My first summer in Austin has been a super hot one. The heat has been intense! Some like it hot. And I'm one of those people. But, seriously some days it feels like I'm on the sun. I usually don't mind these extreme temps if I'm in a swimsuit, poolside sipping chilly cocktails. When it comes to food I also like it hot. The intense flavors of chiles and spices are some of my favorite flavors. Peppers and tomatoes are in full peak right now. A great way to enjoy peppers in all their glory is simply roasted and torn over pasta, salad, pizza or on tacos. Another way to highlight the great intensity if peppers is to stuff them. Chock full of ooey cheese, or rice or other grains with fresh herbs.
A fusion of Mexican & Middle Eastern flavors. Vegetarian chile rellenos with scallion-lime brown rice, blistered cherry tomatoes, gypsy peppers, on a bed of mashed garbanzos with Lebanese yogurt, mint and olive oil. Topped with watermelon radish, cilantro and panela cheese.
I made a batch of harissa yesterday. The flavorful condiment used in North African cuisine, usually added to couscous, meats and vegetables. It's a great way to try something a bit out of the ordinary, and it is so easy to make. Make some next time you get an abundance of peppers from the farmer's market. Here is a simple recipe, adapted from Saveur.
6 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
6 fresh Marconi, Cubanelle or other sweet peppers, roasted, stemmed and seeded
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tbs. cumin seeds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs. tomato paste
5 cloves garlic
2 tbs. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. salt
Put chiles into a medium bowl, cover with boiling water, and let sit until softened, about 20 minutes. Heat caraway, coriander, and cumin in an 8" skillet over medium heat. Toast spices, swirling skillet constantly, until very fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer spices to a grinder and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
Drain chiles and transfer to the bowl of a food processor with the roasted peppers, ground spices, olive oil, salt, garlic, tomato paste and red wine vinegar. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is very smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a sterilized 1-pint glass jar and fill with oil until ingredients are submerged by 1⁄2". Refrigerate, topping off with more oil after each use. Harissa paste will keep for up to 3 weeks.
Makes 2 pints