Manzana Rellenas (Stuffed Manzana Peppers)

Manzana (or manzano, depending on who you ask) peppers are often times called “rocoto peppers” or “locoto”, depending on the region you’re in. Biologically they are different, but in terms of practicality, they’re really the same. Rocotos are more red, while Manzanas have a vibrant orange color with large, round black seeds. Indigenously, they both grow high up in the Peruvian Andes and, unlike most chiles, grow best in cooler weather. This recipe is a traditional Peruvian recipe and is typically served with simple potato gratin, Arequipa style.

The peppers are extremely hot and since this heat is like breathing in fire, I strongly recommend (from experience) covering your nose and mouth when cutting and boiling them.

When using this recipe, be sure to add salt, pepper, herbs and spices throughout the cooking time rather than all at once. This will help to layer the sweet-salty-spicy combination in every bite. Add the egg at the very last minute and stir minimally to keep the eggy flavor and texture in tact.

These peppers are also fantastic when pickled and used in tacos, sandwiches, pizzas. To pickle, first seed and de-vein the peppers and soak in ice water, the same as below, to cut some of the intense heat before using your favorite pickle recipe. If you want to cut the heat even more, boil them for a half hour or so. When chopped oh-so-finely, they’re already great additions to a seriously spicy salsa.

You can substitute jalapenos, pasilla chiles (which will be easier to find and MUCH less hot) or Bulgarian carrot peppers, if you happen to find them (and let me know if you do, I want some too…) Alternatively, you can also use this filling to fill empanadas; just use the refrigerated canned crescent dough if you don’t want to make your own and make sure to add a decent amount of red chile flake to have some balance in the flavors the you’d be missing without the peppers. The beef, the egg, the olive and the raisins make for a fairly traditional Chilean empanada filling.

Ingredient Amount How
Manzana peppers

8

oz

cotija cheese

1

tbsp

queso oaxaca or jack cheese

1/2

cup

shredded
beef

1/2

cup

finely chopped (not ground)
eggs

4

—-

boiled and chopped
black olives

1/2

cup

sliced
black raisins

1

tbsp

rehydrated in water
cream

3

tbsp

olive oil

1-2

tsp

butter

1-2

tbsp

dried oregano 1-2+ pinch
red chile flake

1

pinch (optional)
garlic

3

tsp minced
shallots (sub white onion)

3

finely diced
cumin 1-2+ tsp
dried bay leaf

2

salt and pepper layered, to taste
    Directions

  1. Cut the tops off of the peppers and scoop the seeds and white veins from the inside, then soak peppers in bowl of ice water with 1T white vinegar for 1 hour to overnight.
  2. After soaking, boil peppers until just softened, then remove and let stand at room temperature.
  3. In a deep skillet, sauce pot or dutch oven, add olive oil, bay leaf, garlic and onion and cook until fragrant, seasoning with salt, pepper, chile flake and oregano.
  4. Add cubed beef and tablespoon of butter, cook until beef begins to brown on the outside (about 3 minutes)
  5. Add cream and bring to soft boil, reduce for app. 6 minutes
  6. Add crumbled quest fresco, cumin and more oregano, salt and garlic powder. Stir in and let cheese melt.
  7. Turn heat down and check meat for doneness. Once cooked through, add olives, egg and raisin and stir in. Add more cotija cheese and stir in.
  8. Once the beef is cooked through and all ingredients have been incorporated, spoon the mixture into the hollowed-out peppers and top with the oaxacan or jack cheese.
  9. Bake on a sheet pan at 400 degrees until warmed through and cheese is melted and browned.

 

Stuffed Crescent Rolls: The Best Way To Clean Out Your Fridge

doneplated

Usually this would be offered to you with a recipe for the most beautiful crescent roll dough, especially with my new Kitchenaid in tow. However, I recently ended up with a tube of one of those pre-made pop-open crescent roll tubes – and a fridge full of food.

