Pickled Cherry Peppers and Red Bell Pepper Sauce
I picked these beautiful cherry peppers and set them up in a pickle using a recipe I found in Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables. Garlic and sweet bay from our garden combine with black peppercorns, fresh cilantro, and two kinds of vinegar to give them their flavor. I made only one small jarful as a tester and also because we don't yet have the pressure-canning equipment that is recommended for canning larger quantities of peppers safely. These cured for one week in the refrigerator where they'll keep for up to two months.
The verdict on taste? Hot, sweet, and sour all at once. The peppers are almost too spicy-hot for my liking, but just sweet and vinegary enough to keep me wanting to try more. Michael loves them. A hot pepper relish that accompanies the cold-cut subs at our favorite deli was my inspiration for this first foray into pepper pickling. We plan to use these peppers in a similar manner to fire up a few ordinary sandwiches.
Also on the subject of peppers, I am so happy to have bell peppers that are finally growing large and thick-walled enough to pass for the store-bought kind. I don't know if I can put my finger on an exact secret to this success; I've just been giving the plants periodic feedings of compost, regular watering, and full sun. I have so many peppers that are turning ripe now. I plan to freeze some, chopped and ready to use for cooking during the winter months. My mouth waters at the prospect of warming up to a bowlful of sweet bell pepper soup, made with our own peppers, in about February or so.
This weekend I used two of my fresh bells to make a red pepper butter sauce from the Moosewood Restaurant's Simple Suppers cookbook.
I started by sauteing the peppers in garlic and olive oil and then blended the mixture in a food processor with lemon, butter, and salt. Fan-tas-tic. This was a nice change from the usual tomato sauce, and it really was so simple to make. Unlike the cherry peppers that I pickled, these peppers were entirely sweet. I could drench my pasta in this sauce and still go happily for seconds without fear of taste-bud injury. Beautiful on the plate, it was food for the eyes, too.