By Amanda Stone
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Peppers are the eye-catching produce of the moment at the farmers market.
They come in a dazzling array of colors, shapes and sizes. In this part of the world, we refer to the capsicum genus of plants as a bell pepper, because of its shape. Other cultures refer to it as a sweet pepper, or simply a capsicum. The spicier varieties are just as colorful.
Since my garden is smallish, I wanted to have one of everything, including a bell pepper plant and a jalapeno plant. My Big Bertha bell pepper plant looks great from far away. Upon closer inspection, I found several peppers ranging in size from that of a golf ball to a tennis ball. That’s not exactly like the gargantuan Big Berthas that were shown on the plant tag, but I’ll take what I can get. If left to ripen long enough, the green peppers turn a brilliant red and are so sweet.
At this point, I don’t know what I was thinking when I planted the jalapeno. I love fresh salsa, but not too spicy. One pepper does the job. A jalapeno plant produces a lot of peppers. Every year, when I get excited about making salsa, I am reminded that cilantro, tomatoes and jalapenos are not ready at the same time. Cilantro hates hot weather, while tomatoes and peppers thrive in it. So I’m stuck with way too many jalapenos.
The skin under my thumbnail burned for a couple of days after my last venture with seeding jalapenos, but that’s nothing. A dear friend just told me a horror story that ended with plunging her burning face into a bowl of milk. Obviously the act of a seriously desperate woman. The heat comes from the capsaicin found in the membranes or pith around the seeds. Capsaicin levels vary depending on the type of pepper and the environment in which it was grown. Wear gloves because you never truly know how hot that pepper is going to be, unless it’s a bell pepper. They are only sweet and delicious, with zero percent capsaicin.
Grilled roasted peppers
Use any kind of pepper. Remove the stems and seeds. If it’s a large bell pepper, quarter it. Otherwise, it’s fine to leave the pepper whole. Place the peppers skin-side down on the grill. Use tongs to rotate the peppers once each side is blistered and blackened. Toss the hot peppers in a sealed paper bag or place the peppers on a plate and cover with a towel. The steam helps loosen the skin, so once the pepper is cool the skin should slip right off.
The grill is an excellent way to roast peppers. Just throw them on while you’re making dinner. This multitasking trick leads to sweet roasted peppers that you can freeze or use in a number of tasty dishes.
This is my favorite fresh salsa recipe. I change it every time I make it, depending on the ingredients I have on hand. Hominy is a great way to make salsa heartier.
1 clove garlic
1 medium sweet onion
1 bunch of cilantro
1/2 bell pepper
Juice of one lime
4 medium tomatoes or 1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 can hominy
In a food processor, pulse the onion and garlic until minced. Add the peppers and pulse a few more times. Next, add the cilantro and lime juice and mix well. Add the tomatoes and pulse until the salsa reaches the texture you like. I prefer a chunky salsa, but you can puree it until it’s smooth if that’s what you like. Pour the salsa in a bowl and stir in the hominy and a generous sprinkling of salt. It can be served immediately, but it gets even better if you let the flavors mingle for a few hours.
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