Wish Upon A Dish: Pick a Peck of Pickled Peppers

January 27, 2012

Pick a Peck of Pickled Peppers

I pride myself try as hard as I can on organizing my meal plan every week. Either by vegetables, sales or coupons (hey, I won't buy shrimp without one). That way I can take advantage of lower prices, one time preparations and much less waste.

This is what the experts would call "eating seasonal". I just call it being smart.

Unfortunately it inevitably comes back to smack me in the face haunt me and I have a freezer full of food to prove it. I just can't resist a sale. I think I need to adopt a football team.

This year I am resolved to not buying any more food until I use at least some of my freezer bounty, that was until I saw beautiful, shiny, colorful peppers just begging me to put them in my grocery bag.

For some reason at this time of year, peppers are on sale and I am the first to say "I don't care if they are hothouse, in the middle of winter all this color is sooo welcome."
And, true to form, I picked a peck.

So far this week we had Sausage, Pepper and Onion heros, healthy Sweet 'n' Sour Chicken and I made roasted peppers to share a plate with fresh mozzarella and stuffed a few with tuna fish salad (post tomorrow).

Colored peppers have more Vitamin C than an orange and this time of year we all need extra Vitamin C so buy them for more then just the sale price.

Things I love to do with them:
Stuff them whole and bake to sweet perfection. Stuff roasted ones with a tuna fish salad, wrap an omelet around them and make a roasted pepper sauce to serve on pasta. Dice a few and throw them into your rice, your soups and roll strips with leftover nobs of cheese and bake them until the cheese melts and serve over crostini (yum). All perfect for your Super Bowl Buffet.

Now for my healthy version of Chiles Rellenos......

8 peppers

* 1 cup bulgur
* 1 cup red chile pork (or picadillo, excellent recipe here)
* 12 large minced green olives, preferably stuffed with roasted garlic or pimientos
* 1 ounce Monterey Pepper Jack, grated
* 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
* salt & pepper
* 1 teaspoon Garlic-Chili sauce

Mix everything together and stuff into the peppers.
Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Dip in egg coating and fry until golden brown on each side.
Place in a baking dish, top with cheese sauce and broil until sauce is bubbling and lightly browned.

Cheese Sauce:
makes 1 cup

* 1/3 cup 1% milk
* 1/4 cup minced red onion
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 4 ounces Monterey Pepper Jack cheese
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (I love black pepper in cheese sauces)
* 1 healthy teaspoon of white vinegar (cuts through the cheese)

Heat everything in a saucepan until melted. Trust me on the vinegar, you won't taste it but it takes the edge off anything that can be "too much". The Italians call it troppo.
Reserve to cool.

How to Roast Peppers:
1. Rub washed peppers with oil, sprinkle with salt and place on an oiled sheet pan.
Set oven to 400° and roast for 30-35 minutes, or until the skins blister and brown.
Place them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap or wax paper to steam for 15 minutes. Some people wrap wet paper towels around them, I like the bowl method.
2. Once they are cool enough to handle, but not cold, gently peel the skins off the peppers. If you are stuffing them, make a slit up the front, open the pepper, cut out the seed sack and rinse to get all the seeds out.
If you are just roasting them plain, cut the pepper into quarters, scrape the insides with the back of a knife and DO NOT rinse. I like to remove the ribs, they can be bitter. Place the strips in a container, drizzle some good EVOO over, sea salt and sliced garlic (optional). They are now ready for eating.

Chiles Rellenos
8 servings

* 1/2 cup flour
* 1/4 cup cream
* 2 eggs
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1 batch filling (recipe above)
* 1 batch cheese sauce (above)
* 1 small can Goya tomato sauce (Spanish style)

* Vegetable oil for frying
* 8 roasted and cleaned poblano peppers

1. Stuff each pepper full and press to close. Arrange on a pan and freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 1-2 hours. (this is important, do not skip this step)
2. In a blender, mix flour, cream, eggs, cornstarch and salt till smooth. Pour batter into a large casserole pan.
3. Heat 2-3" of vegetable oil to 375°. Dip stuffed peppers into batter, spoon to cover and gently move them to the hot oil. Fry on each side until crisp and crunchy.

This batter is the best, it adheres to any food surface and stay crunchy, even with a sauce. It does not create a thick coating but just enough to help the pepper stay together and for the sauce to adhere (otherwise it would slide right off the pepper). I just love it and you will too. Promise you will try it. I use it on fish for tacos, vegetables, just about anything I want a light crunchy crust. Use rice flour or potato flour to make it gluten free.

At this point, the peppers can be prepared ahead of time, but place it on a rack or on paper towels. When you are ready to bake, pour the tomato sauce at the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all the peppers. Place the peppers on the sauce (OK if they are snug), spoon the cheese sauce over the tops and bake for 10-15 minutes in a 400° oven. When the tomato sauce starts to bubble, switch the oven to broiler and brown the cheese sauce.

Sour cream and hot sauce is optional. These were good, good, good, gone.

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