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High Summer - Main Courses

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
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Season’s best peppers

Members of the capsicum family, sweet peppers are usually bell-shaped or long and flat. They range in color from green when unripe to yellow, orange, or red, getting sweeter as they change color. You may also find purple, brown, or near black ripe varieties. At their best in high summer and autumn, they are particularly delicious with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and other Mediterranean vegetables and fragrant rosemary, basil, and oregano.


Red bell pepper

As they ripen, bell peppers turn from green to red, and become sweeter and fleshier. With their boxy shape, they are ideal for stuffing or roasting whole.


Green bell pepper

Unripe green bell peppers have thinner walls than ripe bell peppers, and a distinct herbaceous flavor that mellows as they mature.


Romano (Ramiro) pepper

The Italian heirloom variety Nardello has a mild flavor when green, becoming intensely sweet when red. It is ideal stuffed, or fried with slices of Italian sausage.

Peppers are native to the tropical Americas, but are now grown worldwide. They need heat and light so, in cooler climates, are grown under glass or in polytunnels.


How to roast and peel peppers

Bell peppers can have thick skins, which are easiest to remove by char-roasting. The technique also imparts a delicious, slightly smoky taste and enhances the sweetness of the pepper flesh. The same roasting and peeling method can be used for chile peppers as well as for tomatoes and even garlic.

Using long-handled tongs, hold each pepper over an open flame, rotating slowly to char the skin on all sides until black all over.

While they are still hot, place the charred peppers into a plastic bag and seal tightly. Set aside to allow steam to loosen the skin.

After about 10 minutes, and once cooled, peel away the charred skin from each pepper with your fingers. Slice or chop the flesh as needed.


Essentials

Varieties available

Bell-shaped or long and pointed, there are many varieties ranging in color from green through red to almost black.


Buy

Choose fruits that are glossy and firm, with no soft spots or mold. They should have some heft to them, rather than feel light.


Store

Keep in paper bags or open-topped plastic bags in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Once cut, use within 24 hours.


Cook

Stuff and bake, roast, grill, or barbecue. Stew, sauté, stir-fry, or use raw as crudités or in salads.


Preserve

Pickle in vinegar or in oil.


Recipe ideas

Chilled tomato and red bell pepper soup

Mixed bell peppers in oil

Three-pepper pizza with cheese


Season’s best chiles

Chiles come in hundreds of varieties, colors, shapes, and sizes, and ripen in high summer. They can add a tingle or an explosive fieriness. Chile lovers don’t just taste heat, but can detect the complex flavors of each variety. Chiles go wonderfully with cheeses, seafood, meats, poultry, and game. Add them to pasta and beans, or to enhance many fruit and vegetable dishes.


Jalapeño

These are green, some with dark patches, torpedo-shaped, and quite fat with crisp, thick flesh. Sometimes roasted and peeled, they have a light flavor and are medium-hot. They are sweeter and less hot when red and fully ripe. Also sold en escabeche (pickled), they are widely used as a table condiment.


Scotch bonnet

Yellow-green to orange-red, with a wrinkled top and flattened base, the Scotch bonnet chile is very hot and has a deep, fruity, smoky flavor, similar to the habanero. It is used in many Caribbean hot sauces and in jerk seasoning.


Piri piri

This fiery chile is used in Portuguese piri piri sauce, made with lemon, spices, and herbs.


Serrano

This Mexican chile is mid-green, cylindrical, and crisp-textured, with a concentrated, fresh, grassy flavor and very pungent seeds and veins. It ripens to bright red, and is commonly used in sauces.

Serrano has a distinctive bullet shape.


Aji Limon

This chile is yellow and crinkly with a hot and distinctive herby, citrus flavor. It is good with white meats and fish.


Thai

Used fresh and dried, this slender chile is bright red or green, with a lingering heat. Add whole to curries and stir-fries or chop for pastes and dips.

In Thailand, these are offered chopped in fish sauce instead of salt and pepper.


Poblano

This chile is delicious roasted and peeled, then stuffed or fried. It pairs well with corn and tomatoes, and has a rich flavor. The dried form is the ancho, which is the most popular dried chile in Mexico and the US.

Poblanos are large, green, and triangular, with a ridge around the base of the stem.

Native to tropical regions, chiles are in such huge demand worldwide, they are now also grown in temperate areas, in greenhouses to protect them from the elements.


How to seed and cut chiles

Choose a type of chile to suit your recipe, but if you are not a fan of heat, removing the seeds and membranes may reduce some potency. Although some chiles are added whole, they are usually shredded or chopped before use.

Cut the chile lengthwise in half. Using the tip of your knife, scrape out the seeds and remove the membrane and stem.

Flatten each chile half with your hand and slice lengthwise into thin strips. Use like this, or chop.

To chop, hold the strips firmly together and slice crosswise to make equal-sized pieces. The hotter the chile, the finer it is chopped.


Essentials

Varieties available

Hundreds of varieties, from fairly mild poblanos and moderately hot jalapeños to extremely hot Scotch Bonnets. Also available dried (whole, flakes, or powder).


Buy

They should be shiny, smooth-skinned, and firm.


Store

They can be refrigerated for a week or two.


Cook

In curries, stews, casseroles, salsas, rubs, marinades, and sauces. Stuff and roast or grill large ones. Good in chocolate desserts, and also in some fruit ones.


Preserve

Freeze, dry, or preserve in oil.


Recipe ideas

Chipotle chicken

Cucumber-chile salad

Hot chile sauce

Scallops with sweet chile sauce

Spicy chicken balls with chile and ginger sauce

Tomato and chile jam


Season’s best eggplant

Eggplant is also known as aubergine, eggfruit, and brinjal. It was named mala insana (apple of insanity) by the Ancient Romans, who thought it was poisonous. It has slightly bitter, tender flesh. It is at its best in high summer, but is in season throughout summer and fall. Its flesh acts like a sponge, soaking up flavors and liquid, and works well with sweet spices, oregano, ham, lamb, mushrooms, cheeses, peppers, olives, and tomatoes.


Oval deep purple eggplant

The familiar, fat, elongated eggplant develops a complex flavor and silky texture when cooked. It is good thickly sliced and grilled, or roasted whole and then puréed with spices.


Baby eggplant

Perfect for curries and Southeast Asian dishes, they have thinner skins than their larger relative and have a sweet, delicate flavor.


Italian striped eggplant

Rosa Bianca, an heirloom variety, has firm, creamy flesh, which makes it a choice ingredient for melanzane alla parmigiana.

The skin keeps its attractive mottled stripes even when cooked.

Eggplant is grown all over the world in many shapes and sizes. Native to tropical Asia, it needs plenty of warmth so, in some areas, is grown in greenhouses and polytunnels.


Essentials

Varieties available

Oval deep purple, baby purple, and Italian striped (round and long white ones).


Buy

Look for relatively small, firm eggplant with glossy skin and bright green cap and stalk.


Store

Use it on the day of purchase, or at least by the next day. Keep in a cool spot until needed.


Cook

Bake or roast, braise, grill, barbecue, broil, stir-fry, sauté, coat in batter and deep-fry, curry, or stew.


Preserve

Grill slices, then freeze.


Recipe ideas

Eggplant massaman curry

Eggplants stuffed with tomato rice

Baba ganoush

Hot-spiced eggplant chutney

Melanzane alla parmigiana

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