Monday, August 26, 2013

Anna's stuffed peppers

August used to be when two or three carloads of family members descended on my house. They brought boxes of edible, drinkable gifts with them and for four or five days we would all kick back and have a really swell time.

Well, I don't know who I pissed off the last time, but we haven't had one of these big get-togethers for two summers now. Which means that I haven't been able to drag my Aunt Anna to the Portland farmers market. Or cajole her into picking up a giant load of peppers so that she can stuff them for her favorite nephew.

Lucky for me I have watched Anna plenty throughout the years. Because this summer, just as last, I have been on my own when making these peppers.

Anna usually uses green frying-type peppers, but I went with red. These are sweet peppers, by the way, but you can use hot if you prefer.

Chop up a bunch of garlic and capers, then add some oregano or other herbs if you prefer.

Remove the pepper's stem, make a cut from top to bottom and clean out the seeds. Then add some of the garlic and caper mixture.

Add an anchovy fillet or two. (If you don't like anchovies then I'd just use more of the garlic and caper filling, but I can't vouch for how it'll turn out because I am a big fan of the little fishes.)

These eight peppers are ready to go and they're about right for a quart-size jar.

Place the peppers in the jar, top side up, and cover with a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and white vinegar. The exact mixture depends on personal taste. We go with either three parts oil to one part vinegar, or two to one sometimes.

You can store the peppers in a cool place or in the fridge. Some people start eating them after a few days, but I let them sit for a few weeks at least. And they'll last a particularly long time in the fridge.

This batch of peppers is from last summer. I found a jar of them in the fridge downstairs behind some olives that were curing. They were delicious, and the peppers still had firmness to them.

Maybe I'll even hop in the car and deliver some to my Aunt.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fresh Arrabbiata sauce

It's August. I've got 20 tomato plants working. What did you expect me to be cooking?

A quick pasta sauce made with fresh, ripe tomatoes from the garden is a hard thing to top. Last year I posted a 7-minute sauce, which is about the simplest I know. A spicy Arrabbiata only requires a little more effort.

I use pancetta for Arrabbiata. This is about a quarter pound of my homemade pancetta, cut into thick cubes. And this recipe is for a half pound of pasta, which should be good for two people. (If you are a member of my family please disregard this last comment and eat however the hell much you want.)

First step is to fry the pancetta at fairly low heat, but don't let it get too crispy. When done remove the meat from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

This small onion is also from the garden, as is the chopped hot pepper. Saute them together, at medium heat, in the pancetta fat, and also a good glob of olive oil.

Once the onions are nice and soft add the pancetta back into the pan and incorporate.

These are three medium-size tomatoes, and they're at about peak ripeness.

Chop them up and add them to the pan with the pancetta, onion and pepper, then turn up the heat to high.

In about 10 minutes the sauce will be ready to go.

Add your cooked pasta to the sauce and incorporate, then lower the heat and sprinkle in around half a cup or more of grated Pecorino cheese. Stir it all together and serve.

I could eat this way for the rest of the month.

And probably will.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Time to harvest the garlic

Last fall I planted around 80 garlic cloves, half in late September (here are the step-by-step instructions) and the rest about a month later. Last week I harvested the whole lot of them. And figured that you might want to have a look.

The rule of thumb is to wait until around two-thirds of the plant has turned brown before harvesting garlic.

You need to dig up the soil around the plant in order to avoid damaging the garlic head.

There will be a lot of roots under the head, and likely a lot of dirt packed into them.

I used a hose to gently clean the roots, then allowed things to completely dry out in the sun for a couple days.

Then I tied together several batches of the dried stalks with twine, six to eight stalks to a batch.

And hung all of them in the garage, where they'll stay for maybe a month like this. After that I'll take them down, cut off the stalks and store the individual garlic heads in some type of mesh bag throughout the winter.

If they last that long.

Which they won't.

But you knew that.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Anna's Day

I was born into a tightly knit family. I'm lucky that way. Most days I really do hate living so far away from them all.

This isn't one of those days.

It is Aunt Anna's birthday, see, and I am wishing her a happy one in a very public forum. My mother's sister will not take kindly to this display. In fact, she'll be mad at me for drawing any attention to her at all.

But, hey, there are 300 miles separating us at the moment. What's she gonna do, smack me? Besides, Anna is in her eighties now. If I'm lucky she'll forget all about this by the next time I see her, even though I am hoping that the next time I see her will be very soon. (Easy there, Annie; that's a joke.)

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, even for just a little while, Aunt Anna is already known to you. You have been treated to her recipes for the perfect Easter grain pie and Easter meat pie, even her fabulous pasticiotti. You might also have witnessed her step-by-step instructions for making the best baked clamsstuffed calamari, and old-school eggplant parm. Not to mention the absolute feast that she and Aunt Rita have put on every single Christmas Eve of my entire adult life.

I have asked Rita to fire up her computer and show this to Anna today. I've also decided not to prolong my aunt's discomfort by describing in greater detail how deeply I love her, or how important to me she has been and still is.

I owe the woman that much on her birthday.