Tag Archives: Bell pepper

Cowpea Salad

I love cooking with cowpeas. They’re versatile and easy to work with, and undeniably pretty. I seek them out at summer farmer’s markets, and I rejoice when they arrive in our Local Box. Lucky for me, cowpeas are a heat loving crop that flourishes in Austin’s hottest months.

There are several varieties of cowpeas growing in Central Texas:  black eyed, lady cream, and purple hull peas are some of the most common. Cowpeas are usually removed from their hulls before they are sold at market, packed in snack-sized plastic baggies with about 1.5 cups of loose peas per package. All the varieties of cowpeas in Austin are recognizable by their pale color, kidney shape and the signature darkened “eye” at their center.


In my experience, each variety of cowpea can be used interchangeably in recipes. Lightly-steamed cowpeas can also substitute for cooked English peas or white beans in many preparations. My friend Megan at Stetted likes to eat them raw as a snack, and they are stewed with tomatoes and jalapenos in traditional Southern dishes.

The inspiration for this cowpea recipe came from Blue Star Cafeteria, a little restaurant in the Rosedale neighborhood of Austin. Among other things, they serve a terrific shrimp cocktail with homemade pea salad and saltines on the side. Pure comfort food. I order that dish every time we visit, and while I’ll happily share the shrimp, I save all that creamy pea salad for myself.

I recreated Blue Star’s pea salad at home substituting purple hull peas from Pleasant Hill Farm in Leander, Texas, for the green English peas they use at the restaurant. Like most good comfort food, this dish is straightforward to make and relies on good ingredients for its success. The most important thing to get right is obviously the peas– very fresh cowpeas are tender and have a creamy texture when they’re cooked. Minced red onion and red bell pepper give the salad sweetness and bite, and a simple mayonnaise dressing and cheddar cheese add richness.This salad is what I imagine eating at the church potluck of my dreams.

I usually find serving salads in vegetable cups to be a little extravagant for our weeknight suppers. However, I plated this salad in a hollowed out red pepper on a whim and I’m glad I did. After an hour of chilling in the refrigerator, the pepper added extra heat and sweetness to the salad, welcome flavors on a hot evening.

Purple Hull Pea Salad

 

Cowpea Salad (yields four side-dish servings)
1 1/2 cups fresh black-eyed peas, purple hull peas or lady cream peas
1/2  red onion
1/2  red bell pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppper
1/3 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Whole red bell peppers for serving, if desired

Bring to a boil three cups of water in a medium saucepan. Prepare the cowpeas by rinsing them and picking out any leaves or darkened, soft peas from the rest. Once the water is boiling, add the cowpeas to the pot and cook uncovered for six minutes. Drain the peas and set them aside to cool.

Mince the onion and red bell pepper. Grate the cheese, if necessary. In a large bowl, mix together the minced vegetables, mayonnaise, mustard and shredded cheese. Once the cowpeas are cooled completely, add them in too. (Remember, warm cowpeas will melt the grated cheese, so be patient and let them cool completely!) Season the salad with salt and pepper and refrigerate it for at least an hour before serving.

To make red pepper cups: shop for wide, regularly shape bell peppers with flat bottoms. Cut the top off each bell pepper and pull out the ribs and seeds. Fill the pepper cup it with salad. That’s it! Simplest fancy pants garnish ever.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and it appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Red Enchilada Sauce

Like most Austinites who’ve been here longer than a few years, I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of Tex-Mex cuisine.  I love comparing notes with fellow foodies about which restaurant’s margaritas, salsas, and enchiladas are the best in town, and although we rarely agree, it’s a nice way to build up a good appetite.

There are several excellent bloggers who write extensively about Tex-Mex home cooking; my favorites are superstars Lisa Fain of Homesick Texan and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes. Though neither writer is based in Texas, their recipes demonstrate that staples like tacos, enchiladas, and burritos lend themselves beautifully to the peppers, greens and tomatoes that grow nearly year-round in Austin. As I’ve experimented with their recipes and others, I have learned that most Tex-Mex food is easy to prepare with everyday ingredients and tools in your kitchen. Take for example this vegan enchilada sauce. If you can use a knife, a stove, and blender, you’ve got what it takes to make killer Tex-Mex.

Half of the sauce from this recipe will cover a 9×13 pan of enchiladas, leaving the rest for whatever creative use you can dream up.  Here are some of my favorite things to do with enchilada sauce, besides topping enchiladas:

At breakfast

  • over a few fried eggs with tortillas
  • with soy chorizo and grits (vegan!)
  • with melted cheese, scrambled egg and chorizo on a tostada shell

At a party

For dinner

Whatever you decide to do with it, I hope you enjoy this simple, healthy enchilada sauce!