We all know homemade is better, but we also sometimes have to admit – those pop-open canister crescent rolls are mighty tasty (and so fun to open!). Definitely good enough on their own, they’re also awesome with some chicken, dipped in soup, or like a friend made – as a topping for savory meat pie.  But with a fridge full of cheese, meat, veggies and the tiniest bit of left over fruit – I figured, “how about stuffing them?”

And so, after tearing through the fridge, pulling out most of what was in there and staring at it, I put together the following fillings and combinations: (in no particular order)

1. rasberries (with a pinch of sugar on the dough)

2. salami, fresh mozzarella, a tiny dose of the best horseradish mustard around

3. roasted red beets, black pepper, and Cypress Grove fresh goat cheese

4. roasted potatoes and the remnants of some red pepper and eggplant spread

5. roasted mushrooms and Taleggio cheese (with the tiniest brush of truffle butter on the crust)

6. roasted broccoli and Beemster mild cheddar

7. fresh mozzarella and last night’s anchovy pizza sauce

8. roasted jalapenos and smoked gouda

Roasting all the veggies before putting them in the rolls really makes a difference; because the crescent rolls don’t cook for more than 7-ish minutes, any vegetables inside will stay mostly raw. Raw potatoes, raw jalapenos, raw beets (certainly no good)– the mushrooms and broccoli could work raw, but I recommend making them better by roasting.

You will need:

  • 1 canister pre-made crescent rolls
  • a few veggies from your fridge (anything you have laying around)
  • fresh berries (anything you have laying around)
  • a few tablespoons of a few different cheeses
  • a few slices of tasty meat: salami, prosciutto, ham
  • one egg

To roast the vegetables:

  1. pre-heat your oven to 425
  2. clean and dice each 1/2 beet, 1/2 potato (or anything you are using) very small; clean any cauliflower or broccoli into 4-5 tiny florets; quarter 3-4 mushrooms; half 1 jalapeno down the middle and pull as many seeds out as possible
  3. leaving out red beets, toss and coat all veggies together with olive oil, salt and pepper; toss beets with olive oil, salt and pepper separately to keep from bleeding onto the others
  4. spread veggies evenly onto a sheet tray and roast until slightly browned and cooked through
  5. if some veggies cook first, take them off of the sheet tray and begin cooling

Once the jalapeno is done, try to peel it as best as possible, get the seeds out and very finely chop it:

jalapenoschopped

Once each of the veggies are done, turn the oven down to 375.

While the oven cools, make sure you have all your fillings (berries are cleaned and raw) out and ready and have laid out your little triangles of dough like so:

unrolledunfilled

Now, you can go ahead and start putting the filling on top of the triangles, taking care not to be too generous, as it will squish out the sides as it bakes.

unrolledfilledbetter

Next, roll them up gently and set them aside for a quick second.

Separate one egg, discard the white and use a fork to lightly scramble the yolk.

Finishing Touches

Use a pastry brush to put a thin coat of egg yolk on both sides of each roll (unless you are using any flavored butter, in which case see below).

If using any butter, melt it gently just enough to be able to brush it on, but not enough for it to be hot, and brush it on in place of the egg wash.

Sprinkle the top of the berry roll with a pinch of sugar, and the beets/goat cheese with a pinch of black pepper, the mozzarella and pizza sauce with a pinch of crushed red pepper.

rolleduncooked

Place the rolls gently on a baking sheet (I recommend using a Silpat or parchment paper beneath for easy clean up if the cheese or anything else melts out) and get them in the oven, baking until golden brown.

donerollsunplated

Let cool to the bite and dive in!

Search through your own fridge and see what you can find to fill a few rolls – I guarantee you’ll find plenty of treats and combinations to play with!

halfeaten

 Have fun and enjoy!

Fiddlehead Ferns – A Fun, but Short-lasting and Potentially Dangerous Novelty

A month and a half or so ago, fiddlehead ferns were in season. They’re awesome. I have to be honest though, their “awesomeness” is more in their novelty than their flavor. They’re OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive, as well as a bit hard to find. I read another blog claiming that they were available for $6/lb in Boston this past season – but I don’t believe it. I paid $20/lb for them (albeit at Bi-Rite – a store that I love, but is admittedly super expensive).

Regardless, however, the season is over so it doesn’t much matter their cost, does it? The season is two – maaaaaybe three – weeks long in the middle of May; they’re the unfurled fronds of the Ostrich Fern, which – once furled – is supposedly a supercarcinogen to the point of being almost poisonous. There’s another edible fern, as well, called the Bracken Fern that’s supposedly a lot more dangerous. You get mixed information depending on what you read. I’m not a botanist, so I don’t know the whole truth behind the “poisonous” Ostrich Fern, but I do know two things.

1. There was a series of accounts of wacky food poisoning in New York and Quebec because of “unidentified toxins” in the plant – these plants, though, are late harvest.

2. I have eaten them more than once and had no problem, and so have a grip of friends.

As far as I can tell, most of the toxins come out as they start to open. So get them while their hot, and forget the ones that are three weeks into the season. Unless you like blowing chunks and getting stomach cancer – in which case, I say go hunt some ferns down now, in July, and feast near strong and proper plumbing.

And now, back to the important part – the eating part. Like I said, I think their fame is for their novelty and less for their actual flavor. Raw (and even a little cooked) they’re bitter, funky and stringy. I hear people compare them to asparagus, and that’s a lie. Obviously I wouldn’t eat raw asparagus because that’s gross, but cooked it’s meaty, earthy and perfect. Ferns, when cooked, are still a little stringy, a little bitter but have a nice juicy crunchy bite – a little like biting into a crispy succulent. There is some spice, a little earthiness, but you end up getting most of your desired flavor from what you cook it in; and to do so, follow these quick and simple instructions and you’ll be on your way to a delicious fiddlehead fern salad:

    1. Trim off any brown part at the end and rinse them off in a colander.

    2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and blanch the ferns for 2 or so minutes (til bright green) then shock ’em in an ice bath.

    3. In a deep saute pan, heat up equal parts butter, duck fat and bacon fat. It’s ready when it’s bubbly, melted and starting to brown (but not yet brown).

    4. Add the cleaned ferns (careful, you don’t wanna get burned by greasy fat popping on you!) to the fat, add a super tiny pinch of salt (the bacon fat is gonna salt it up) a couple twists of fresh ground pepper, a clove or two of finely minced garlic, and a hefty pinch of heat – meaning cayenne, red pepper flakes, ground chili, or (my choice) korean red chili flakes and the juice of half a lemon. The heat from the cayenne/pepper flakes/chili whatever and the acid in the lemon will act to cut through the thickness of all the fats (which add some complexity to the bitterness) and balance out the bitterness even more.

    5. Fry it like this for a hot minute, till just a little browned (but don’t let the butter and fats burn!), then drain it like you would bacon – in paper towels or a fine colander. (save the left over renderings for another dish)

    6. Toss the still warm ferns with raw squash blossoms. While they’re cooling, fry up a couple of pieces of bacon, nice and crispy and dice ’em into bite sized bits; separately whisk together equal parts champagne vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with a little salt and pepper. While the bacon is still warm, toss it all together (ferns, blossoms and bacon) with some mixed greens, goat cheese with a teeny tiny bit of the vinaigrette (really light). Some delish additions could be some shaved pickled onions or diced calabrian chilis.

    7. Now eat it!

And just for fun, a fiddlehead wine recipe! (I can’t wait til next season to give it a shot!)

Warm Romaine Salad with Goat Cheese and Truffle Oil

A couple weeks ago, I was at one of my favorite and strangely under-noticed restaurants (even though its Michelin rated….wierd). La Provence on Guerrero and 23rd has a veal carpaccio that’s served with shaved fennel, parmesan and truffle oil. It’s ridiculously amazing and as I was selfishly devouring it, I decided that I would start using more truffle in my own food. The only hesitation I have about it is that when I get truffles now, it’s novel and so exciting. If I can have it anytime I want will it lose its appeal? Will the excitement dwindle? Like a secret whirlwind romance, will it stop being hot afterr it’s available to me whenever I want?

