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Summer’s Sweet Unknowns
By Pat Eby | Photo by Laura Miller
Posted On: 08/01/2010   


Sweet peppers don’t get much respect. Anyone can name four or five hot peppers without blinking, but naming four sweet peppers? Not so easy. Here’s a dozen you’ll find at local markets this summer.

Bryan Shaner of Ravenscroft Collective near Potosi, Mo., recommended Melrose. “The flavor is sugary, then it mellows to a green bite of sweet. Green – that’s what I call the flavor when you know something’s really fresh, local.” Melrose sits tiny on the plate, just over 4 inches long and just an inch in diameter, but these small peppers pack a big flavor. They’re delicate, crisp and so sweet you can snack on them raw. Fill them with goat cheese, or stuff them with a rice and sausage mix and pan-fry.

Stephanie Shaner of Ravenscroft likes Quadrato D’Asti Giallo. Not a name that trips off the tongue, but this irregularly shaped heirloom pepper, big-shouldered and blocky, delivers sweet flavor packed in a sun-yellow skin. “We’ll have Ozark Giants in August, too,” Bryan Shaner said. “[It’s] more of a traditional green pepper, but really big.”
“Carmen is my favorite pepper,” said Jeremy Saurage of Deep Mud Farm. “It’s the prettiest red. From the Corno di Toro type of peppers, meaning ‘horns of the bull’ in Italian.”

Long, lush and curvy, Carmen is also the favorite of Biver Creek Farm’s Brett Palmier. “It’s a pimento-type pepper, but with a thicker wall and a great snap. The flavor’s stunning: sweeter, more delicate than a bell pepper.”

So yellow-green they nearly glow, Cubanelle peppers finish with a bit of bite. Amy Cloud of Three Rivers Community Farm chose this pepper for early markets, and it’s a stunner. It’s perfect stuffed with corn, black beans, rice, cilantro, tomatoes and Chihuahua cheese, then roasted on the grill for added smokiness.

At North County Produce Co., farmer Justin Keay is harvesting his first crop of Italian cheese peppers. “They look like a squashed ball of mozzarella,” he said. “The seeds came from a friend of my mother’s whose uncle carried them from Italy. They have a green taste, reminiscent of a good bell pepper, but with a thin wall.” The squashed sweets should appear at market mid-August.

Another heirloom Italian import, Nardellos, will be available late August at Berger Bluff Farm’s and Red House Farm’s market stands. Small, sweet and dainty, the pepper is best eaten raw or pan-fried. “It’s too delicate to roast,” said Ingrid Abraham of Berger Bluff Farm, “but it’s great raw, in salads, cooked and fried.”

Ivan Stoilov, whose lovely red Bulgarian sweet roasting peppers I first tasted breaded and fried at the market, will add a new variety, Ivory, to his mix this year. He described it as a large white roasting pepper, streaked with reds, similar in taste to the red Bulgarians.

New takes on bell peppers include the brilliantly orange Jumper from Moder Valley Nursery. And look for Big Bertha, a giant pepper with sinuous curves and a dynamite fragrance, from Michael Gehman of Veggie Boy Farm. “My mom introduced me to this pepper,” he said. “The taste is similar to a bell, but very sweet. Late August, when it turns red, the sugar content is highest and it’s even sweeter.”

Both Deep Mud and Three Rivers Community Farm will bring a newer pepper, Apple, to market this year. “It’s a small pepper, about 3 inches at the shoulder and only 3½ inches long,” said Deep Mud’s Saurage. “It’s got a not-too-thick wall and a medium crunch raw. Green, it has a cool flavor, but as it ripens, it sweetens.”

Green or red, I dug to find the best recipes for these peppers. Try Nardello, Apple and Melody in salads; mixing the peppers with mango, avocado, red onion and a citrus vinaigrette was delicious. These varieties work great on sandwiches, particularly with tuna salad and egg salad. A BPT – pepper bacon, these dainty peppers and yellow tomatoes with chipotle mayo – tasted pretty fine, too.

For thicker peppers, I liked a relish with onion, jalapeños, orange juice and toasted coriander seeds. A classic burro rosso sauce with roasted red peppers, butter and cream tasted great over capellini. Roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, mozzarella and black olives on flatbread brushed with olive oil and broiled was delicious – and so easy.

Give these new sweet peppers a try. You’ll find them and the farmers who love them at these markets:

Maplewood Farmers’ Market, Wednesdays – 4 to 7 p.m.: Deep Mud Farm, Biver Creek Farm, Three Rivers Community Farm, Berger Bluff Farm, Red House Farm, Ivan Stoilov and Moder Valley Nursery

Webster Groves Market, Thursdays – 3 to 7 p.m.: Veggie Boy

Ferguson Farmers’ Market, Saturdays – 8 a.m. to noon: North County Produce Co.


Cubanelle Relish
3 cups
Serve this sweet-hot relish as a salsa or as a topping for fish or chicken. Or use it as an interesting relish for hot dogs or brats.

INGREDIENTS

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ large Vidalia onion
Pinch salt
3 Cubanelle peppers, cored, seeded and diced
2 jalapeños or other hot peppers, seeded and diced
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, toasted
¼ cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup white vinegar
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple with juice
1 Tbsp. lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

PREPARATION

• Heat the olive oil in a large 3- or 4-quart nonreactive saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
• Chop the onion into pieces no larger than ¼ inch. Add the onion to the pan and raise the heat to medium low. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 3 to 5 minutes to soften.
• Add the Cubanelles and the jalapeños to the pan and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
• Add the toasted coriander seeds to the pepper mix and stir to combine.
• Add the brown sugar and the vinegar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
• Add the pineapple and juice and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid reduces and the relish starts to thicken.
• Remove from the heat and cool completely. Add the lime juice, zest and cilantro and stir to combine. Jar and refrigerate.
• Use within three weeks.

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DATE: 08/04/2010 10:14PM    POSTED BY: Ravenscroft
Melrose and Quadrato peppers will be available every Saturday at the Tower Grove Farmers Market too! :-) Just look for the Ravenscroft Farm booth from 8:30am to 12:30pm.

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