Red Enchilada Sauce (yields about 6 cups sauce)
1 yellow onion
3-5 mild or sweet peppers, any variety
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2, 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes and jalapeno peppers
1, 15-ounce can vegetable broth
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cumin

To prepare sauce: dice onion and peppers. Peel and mince garlic.  In a large sauce pan, cook onions, peppers, and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until they are very mushy, about 15 minutes.  Increase heat to medium and add tomatoes, vegetable broth, chili powder, salt, and cumin. Stir to combine. Cook sauce, covered, for 15 minutes to develop the flavors. Remove sauce from heat and allow to cool before processing it in a blender until smooth. Store finished sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, or in the freezer for up to a month.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Summer Squash Tacos

Veggie tacos are a great way to use up lots of produce because you can put almost anything spicy in a tortilla and- voila!- tacos!  These tacos combine traditional harvest vegetables- sweet corn, summer squash, onions- with spicy peppers, tart lime, and salty Cotija cheese.  The squash and peppers in these are straight out of this week’s Greenling Local Box.  I had onions and limes on hand from previous deliveries, and the corn was a surprise!

Let me explain.  The “surprise me!” is an under-publicized item on the Greenling website, and one of my favorite ways to stretch my grocery budget. When you add a $2 “surprise me” item to your shopping cart, Greenling will include a portion of whatever they have extra of that day.  Sometimes it’s produce, sometimes eggs, sometimes cheese or other artisan treats. The “surprise me” item is listed in the fruit and vegetable areas of the website, or you can just search for “surprise” and find it that way. Last week I added two “surprise me” items to our Local Box order and I got 2 ears of sweet corn and a few beets.  Even though I didn’t plan for those items, it has been easy to fit them into my meal plan and I saved several dollars over the regular price of the produce.  Okay, public service announcement over– I hope you enjoy these delicious tacos!

Summer Squash Tacos (serves 2, doubles or triples easily)
Adapted from “Veggie Tacos” by Elise Bauer on SimplyRecipes.com

Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 ear sweet corn, cut off the cob
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 summer squash, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1/2 clove fresh garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Tortillas and toppings:
4 tortillas
4 very thin slices jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons crumbled Cotija cheese (Feta or Chevre works well, too)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and peppers; cook until onions are translucent and peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add corn, squash and dried seasonings, and cook for about 3 minutes, until corn starts to get tender and squash is heated through. (I like the corn to be crunchy!) When veggies have reached desired tenderness, add chopped cilantro to the skillet and stir to distribute. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

For toppings, chop fresh cilantro and jack cheese into chunks.  Heat tortillas individually with a little oil in a skillet, or by wrapping the stack of  tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwaving for about 10 seconds.  Spoon vegetable filling into warm tortillas and top with jack cheese and cilantro.  Crumble a little Cotija cheese over the top, and garnish with a squirt of fresh lime juice.  I like to serve these by stacking the tortillas on top of each other and putting the whole mound of toppings on top.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and also appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Cincinnati-Style Chili

I feel a little blasphemous writing about Midwestern chili on a blog titled “The Austin Gastronomist.”  Chili is the state dish of Texas after all!  Texans are rightly pround of their chili, but we could learn a thing or two from the adventurous Cincinnatians, who traditionally season their chili with cinnamon and cocoa powder.  This dish combines those sweet flavors with spicy peppers and smoky chili powder in a thick, hearty stew.

Cincinnatti-Style Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
2 bell peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 Serrano pepper
1 pound venison, bison, or beef chop
1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornmeal

Chop onion and, wearing rubber gloves, seed and rib all peppers. Chop the bell peppers and mince the jalapeno and Serrano peppers. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and add onions & peppers.  Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender and start to caramelize (turn brown in places).  Meanwhile, chop meat into bite sized pieces.  Add meat to caramelized veggies and cook for about 2 minutes, until meat begins to brown.  Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and salt to the pot, stirring to distribute; then pour in the apple juice and water.  Bring liquid to a boil, then turn heat to low.  Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.  Before serving, whisk in cornmeal to thicken chili.  Plate over mashed sweet potatoes, cornmeal mush, or serve traditional Cincinnatti style over spaghetti.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Although this chili was inspired by the Midwest, I  stayed true to my Texas roots by serving it over jalapeno cornmeal mush.  Next time I make this, I’m planning to take a cue from my friend Hilah and do it vegan by substituting mushrooms and beans for the meat.

Roasted Pepper Hummus

We got 20 sweet peppers in our local box last week, plus 3 red bell peppers.  I love peppers, but it’s tough to use up all those yummies before they spoil in the crisper.  Solution? Roast them!

Roasted peppers keep very well in the freezer (detailed instructions here) if they stick around that long.  I’ve knocked out about half of ours this week making Roasted Sweet Pepper Hummus.  This recipe works well with any mix of roasted sweet and/or hot peppers.

Roasted Pepper Hummus
15 oz. can Garbanzo Beans
1/4 cup liquid from Garbanzo Bean can
4-6 roasted peppers*
2 cloves garlic
juice of one small lemon or lime
2 Tbs. tahini
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sumac (optional)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Combine beans, peppers, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and spices in a food processor.  Pulse until smooth, streaming in bean liquid and olive oil until hummus reaches desired consistency.  We like our hummus about as thick as sour cream. However, it makes a terrific sandwich spread or canape filling if it is thicker, similar to a peanut-butter consistency.

*Here are the best step-by-step instructions I have found online for roasting peppers.  I especially like the technique of steaming the peppers that utilizes a large metal cookie sheet instead of plastic bags/wrap since I don’t really want melty plastic chemicals in my organic peppers.