Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pineapple Jalapeno Poppers

Far and away, my favorite part of going to the Greenmarket is, when I have absolutely no idea what to make  for dinner, to allow myself to be surprised and inspired by whatever delicacies I find waiting for me. Of course, being a planner and mildly OCD, this rarely happens. In fact, I almost never allow myself to go shopping without a list; otherwise I end up going crazy and coming home with various delicacies that have no relationship to one another so then I have to go back out to get whatever missing pieces I've neglected. And some of that produce invariably winds up in the trash, neglected and forgotten.

No thank you. So, in an effort to cut down on waste and generally practice more sustainable practices in my kitchen and my life, I use lists. But, also wanting to cook seasonally, I let myself be inspired by what's available. And, sometimes, I cheat.

How do I cheat, you ask? When I have work in the morning (but know I'll get home with plenty of time to go back out to the Greenmarket before they close), I first survey everything at the Greenmarket (it's right next to the subway station), file away what looks most exciting, then go home, put together a list and venture back out, this time with Ozzy and a plan.

Not long ago, I did exactly this. What piqued my interest, you ask? Jalapeno peppers. While I've occasionally seen these gems downtown at the large Union Square Greenmarket, I'd never seen them at my little Tucker Square Greenmarket, across the street from Lincoln Center. Being so excited, I wanted to highlight them as the main course of my dinner, not merely a seasoning. I'd seen a recipe for BBQ Jalapeno Poppers in The Pioneer Woman Cooks, so I figured that was a good enough place to start. Armed with 18 jalapenos (yes, I counted them), I went home and set to work.

Unfortunately, though, I'm actually quite a weakling when it comes to spice. So I needed something (other than the cheese I was stuffing inside) to cut the bite of these peppers. Mandy had made some Jalapeno Poppers with Pineapple, so the cut-up pineapple in the fridge that had been destined for my morning yogurt went into the poppers instead. I also opted to bake these rather than fry them. And, wanting to showcase the freshness of the jalapenos, I decided against breading as well. Make sure everything's at room temperature before you get started; it makes the mixing of the stuffing components much easier. I topped half the poppers (mine) with fresh bacon but it could very easily be left out. Enjoy!

Pineapple Jalapeno Poppers
adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks and Home with Mandy

  • 18 jalapeno peppers
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup cheddar, grated (I used a Mexican 3-cheese blend that was very good)
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 container pineapple, chopped
  • 18 slices fresh bacon, cut in half (optional)
  • Barbecue sauce, to taste
Preheat oven to 275 F. Wearing rubber gloves (and after having already taken out your contact lenses for the night -- yes, I did learn that the hard way), slice jalapenos in half lengthwise. Scrape out seeds and membranes with a spoon. If you are less heat-sensitive than I (or if your jalapenos are mild), leave some seeds in; that's where the heat is.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, cheddar, green onion and pineapple. Now stuff a heaping tablespoonful of mixture into each jalapeno half. Press down well, so there's very little chance of the stuffing falling out (especially important if you're not using the bacon to hold it in!). Arrange jalapeno halves on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. If you are using bacon, lay it on top of the open jalapeno half, pressing down to secure it to the filling. Drizzle barbecue sauce on top of either the bacon or cheese filling, depending on which option you're making. Use a pastry brush to spread it around more easily.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make it a meal: Serve with plain steamed corn -- an excellent antidote to the spicy jalapenos and a bottle of Riesling. I recommend Nein Lives.

Leftovers: These are very rich, so there will probably be leftovers. To repurpose them for another meal, serve over kasha.

Links to other jalapeno poppers noshes:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Coriander and Cumin-Rubbed Chickpeas, Charred Corn Relish, Steamed Okra and Fried Onions

Coriander and Cumin-Rubbed Chickpeas, Charred Corn Relish, Steamed Okra and Fried Onions
Corn is, to me, one of the most quintessential summer foods. While it is available year-round, I buy it almost exclusively during the summer when it seems to be at every Greenmarket booth. As I see it, it's a great, simple addition to almost every meal (as you can see from many Make-It-a-Meal suggestions). Normally I just steam it, enjoying the corn fresh with butter. Every so often, however, I get the urge to do something more creative. At those times, I turn to cookbooks -- in this case, Courses: A Culinary Journey. A complicated book (by a chef on a cruise line), I find it's best for inspiration. In there, I found a recipe for Charred Corn Relish. That seemed simple enough, but certainly not enough for a meal. It was served with catfish -- not an option when cooking for the vegetarian, though, if you're so inclined please feel free to try it out! Instead, I opted for chickpeas, one of my favorite legumes. I have to say, these battered and fried chickpeas were one of the best things I've ever made. While they were great with all the accompaniments, they'd also be a wonderful appetizer, served with drinks.

Wanting to include a green vegetable, I decided to go with okra, one of the few green vegetables that the vegetarian is extremely fond of. Being lazy, and knowing how flavorful the rest of the dish would be, I steamed the okra and tossed it with butter (similarly to how I usually cook corn). However, in order to up the flavor quotient of the rest of the dish, I allowed myself to be inspired by Stir-fry Okra, Chillies & Shallots from. So even though my okra was simple, I used lots of spices for the rest of the dish.

This "dish" is actually several different components. Feel free to make only one part, or several -- whatever works for your time constraints and tastebuds. Everything works well together or separately. At the end of the post, under "leftovers", there are some suggestions for how else to use each component. Bon appetit!

Coriander and Cumin-Rubbed Chickpeas, Charred Corn Relish, Steamed Okra and Fried Onions
adapted from Courses: A Culinary Journey and Ahaar

For a non-vegetarian alternative, you could substitute catfish filets for some or all of the chickpeas.
Drain chickpeas. Pour in a large bowl and squeeze lemon juice on top. Season with mustard, cumin and coriander seeds. Toss well to combine. Make seasoned flour by combining flour, salt, turmeric, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Add chickpeas and toss well until coated. Remove chickpeas, reserving remaining seasoned flour. Heat grapeseed oil in a heavy saute pan and fry chickpeas for 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let drain. (If you were to make this with catfish, now would be the time to cook it -- treated the same way as the chickpeas.)

Charred Corn Relish

Heat a heavy pan (cast-iron if available) until very hot. Add corn kernels to pan and allow to char, cooking undisturbed. Add bell peppers and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic and shallot. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add black beans, jalapeno pepper, olive oil, lime juice, lemon juice, cilantro, parsley, salt and chile powder. Keep warm.

Separate onion rings and dredge in seasoned flour. Heat grapeseed oil in heavy saute pan (the same one used to fry the chickpeas) and fry onion until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Let drain and keep warm.

Clean okra and trim stems. Steam 8-12 minutes, whole. Once cooked, chop into 1/2-inch chunks. Toss with butter, salt and pepper.

Serve chickpeas topped with corn relish and fried onions, okra on the side. Enjoy!

Make it a meal: This dish (or dishes, depending on how you see things) is really a meal in itself! Serve with
Separate dishes
 a rose -- I'd recommend a 2010 Biohof Pratsch. Bon appetit!

Leftovers: Because there are so many components, I'm going to suggest leftovers for each one. Toss leftover okra and fried onions with kasha. Combine corn salsa with chopped kumato tomatoes to freshen it up. Serve with tortilla chips. Finally, combine some cultures (and add extra seasoning to packaged food) by heating leftover chickpeas (or catfish) with creamy polenta with spinach & carrotscourtesy of Trader Joe's.

Links to other fried onion noshes: