Roasted Bell Pepper & Chickpea Salad

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Ever hear of the term, traffic light peppers? Sometimes, peppers are sold in packs of three: red, green yellow, like a traffic light. For a colorful traffic light salad, you can use any or all colored bell peppers. A little fact on peppers… Red peppers are actually green bell peppers that have ripened and sweetened.

These days, winter is just not ending and we are into the month of March already. I have been feeling a bit run down, which I am sure is due to me sitting indoors more often than not. Not getting enough fresh air and exercise as I usually do has left me a little under the weather, or more aptly put,  (SAD) seasonal affective disorder. I need to see the sun! This bleak winter is enough. So to boost my immune system, I need a shot of vitamin C. Now I know most people like to pop it, but I like to eat foods rich in vitamin C and one of the high ones on the food chain is the pepper. So here we have a deliciously fresh and perky salad that is also full of protein. While you can’t see it in the photo above, there are chickpeas hiding in there. A whole can full.

I do want to point you to a previous post on how to roast peppers to bring out the sweetest meatest flavor. I suggest you roast more peppers than needed, to store in the fridge in blanket of olive oil and fetch it for salads, sandwiches or to dress up a tired pasta. This salad is very straight forward in taste and in assembly. Mint and lemon bring the salad to a whole new level of fresh that just wakes you up out of the winter slumber.

INGREDIENTS

1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas
4-5 roasted peppers (can be a variety of peppers)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 scallions, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Drizzle of virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Roast peppers as described here.
  2. Rinse and drain the chickpeas, then pat dry with kitchen towel.
  3. In a medium size bowl, toss the roasted peppers, chickpeas and the remaining ingredients. Serve at any temperature you prefer. I prefer room temperature as the flavors are more pronounced.

Afghan Ratatouille

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Might seem odd to call a french dish, Afghan. After all, Ratatouille is a stew of simmered summer vegetables usually with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Interestingly in Afghanistan, and really in the entire Central Asian region there are notorious for stews as well – all utilizing seasonal ingredients, excepting that the spices and herbs rule in the stews. My mother regularly made this version of Ratatouille and always called it Choresh, which basically means in farsi – stew. Probably the closet cousin to this dish is the Persian Eggplant dish called Choresh Badjeman. The emphasis on my dish is on the spices: cumin and turmeric, which gives it more color and more of an earthy, slightly smoky flavor that I love so much. Traditionally the french cook each vegetable in separate pots, tending to each vegetable’s needs before bringing them together at the end. I use one pot for everything, just like all Central Asian cooks. We cook everything in one pot and let it cook slowly over a low flame.  It’s not just that it’s easier, the results taste better because all the vegetables have plenty of time to get acquainted in the pot. I also don’t peel or seed the tomatoes. Generally speaking ratatouille needs time. Time for the garlic, onions and bell peppers to caramelize, making them sweet. Time for the thick-cut vegetables to soften, and of course time to illicit the essence from each ingredient, allowing them to mingle and reduce before being reabsorbed by the zucchini and eggplant. I like to serve this over basmati rice so that the rice can absorb the flavors and get soaked into each grain.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium onions, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers,  (preferably sweet) cut into 1/4-inch slices
on the horizontal
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sea Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic starts to brown.
  3. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sprinkle in the rest of the spices and adjust the seasoning with salt.
  5. Then stir in bell peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in zucchini. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft.

Muhammara ~ Syrian Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dip

I am on a roll with peppers. What can I say… who can resist fire roasted peppers in the summer when the grill is going. Broiling peppers releases the natural sugars, which makes this hot tamale a winner for many recipes.

A little while back, I took a culinary class led by Jennifer Abadi at The Natural Gourmet Institute. We made a host of dishes from the famed Silk Road. One of them was this Muhammara dip. It is addictive!! So much so that I had to make it again.

Muhammara also pronounced mhammara, which means red color — originates from Aleppo, Syria, and is quite popular in the Middle East. It is a spicy red pepper dip, easy to make and can be served warm or cold. I suggest serving it with crusty bread or fresh veggies.

What makes this dip unique is the unusual combination of spices and ingredients that are used.

For instance, pomegranate molasses provides a unique sweet and sour taste, which makes it a signature dish. Long before the modern day beverage POM existed there was pomegranate syrup which originated in Persia. The savory blend of tangy pomegranates and roasted red peppers mix with ground walnuts and our unique blend of spices to create this nutty and irresistibly exotic spread.
Makes: about 3 cups (6 to 8 servings)
Ingredients
For Dip
1 pound red bell peppers (3 medium) or 1 (24 oz.) jar roasted red bell peppers (1 cup, drained)
3 cups walnut halves
5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon water, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
1  teaspoon ground cumin
1  teaspoon sea salt (if using fresh peppers), or to taste (if using roasted peppers from a jar)
For Serving
extra virgin olive or walnut oil
crushed, toasted walnuts
thick and crusty bread or vegetable crudite
Directions
1. If using peppers from the jar, skip down to step #2. If using fresh peppers, rinse
thoroughly under cold water. Preheat the broiler (on “Hi” if using an electric oven), and
place the peppers, on a baking sheet or small baking pan and set under the broiler. After
about 12 to 15 minutes (skins should start to blacken and wilt), turn the peppers over and
broil the other side an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Keep turning and rotating the peppers
until all sides blister. (Note: It is good if they turn black as you will peel these thin skins
off, and the char will give a smoky flavor and you can grill this on the fire if your prefer).
Remove from the broiler and let cool until lukewarm. Peel the thin skin from each pepper
and discard.
2. If using peppers from the jar, drain liquid and place into a small bowl. Cover with cold
water and soak the peppers, 1 to 2 hours, changing the water frequently to flush out the
excess salt and vinegar. Drain well.
3. Place walnuts in a large skillet and begin to brown over high heat for about 2 minutes.
Lower to medium heat and shaking the pan frequently to prevent burning, continue to dryroast the walnuts until dark brown on all sides, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat
and pour onto a large plate or baking pan to cool completely to room temperature. Set
aside . cup for the garnish when serving.
4. Put roasted and peeled peppers, the3 cups of toasted walnuts, garlic cloves, and water into a food processor and pulse to combine.