After careful deliberation, I decided that – also like a secret whirlwind romance – I’m gonna take all I can get until I get sick of it and so I took myself a little trip down to the Ferry Building. Mmmmm Far West Fungi is so great. I perused the ridiculous selection of interesting mushrooms and based on some interesting recommendations, I decided on:

Lions Mane Mushrooms

LionsMane

some Sea BeansSeaBeans

a bit of Mezzo Secco from my favorite cheese monger, Cow Girl CreameryMezzoSeccoChz
The Mezzo Secco got along famously with the nuttiness of the truffle oil, but there seems to be a little bit of confusion over this cheese. I don’t know what the truth of the matter is, but the reviews and descriptions of Mezzo Secco that I have read say its rind is coated in black pepper, but Cow Girl told me it was cocoa (which I believe is true for this wheel). It must just be a variable.

Oh, and I got a bottle of black truffle oil, too. And here’s the first thing I made with it: WarmRomaineSalad.

Warm Romaine Salad w/ Goat Cheese and Truffle Oil

    1 head of romaine, chopped
    1/2 c. raw walnuts
    1/4 c. goat cheese. crumbled
    3t butter (or Earth Balance)
    1/2t. black truffle oil
    1t grated piloncillo sugar (or substitute brown sugar)
    1/2t fine sea salt

    pinch of Fume de Sel, (chardonnay smoked salt) (optional)


To toast the walnuts:

    1. Heat 2t butter in small saute pan
    2. When butter starts to brown, add walnuts and let them start to brown
    3. When they start to brown, add salt and slowly add sugar so that it doesn’t burn
    4. Toss often while in the pan
    5. Take off heat when well browned and aromatic


For the Salad:

    1. In a new saute pan, heat the last half t. of butter
    2. When it starts to brown, add chopped romaine
    3. Cook romaine just until starting to wilt and brown
    4. While still warm, toss with walnuts, goat cheese and truffle oil, top with sprinkle of Fume de Sel (or any coarse salt)
    5. Eat it!

Spicy Watermelon, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad

When people think “California summer”, they think roller-blades, sun block, smooth, brown tans and palm trees in the breeze. Unfortunately, the truth of my California summer is quite the opposite. San Francisco’s June, July and most of August is usually comprised of windy, over-cast and foggy, chilly days who turn into damp, cold-ass nights. These last few days, though, have been a joy of true summer: mid-80’s, sunny and humid.

And so, I needed something appropriate…. It’s way too hot to even use the microwave – I needed something that is creative and cools me down from the inside out?

I wracked my brain – what would be tasty and refreshing? Cold soup, of course, but I’ve already done the Avocado-Cucumber soup (which, by the way, is intimidatingly perfect for this weather) and I don’t really like tomatoes, sotraditional gazpacho is out. And then, there it was, in the middle of the produce aisle: round, smooth and green; the very reason God himself invented the hot day: Watermelon.

A quick mental list followed:

    Chilled Watermelon Soup with Basil and Champagne
    Martinis with Watermelon Ice
    Watermelon Salsa
    Pickled Watermelon Rind
    aaaaand
    Spicy Watermelon Salad
    SpicyH2OMelon
    Spicy Watermelon and Arugula Salad

      2/3 C. cubed fresh watermelon
      2/3 C. arugula greens
      2T soft herbed goat cheese

      1t flavored rice vinegar
      1.5T extra virgin olive oil
      3/4t mild chili oil
      1t juice fresh from over-ripe tomato
      pinch of salt
      twist of fresh ground black pepper
      teeny-tiny pinch of fleur de sel (French grey salt)

      1. Put all vinaigrette ingredients into a bowl and whisk vigorously
      2. Put all dry salad ingredients into bowl
      3. Pour vinaigrette slowly over the watermelon, arugula and cheese (in small batches, making sure not to over dress)
      4. Toss salad with your hands, gently creaming the cheese
      5. Eat it!

    The rest of the recipes for the dishes in the watermelon list above will be posted soon, as well.