned him repeatedly that the mixture could be toxic. The next time I ran into my co-worked at work, I drilled him on the recipe, trying to determine why something could turn out so decidedly divine in his preparation, and so utterly useless in my rendering of the same recipe.

“Ok”, he said, “so what did you do?”
“I did just what you told me!” I replied defensively.
“Half a cup of vinegar?”
“Check.”
“Half a cup of oil?”
“Check.”
“Lots and lots of dill?”
“Yes.”
“Did you put in the mushrooms?”
I was offended. Of course I did.

He was stumped. I was too.
“Maybe you put in too much salt?”
“What salt?” I retorted.
“What do you mean, what salt? You’re pickling the mushrooms in a brine solution, and you don’t put in any salt?!” He was laughing.
I was not. “You didn’t tell me to put in any salt…”

The problem was solved, and the next batch came out much better. Since then I have been experimenting with picking mushrooms plus peppers (green and red) and carrots and garlic. I have also fine-tuned the recipe to my taste, and I am attaching it below.

Now that I got the taste more or less figured out, I want to learn to make those perty designs with my picklings. One thing I’ve already learned is that if you’re going for aesthetics, then you should pour only the oil into the vessel used for the pickling. If you pour the vinegar in also (they separate, so it’s actually possible to pour in one and not the other), the bottom half of your creation looks foggy.

The Recipe: Quick-Salt Baby Portabella Mushrooms and Peppers

Ingredients:
– ½ a pound of baby portabella
– 1 red pepper
– 1 green pepper
– 6+ cloves of garlic (chopped)
– ½ cup olive oil
– 1/3 cup vinegar
– 3 tsp salt
– 1 tbsp sugar
– lots of fresh dill, finely chopped
– 2-3 bay leaves
– 20 black peppercorns or black pepper spice
– whatever else spice seems fitting

Directions:
1. Pour vinegar and oil into pot, add salt, sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns (or black pepper), and set to boil.
2. Chop mushrooms, dill, garlic
3. Dump slowly into heating mixture.
Note: At first it will seem like there are too many mushrooms, but as the liquid heats, mushrooms will give off juices, get smaller, and ultimately everything will be covered by the liquid.
4. Finely slice green and red pepper.
5. Dump into the heating mixture.
6. Bring to boil, and keep on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring slowly.
7. Turn off heat, allow to cool.
8. Once cooled, place everything into a glass vessel / jar, cover tightly.
Note: For an extra pretty look, first put all of the vegetables into the jar, then carefully pour in the oil only by scooping it out of the top half of the pot, leaving the vinegar at the bottom.
9. Store in the refrigerator, enjoy after 24 hours (or even right away, though better to let it sit there a day or so).

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