 

 

5. Add the tomato paste, olive oil, walnut oil, pomegranate syrup, cumin, and fenugreek (if
desired) and process until very smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Taste and add the salt (if using freshly roasted peppers) or to taste (if necessary when
using the jarred peppers).
7. Serve at room temperature drizzled with olive or walnut oil, pomegranate syrup and toasted
walnuts.

Roasting Peppers

As a married couple, my husband and I often have to delegate jobs to each other. This makes our expectations of each other quite clear. Although once in a while we do things that are out of our “job descriptions.” For one… is the cooking. That is generally left to me.  Sometimes, my husband wants to cook and I let him, because he is a great cook, but also because he enjoys doing certain tasks in the kitchen that I don’t. One of them is roasting peppers. That is his job! The purchasing of peppers, grilling on the fire, cleaning up and peeling is his pleasure. Lucky for me. I sit back and enjoy the ride.

This post is about roasting peppers. I can tell you, that once you taste these peppers, you will find ways to enjoy them in any dish. Roasting softens the intense flavor of pepper, bringing out their earthy, smoky goodness.

The method here uses an open flame – either from a gas stove or a grill. Roasting peppers until the skins are blistered and black also makes pulling off their skins as easy as peeling off a piece of tin foil. Use fresh, firm peppers for roasting and choose peppers with smooth and unblemished skins. Arrange peppers over the gas stove or on a grill. Cook, turning to roast evenly, until skin is blistering and blackened on as much of the peppers as possible. If you have a lot of peppers, this can easily be done in batches.

Transfer roasted peppers to a large bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil, or plastic wrap. Let peppers sit at least 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. This allows the peppers to cool so you won’t burn yourself peeling them, continues to soften the peppers, and steams them a bit which helps separate the skin and the flesh of the peppers and makes them easier to peel.

Working with one pepper at a time, peel off and discard blackened skin. The skins should come off very easily.  You can see my husband, Mervin is gently scathing away at the skin like a surgeon. A fork to hold the pepper in place and a knife to skin.

Continue peeling until all skin is removed. You can now also easily pull out the stem.

Roasted and peeled peppers can now be used in recipes or put in resealable plastic bags and frozen where they will keep up to six months. I use them rather quickly so store there in a glass container with a lid and drench in olive oil.

Peppers Stuffed with Wild Rice and Mozzarella (Gluten Free)

Cooking with the seasons can be challenging, especially when you have weeks where you get a load of one vegetable, that makes everything else in your CSA box look insignificant by comparison. The challenge is to eat the produce within the week and to make recipes that are fulfilling. Not to cook just for the sake of consuming but enjoying it as well.


This week, I received a lot of bell peppers…. the red ones to be exact. The good news about peppers is that it can safely be frozen for later use, once you wash them, deseed and slice into a freezer bag. So when ever you are looking to make a quick stir fry dish, just grab some peppers from the freeze and you have a dish ready in no time.


Red bell peppers have more vitamins and nutrients and contain the antioxidant lycopene. The level of carotene, another antioxidant, is nine times higher in red peppers. Red peppers also have twice the vitamin C content than green peppers. So who am I to complain if I have too many red peppers.


I looked through a cookbook that I have had for years, but barely refer to it, because most of my dishes are passed down to me. In any event, I decided to look through 15 Minute Vegetarian- 200 Quick, Easy and Delicious Recipes by Susan Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay. I suppose something about quick and easy caught my eye with the book and I am glad it seduced me to thumb through it.


There I found it… Peppers Stuffed with Wild Rice and Mozzarella. This has a Mediterranean twist to it with the olive oil, red peppers, wild rice and of course mozzarella. You will definitely love this flavorful crunchy garlicky cheesy dish.


6 servings


Ingredients


3 large red or yellow bell peppers
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
4 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Directions

  1. Preheat the broiler. Cut each bell pepper in half from top to bottom and remove the stems, seeds and thick white membranes. Cut each pepper- half in half to create 4 boat shaped quarters. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine the wild rice, mozzarella, parsley, olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well. 
  3. Fill the pepper boats with the rice mixture, pressing it firmly into place. Arrange the peppers stuffing side up on a baking sheet and broil 4 inches away from heat source until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.