Roasted Garlic Peppers

The versatility of this dish is amazing. You can use it as a side, as a condiment, minced into relish, a flavor addition to hummus, you can have it immediately or you can preserve it and have it available all winter long – the opportunities are limitless.  It is fairly labor-intensive but the results are so worth it!

For a single portion you will need:

12-15 large bell peppers – red, yellow and orange.  Green do not work that well in this recipe.

3-4 cloves minced garlic (feel free to use more if you like)

2-3 tablespoons white vinegar

2-3 tablespoons sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  Place the peppers on a baking sheet (jelly roll pan works best and it can hold 12-15 peppers, depending on their size) and roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once.  You want them fully softened and skin blistered and charred.  Once done, transfer the peppers into the large bowl or pot and cover tightly.  Ideally you should allow them to cool completely or at least get them cool enough to be touched. While the peppers are cooling the skin will loosen up and it will make them very easy to peel. 

While the peppers are cooling, mince the garlic – I prefer Elephant garlic for this, it has milder flavor and is much easier to handle.  Peel 2 cloves (trust me, it’s enough) and pulse in the chopper or push through a garlic press.  It must be very finely minced. If you have regular garlic it’s absolutely fine, just go with the quantity noted above in the ingredients. Add salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar and set aside.

Peel and de-seed the peppers, carefully preserving all the liquid that they produced while cooling. This will become the base for your vinaigrette/dressing.  Strain it to remove any remaining bits and bobs from the peppers and add to the garlic mix, taste and adjust saltiness or acidity.  At this point, if you are not planning to preserve the peppers, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the dressing, whisk well and pour over peppers. Let sit for a few hours or overnight before serving.  These keep in the refrigerator for a good couple of weeks.

If you plan to preserve your peppers, do not add oil to the dressing.  Instead, heat it up on low flame bringing to a boil. Divide peeled roasted peppers between prepared jars (I used wide-mouth pint jars) leaving about an inch of space in each.  Carefully pour the dressing in, filling the jars completely, cover with lids and secure the bands.   Bring a large pot of water to a boil and sterilize the jars for 15 minutes, cool upside down.  This way you can store them in your pantry or cellar as long as you need. When you are ready to serve, just open the jar, place the peppers and the dressing in the serving bowl and drizzle with good olive oil.  Enjoy!

Grilled Vegetables

One of our all-time favorites, works in the summer as well as in the winter since I have a stove-top grill.  

Olive oil or Pam for grilling

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar  or balsamic glaze

2-3 cloves garlic, pressed

1 tsp sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large eggplant, sliced in ½ inch thick rounds,

3-4 large tomatoes, quartered,

2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise ¼ inch thick

2 yellow or snow squash, sliced lengthwise ¼ inch thick

2-3 sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow, for color) cleaned and quartered

2-3 large Portobello cups

¼ cup finely chopped cilantro

  

Prepare vinaigrette with extra virgin oil, balsamic, garlic, salt, pepper and sugar, set aside.

Toss all vegetables with olive oil and grill until they are nicely charred and soft.  While grilling and removing cooked vegetables from the grill keep them in covered container to prevent cooling. Place in a large bowl, toss with the prepared vinaigrette while still warm, sprinkle with cilantro and serve. 

Farina Grits

This is another old country staple - farina was easily available and served well not only as a hot morning cereal or porrige but as a very filling side dish. You can use regular Farina, Cream of Wheat - anything wheaty will work, as long as it is not flavored. 

You will need

1 cup of Cream of Wheat or Farina cereal - dry and plain, not flavored 

1/2 to 3/4 stick of butter

About 4 cups of boiling water

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a thick-bottomed pot melt butter and add the dry farina, salt and pepper. Stir and toast until the grains become golden, almost brown. At this time start adding boiling water and stir constantly to avoid lumps.  Add water in increments and watch the thickness - the liquid is absorbed instantly and the mixture puffs up and expands.  Once you reached the desired consistency and 'feel' of the mix, turn off the heat and cover, let sit 5 minutes before serving.  It goes very well with any saucy dish like stew, Beef Stroganoff, etc. 

Mashed Potatoes

What could be simpler than mash potatoes - right? And yet I've come across so many failed attempts I decided to write down this recipe in hopes that it will help someone at some point. 

Couple of things you need to remember when making mash potatoes.  Don't use Ukon Gold or any other waxy firm potato.  Go with good old Idaho potato, Russet or even baking spud - you need that starchy fall-apart-when-cooked texture.  

Butter - room temperature.  Yes, cold butter will still melt in the hot potatoes but it will bring the temperature down and you don't want them to start congealing before you had a chance to eat them.  

Milk - or cream - hot, not cold. Same reason as with butter - you don't want the milk to cool off your spuds. 

Any flavorings - cheese, garlic, etc - add with butter but before you add milk. 

Any add-ons - caramelized or green onions, bacon chips, etc. - add after the mash is done. 

So now that I've covered the basics - on with the recipe 

You will need

4 large potatoes, peeled and diced (the smaller the dice, the faster they cook, all simple physics)

Large pot of water (add enough to cover the potatoes but don't overfil).  Salt the water. 

1 stick of butter

1 cup milk (or cream) or 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup of milk if you like the tanginess in your mash

Boil the potatoes until fork-tender. Drain the water and start crushing them with the masher.  Now, potato ricer is a very good tool but to me it's unnecessary, but go ahead and use it if you have one.  Once all potatoes are crushed, add butter and mash it in.  At this time add the flavorings, taste for salt, adjust if needed.  Now start adding hot milk.  Do it in small increments - you don't want runny potatoes.  Once you have reached desired consistency, whip the potatoes using hand-held mixer or the whisk attachment of an immercion blender.  Very important - never ever cream your potatoes in the blender or food processor. It will result in a glue-like paste. 

Once the potatoes are whipped, taste again for seasoning, adjust if needed, place in a serving bowl, add scallions, caramelized onions or bacon - or serve plain.  

If you need to keep the mashed potatoes warm until serving later, keep them in a covered vessel in a warm oven (around 200F). 

Leftover mash potatoes make excellent base for potato pancakes, filling for pierogie or mini-pastries and many other fun things. 

Enjoy!