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:

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