Monday, October 17, 2011

CSA Dilemma

Our friends are vacationing for 10 days in London; we are watching their Chihuahua, Roadie. Roadie is not your typical Chihuahua; he's a lover not a fighter. He's friendly, he's ridiculously cute, missing his tail and he does this funny little shake with his left paw when he's walking fast. Roadie is something of, shall we say, a Don Juan. He has no problems sleeping with strangers. I know because he spent the night curled up on Jim's sister's pillow after having met her 2 hours before. The next morning he casually trotted out of the bedroom at 10 AM. If his parents take him to a party my money says by the end of the night Roadie will be situated in a pretty girl's lap and she will be feeding him pinch after pinch of barbecue. The dog's social mores aside, our reward for hanging out with Roadie is that we get our friends' CSA baskets while they are away.

I have been bugging Jim about participating in a CSA for years and he's been hesitant. I suspect based on up front cost, stringent rules and in spite of his title of Mr. Spontaneous, the unknown factor of the basket contents. The first CSA basket arrived chock full of everything, enormous amounts of organic fruits, veggies and popcorn? I could barely carry it. Jim was so excited when he saw this windfall of food he washed everything one at a time and displayed them on our counter Cezanne-like only with 30x more food than Cezanne would have used. He took a picture and posted it to his Facebook. Feel free to check out his still life. He then jumped in and made us dinner making a small dent in the mountain of food.

The next day Jim went to California and I went to New York. When I returned 2 days later the food mountain was still there staring at me. I didn't know where to start, which I suspect, participants in CSAs across the country go through weekly. It was like a Chopped basket except without the cotton candy or the bison sausage, still equally baffling. It had items I cook with often, like butternut squash and sweet potatoes, it also had slightly eccentric cousins to other loved vegetables, like white radishes, but it also had an over abundance of items I rarely use, such as green peppers.

I'm not the biggest green pepper fan; while I don't dislike them and I'll gladly eat them, I don't seek them out either. I find green peppers misappropriated quite often. A giant chunk thoughtlessly plopped on a salad. Or constantly paired with onions, the perpetual wingman. Unlike peanut butter and jelly, who seem to do fine without one another, green peppers don't seem to have much of a social life without onions. I really like other types of bell pepper. Isn't there more for this vegetable? So I thought, well, what about green pepper Harissa? And you know what? It works.

The green peppers also came with Anaheim peppers and jalapeƱos. Surely you could use any type of pepper that appeals to you.

Green Pepper Harissa

4 small or 2 large green bell peppers

3 Anaheim peppers

3 jalapeƱos or 1 large

1.5 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted

1.5 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted

6 +1 tablespoons olive oil

Large pinch of salt

Tiny pinch of cinnamon

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pre-heat broiler. Place peppers and garlic on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast the peppers in the broiler. Time will depend upon your broiler. My broiler is in the top of the oven I placed the peppers about 7" from the flames, my broiler is not particularly potent and it took me 5 minutes rotating the peppers every minute. Keep your eye on anything in the broiler at all times. The garlic may finish sooner.

Place the peppers in a paper bag for about 5 minutes. Making sure they are cool enough to handles peel the skins off of the peppers. Slice them in half and discard the seeds and stem. This should make about 2 cups of roasted peppers.

Put the peppers, spices, cilantro and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the food processor, process and stream in the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil until desired consistency. Finish with lemon juice.

Notes: Use as you would regular Harissa. I'm showing it as a dip but we also marinated and baked chicken in it. It's also great on eggs.

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