I get bored. It happens. It occurs in every aspect of my life from time to time. I don’t like to be bored because it leads to complacency, which leads to mediocrity… It’s a downward spiral: YUCK! I try to be aware of it and change its course. One of the areas in my life I find it sneaks up is in my cooking. It’s easy to get in the habit of making the same dishes every week; we’ve all done it. I’m not going to sit here and lie and paint the illustration that I’m this amazing home cook, because I’m not. But I do enjoy cooking. I like trying new things. Sometimes I just need some inspiration. I like to be creative and give some of my fav dishes a new spin. Sometimes I like to challenge myself to making a really complicated recipe, just for the heck of it! But most the time, I like to take my staple dishes and just add new flavors and ingredients. One of the ways I do this is on my weekly visits to the Farmers Market, picking up an ingredient or two that is new to me or something that I haven’t used often, and then taking it home and Googling how to use it and finding new recipes.
This month’s theme for skirt! magazine is: BOLD. I thought there was no better way to embrace that theme than to share with you a few basic recipes I use at home that have a bold flavor using: PEPPERS! It’s the middle of summer and peppers are plentiful right now; there are so many varieties and kinds of peppers currently available and it’s the perfect time of year to incorporate them into our cooking! I often find myself in the Farmers Market or grocery store and I have no idea what something is (I LOVE IT when that happens). I pull out my phone and Goggle: 1) what it is, and then 2) recipes that use the ingredient. Usually I don’t use the full recipe, but I will take bits and pieces of it and use it later in something I already cook and enjoy. I hope that you’ll find some helpful tips from at least one of these recipes below!
1. Cacio e Pepe Pasta with Red Bell Peppers & Red Shishito Peppers
2. Local Greens with Banana Pepper
3. Pico de Gallo
4. Jalepeño Peppers with Goat Cheese
#1 CACIO E PEPE PASTA WITH RED PEPPERS & RED SHISHITO PEPPERS
NEED: bundle of pasta (the choice of pasta is up to you; I picked up this bundle of cheese and red pepper pasta from our local Farmers Market from my favorite pasta vendor in town, Rio Bertolinis), 1 red bell pepper, 1 red shishito pepper, parmesan cheese, olive oil, 1 fresh garlic clove, pinch of finishing salt. Serves 2, takes about 10 minutes.
TO DO: Boil 1 small pot of water for the pasta and heat a skillet with olive oil on medium to high heat heat. Dice red bell pepper in bite size pieces. Thinly slice 1 garlic clove. Cut the shishito pepper in half, clean out seeds and dispose of them (rinse pepper well and be careful handling the pepper if you have any sensitivity to hot peppers, sometimes wearing gloves is helpful. I am not allergic to eating hot peppers but my hands are sensitive, so often I will wear plastic gloves while doing prep work). Sauté bell pepper in skillet, about 1 minute later add garlic and place the half cut shishito pepper in the middle of the skillet. Turn heat down to medium and cook about 5 minutes (ish) or until the bell pepper looks well sautéed. Once finished, turn off heat and remove skillet from burner, but allow all ingredients to remain in the pan (this continues to allow the oil to be infused with the hot pepper flavor). Boil pasta for recommended time (in my case, the fresh pasta only took 2 minutes). Once cooked, drain and place on serving plate. Remove the shishito pepper from the pan and throw it away. Top the pasta with sautéed bell peppers and garlic and drizzle remaining olive oil from skillet over the pasta. Grate fresh parmesan cheese on dish and add slightest pinch of finishing salt.
#2 LOCAL GREENS WITH BANANA PEPPER
NEED: lettuce, banana pepper, olives, feta cheese, red onion.
TO DO: I use whatever lettuce looks best when I arrive at the Farmers Market to pick up my produce for the week. I chop the lettuce, use about 1/2 thinly sliced banana pepper, 5-7 olives (I prefer the fresh olive bar olives), a few pinches of plain feta cheese and little bit of thinly sliced red onion. Finish the salad with whatever dressing you prefer. This is a super easy and tasty combo for a great salad; the banana pepper really gives it so much more flavor!
#3 PICO DE GALLO
NEED: 2 large tomatoes, 2 cloves garlic, 1/3 large white onion, small handful of cilantro, 1 serrano pepper, 2 limes, salt and pepper.
TO DO: Dice the tomato into bite size pieces, dice the onion, finely dice the garlic (or use a garlic press), as well as the cilantro. Cut the serrano pepper in half and dispose of the seeds. Then dice the pepper and add everything into a medium size bowl. Cut the two limes into quarters and hand-squeeze them over the bowl and its contents. Add salt and pepper to taste.
#4 JALAPEÑO PEPPERS WITH GOAT CHEESE
NEED: 5 jalapeño peppers, goat cheese, red onion, 2 slices of bacon, honey.
TO DO: Preheat oven to 375. Cut jalapeño peppers in half and dispose of seeds. Finely dice a small amount of red onion (just enough to sprinkle the top of each pepper). Fry the 2 slices of bacon. Place each pepper half with hollowed side facing up and fill in a dollop of goat cheese. Top with a smidge of red onion sprinkled on to the goat cheese. Place in the oven for about 12 minutes and check every 2 minutes, or as needed until edges of peppers begin to brown (timing will vary with size of peppers). Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, then top each pepper with crumbled bacon and drizzle some honey on each one. We are huge fans of Blue Pearl Farms local honey! Enjoy!