Chilled Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup

yellowI would be the first to admit that I cannot leave well enough alone. Take this soup for example. It’s pretty darn great just as it is — a refreshing, even comforting, meld of sweet yellow peppers, a hint of smoke from the roasting, the warm note of rosemary, the sharply pleasant heat from the jalapeno, finished with a bright touch of lime. But when I make it I think about the other yellow pepper soup I’ve made — the one that’s accompanied by an orange pepper soup, which are then slipped side-by-side into a single bowl for an elegant yin and yang effect. I put the question to you — too much? Ridiculously over the top for a weeknight dinner? Or are we having FUN yet? You decide. And while you are mulling, make this lovely soup, which was adapted from Fine Cooking. It made the folks at USBG happy on a recent Friday.  Look for us there August 22, 2014. And get to taste the soup.

Makes about one quart of soup

8 yellow bell peppers
1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
2 C lower-salt chicken broth
Generous pinch of granulated sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Juice of a half lime, more as needed
1/4 C snipped fresh chives (1/4 inch long), optional

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400̊F. Put the peppers on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven, turning every 15 minutes, until browned and wrinkled all over, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven, cover with a dishtowel, and set aside to cool. Seed, peel, and cut the peppers into quarters.

Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeño, and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the peppers and any accumulated juices, broth, sugar, ½ t salt, 1/4 t black pepper, and 1½ C water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender. Refrigerate the soup for at least 3 hours or overnight. Once chilled, add the lime juice and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in chilled bowls, sprinkled with the chives. Finish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil.

Fresh Corn Polenta with Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Puree

corn polentaThis is an eye-popping dish, the bright yellow polenta served in a pool of red. To turn it into a main course, top with grilled veggie, grilled fish or buffalo mozzarella sliced and finished with ribboned basil. For a dairy-free version of the polenta, use three tablespoons olive oil and omit the butter. The recipe is adapted from Jacques Pepin. We demoed it at U.S. Botanic Garden August 15, 2014.

Four side servings, two main course servings.
Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Puree

3 fire-roasted, peeled red peppers (jarred is fine)
1/4 C olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

To roast your own fresh peppers: Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and lay on a cookie sheet, cut side down. Broil for 10-15 minutes until well-charred (this can also be done on an outdoor grill). Transfer roasted peppers to a plastic bag and let them steam in the bag until cool enough to handle. Under running water, remove the skin, seeds and internal white ribs of the peppers. Process peppers in a food processor until pureed; drizzle in the olive and process until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper; reserve.

Fresh Corn Polenta

4 large ears of corn, to yield three cups kernels
1 T olive oil
2 T butter
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Basil for garnish (optional)

Remove kernels from corn. Process in food processor until consistency of oatmeal. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it appears shiny; stir in butter until melted. Add the pureed corn kernels and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and kernels begin to brown slightly on the bottom. Turn off heat and continue stirring vigorously until polenta has reached desired consistency. To serve, divide the red pepper oil onto individual plates; top with a serving of polenta; garnish with basil.

Greek Zucchini Fritters

zucchini fritttersThe zucchini this year has been fantastic. Typically by mid-August borers hidden in the stems of squash plants have done their work almost overnight rendering foliage into wilted into a mass of brownish detritus. The few plants that do withstand a borer invasion rarely survive the onslaught of squash bugs, which spread a fungus that paints plant’s big, coarse leaves with white powder. I measure my success in growing squash in how long I can keep either one of these scourges at bay, and this summer has been a banner one. It might be the cold winter we endured, or our relatively cool summer here in the mid-Atlantic, with far fewer hot and humid days than we typically experience, but whatever the reason, the  zucchini, patty pan and yellow squashes have been coming on abundantly and the plants are showing no signs of stress yet.patty pan

My favorite thing to do with excess zucchini is making delicious chilled sup. I like it sauteed gently with plenty of onions, cooked down with chicken stock, seasoned with curry powder and then processed with buttermilk or yogurt or, in a pinch, coconut milk.  I like the spicy kick of curried soup in the summer, especially when it’s chilled, though it’s equally welcome piping hot as the evenings cool down in September. This year, though, these Greek zucchini fritters have been a big hit. I’ve made zucchini fritters in the past, but this recipe is by far the best, showcasing the flavor of zucchini without overwhelming it. I particularly like the use of parsley , which supports and enhances the flavors of the summer squash. It’s really important to salt and drain the shredded squash – this allows the fritters to crisp up nicely when cooked in the oil.

So now in addition to making my soup, I routinely shred zucchini – it’s fast work in the food processor — drain and wring it dry, and pop it into the freezer for later use if I’m not going to make the fritters right away. It doesn’t keep well in the refrigerator – though the cooked fritters are fine for a couple of days and excellent heated up. Shredded zucchini is something you can add to all kinds of things, most notably it makes chicken and turkey burgers nice and moist – so there’s another use.

This recipe is adapted from an old Saveur magazine recipe and is enough for about a dozen fritters – a serving is two or three.

1 # zucchini, grated (about 2-3 medium)
1 t coarse salt or ½ t fine salt
½ C minced flat-leaf parsley
½ C grated Parmesan
½ C dried bread crumbs, such as Panko
1 medium yellow onion, grated
1 egg, beaten
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne, to taste
Grapeseed or peanut oil, for frying

Mix zucchini and salt in a strainer; set a weighted plate on top; let drain for 30 minutes. Transfer zucchini to a tea towel; squeeze out liquid. Mix zucchini, parsley, cheese, bread crumbs, onions, and egg in a bowl. Season with pepper and cayenne; divide mixture into 12 balls. Press balls into ¾”-thick patties. Pour oil into deep pot to a depth of 2″; heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 315̊ or the oil sizzles when a bit of the fritter batter is dropped into it. Working in 2 batches, fry patties until golden and crisp, 5–6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fritters to paper towels.

Corn Saute with Ginger, Lime and Cilantro

corn sauteThis is a great example of the whole being so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s difficult to put into words just how good this little saute is – the combination of sweet corn with the ginger and garlic – don’t skimp on these – and the heat of the serrano – you can go heavier on that if you wish – and the little bit of lime come together in an almost transcendent way. You can serve this with tortilla chips, combine it with a couple of spoonfuls of Mexican crema, or use it as a kind of salsa, on top of grilled rockfish or sword, which is how Adrienne served it last week. As delicious as the fish was, the saute was far and away the star of the show. Adapted from Fine Cooking. Adrienne will demo this at US Botanic Garden Friday August 15, 2014. Continue reading

Tomato Chutney

tomato chutney2 C grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ C red onion, minced
3 T golden raisins
1-2 T natural cane sugar
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T fresh ginger, minced
½ t red pepper flakes
¼ t ground coriander
1/8 t ground allspice

Simmer all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until the tomatoes have broken down, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Off eat, puree have the chutney in a food processor, then fold back into remaining chutney. Serve with crackers or on top of warm Brie, or as an accompaniment to an antipasto or cheese platter. Makes 1 cup.