Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fried Cubanelle Peppers

It's pepper time in the garden!

Here's the post from that inspired me when learning how to prepare cubanelles, a type of sweet Italian frying pepper. Makes a delicious appetizer served on a nice cracker or a toasted thin slice of Italian bread. Worthy of a last minute drizzle of high quality olive oil!
Fried Cubanelle Peppers

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Midnight Black Turtle Beans

Well, this might be an exercise in futility. I put out some old black turtle bean seeds today. I'm a little late. It is unlikely that these plants will reach maturity before frost hits, but the stubborn optimist in me says, "Let's give it a go!" At the very least they'll make a nice cover crop.

Black turtle beans are native to Mexico. Typically eaten as dried beans, they are delicious in soups, burritos, and other dishes. This variety produces a small bean with nice flavor. Harvest when leaves are falling off and have lost most of their color.

Grow fast, bean plants!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Improvisational Cooking

My style of cooking is to begin and see where it takes me.

Yesterday, I needed to clean up the produce that was on the counters and in the 'fridge. The first thing I tackled was a pile of too mature, too tough Rattlesnake pole beans. Nothing to do but shell out the beans.

My first thought was to make a nice pot of bean soup. And so I began.

I put the shelled beans into a pot with just enough water to cover. I added a tablespoon of bacon grease, brought it to a boil, then simmered for a long time (adding water as needed).

In the meantime, I had tomatoes to deal with. Hmmm ... my second thought was ... these tomatoes will make a fine base for a bean soup.

I quartered the roma tomatoes and halved the black cherry tomatoes that had accumulated on the counter. I tossed them into a pot, turned the heat on low and cooked them until they were soft. Then, I forced them through a food mill to remove seeds and skins.

While the tomatoes were cooking, I sautéed finely chopped onion, sweet red snackin' peppers, and fresh garlic in olive oil. Once tender, I added a small, finely chopped, yellow squash, continuing to sautée everything until a lovely golden brown. Then I added the tomato mash (sans seeds and skins) to the sautéed vegetables. Continued simmering.

Once the beans seemed to be tender (they never lost their shape) I added them AND the pot-liquor to the tomato mixture. I added salt and pepper to taste. I added another tablespoon of bacon grease. I let the pot simmer for a while longer, thinking the beans would get a bit more tender and meld with all those good flavors.

But they never did get more tender. They were "done," but they had a firmness similar to kidney beans. Plus, my tongue said something was missing. So I put them in the refrigerator and slept on it.

Tonight, it was time for supper. I got out those tomato-y beans. I tasted them again. Hmmm ... my third idea was that these beans would be perfect as "baked beans!" The texture was right. But they still needed a little something. So I added two tablespoons of cherry BBQ sauce - a product from Glen Arbor, Michigan and a recent gift from my SIL. I baked the beans for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. They were bubbly and thick. Turns out that the cherry bbq sauce was the perfect "secret ingredient." By the end of the meal, these beans were history.

Friday, August 12, 2016

See you later, home-grown tomater!

Looks like home-grown tomatoes will soon be a memory until another season. The cherry tomatoes are looking sparse. Only a few Romas remain on the plants. In the meantime, I have a pile to process!

In between all that pepper work yesterday, I canned three jars of beautiful tomatoes in their own juice. Then I cleaned up the blemished fruit and cooked it down for spaghetti sauce. Combined with a helping of roasted sweet Italian peppers, a healthy dose of home-grown garlic, and the last bit of sausage we brought home from Rome ... well, it made a super sauce for supper!

Peppers Permeate the Air

I declare! Peppers are the star of the end-of-summer garden.

It's hard to believe that the majority of my life-time pepper-eating experiences have been with boring bell peppers. Don't get me wrong. I like bell peppers. It's true. I tried growing the familiar bell pepper during the early years of my garden experiment. Fail! Maybe I hadn't cut down enough trees yet, but yields were low and the ripening process was slow. I was ready to give up on peppers. Then, in 2010, after hearing that hot peppers do better in this locale, I decided to try a few. And the rest is history!

There are so many interesting and delicious pepper varieties available! Since those first trial plants, I have discovered that hot peppers do grow well here, but many sweet peppers do, too. Currently, I grow one full bed of sweet peppers, and one full bed of hot peppers. I have my favorites, but I'm not afraid to try something new. I have learned how to cook and eat sweet Italian frying peppers, sweet Italian roasted peppers, snacking peppers, anaheim chilis, jalapeñas, poblanos ... to name a few.

Now it's time for the 2016 harvest, and it's smelling good! I started at 8am this morning ...

... with fully ripe jalapeñas, bright red. They make a gorgeous, spicy jam. So easy to make! Only four ingredients - peppers, vinegar, sugar, liquid pectin. The recipe is from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, except I do not remove the seeds and membranes. I want all the zesty heat I can get! And I never use food coloring. The recipe shows green jalapeñas, which make a lovely jam, too. I like to make at least one batch of each - red and green. I already have five jars of green jam in the pantry.

Today I added six jars of the red. Light was shining from behind these jars after they were processed this morning. What a color! (Do not mix green and red peppers when making this jam. It comes out an unappetizing browny-green.)

Then I fired up the grill and roasted a pile of sweet Italian peppers. The red peppers pictured here are a variety called "Carmen". They are a horn-of-the-bull type pepper, so named for their distinctive shape. Best picked when deep red. Great for roasting! The yellow peppers are called "Escamillo", similar to Carmen, but ... yellow!

Sweet Italian peppers placed on 500 degree grill
Roasting in process
Roasted and rested. Ready for skin to be removed.
It's a messy job, and sort of tedious ...
Roasted peppers, cleaned and chopped.
1/4-cup blops ... ready for the freezer.
Held out a few for my lunch! with hummus on cracker.

Finally, I blanched a couple dozen hot banana peppers and a dozen poblanos. Stuffed them with a spiced ground beef and cheese mixture. Put them into the freezer. Convenience food... this is how we do it! (Ha! Ha! 6-1/2 hours later!)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Back Home to Overgrown Garden

I had invited a friend to pick the garden while we were away. Alas, that did not happen. Getting caught up will include discarding lots of too-big veggies. Don't you hate it when that happens!
Giant Okra Pods
I could dry them ... but I'm not!
Over-mature Asian Long Beans
Plenty of rain while we were away...
too much of a good thing for the cherry tomatoes.
They're all split.
Tough and pithy green beans
It's not ALL bad news! The peppers are thriving. We are sure to have a bountiful harvest.
Hot Banana Peppers
Jalapeñas in the foreground, Poblanos behind
And take a look at this tower of Moonflowers! Alas, the tall sunflowers in the bed behind had flopped in the rain storms.
Moonflower Madness

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sue is NOT in the garden ... again!

I've been treading trodden trails in Colorado with my family. I love walking through the mountain meadows ... covered in the most incredible display of wildflowers you can imagine! The first pic is along the 401 Trail out of Crested Butte, the wildflower capital of Colorado. The second, is along the West Maroon Pass trail. If you're a hiker, go there!