Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Featured Item—Sweet Green Peppers

Sweet green peppers tend to get the shaft.  They are often considered to play second fiddle to their older siblings, the bright red peppers that are the quintessential summer vegetable.  But green peppers are a wonderful vegetable in their own right.  In fact, green peppers are an essential ingredient in the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables (along with onions and celery) that form the basis for Cajun/Creole dishes.  They are crisp and tangy with a just a slight bitter edge that gives them interest and depth.  Not surprisingly, they are also quite healthful, being full of vitamins A, C, B6, fiber and many important carotenoids, while carrying a very low calorie and fat load.
There are several varieties of sweet peppers, many of which are green earlier in their maturation.  If left to grow for longer periods they will turn red, orange, or yellow.  Some varieties stay green throughout the growing process.
Green peppers also come in different shapes, the most familiar being the bell shaped sweet green pepper.   But other varieties, like the Cubanelle type, can be long and slender.  These are often called frying peppers.  We will have both regular green bell peppers and frying peppers in our distribution this week.
Lest we sit back waiting for the rainbow and miss out on the pot of gold, here are some ideas for using up those sweet green peppers that are available now in the distribution.
Sweet green peppers are great in salads or as a part of vegetable platter.  While you might be used to traditional bell peppers this way, try the frying peppers raw.  They are sweet with a great crunch, but without any hint of bitterness.
Sweet green bell peppers and frying peppers are also wonderful quick pickled where they keep their fresh, irresistible crunch.
The list here is potentially endless…cooked in omelets or frittatas; roasted or grilled as part of a salad or side dish; roasted and pickled (see recipe below); stuffed and baked (see recipe below); baked in casseroles; cooked in soups/stews; featured in Cajun/Creole cooking (see recipe below); grilled on shish kabobs; or quickly stir-fried with your other favorite veggies or meat.  Frying peppers are especially good pan fried in olive oil, or breaded and deep fried.  They are also great roasted and served in sandwiches.
At their peak, sweet peppers should be heavy for their size and have smooth, non-wrinkled skin and a fresh looking stem.  They should have no blemishes, soft spots or black areas.  Shriveled stems, wrinkles, or soft areas suggest that they are past their prime.  Store peppers, unwashed, in plastic in the refrigerator.  They should last about a week.  Immature peppers (like many of the green bell peppers) will last longer in cold storage than the riper ones (typically the red, orange and yellow peppers).
Shrimp Etoufee is a quintessential Cajun dish.  It is delicious, but not difficult to make (the long ingredient list is deceiving as most of the ingredients are spices).  This version is fairly mild.  If you prefer at lot of heat, add more cayenne and hot sauce.

Shrimp Etoufee          Serves 4-6

– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 cup all purpose flour
– 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 2 stalks celery, chopped
– 2 large tomatoes, chopped
– 1 8 ounce bottle clam juice
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 tablespoon paprika
– 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
– 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 teaspoon dried thyme
– 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 2 dashes hot sauce, or to taste
1. In a small bowl or with a mortar and pestle, mix paprika through kosher salt.  Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil on medium-low heat.  Add flour and mix well to make a roux.  Cook roux, stirring frequently, until roux turns a peanut butter brown, being careful not to burn the roux, about 7-10 minutes.  Add bell pepper, celery and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.  Add tomatoes, bay leaf, clam juice, and seasoning mixture.  Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, or until tomatoes break down.
3. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  Season with additional salt and hot sauce, as desired.
If mixture is too thick, add more clam juice or some broth.
I love relishes like this on sandwiches.  This simple relish is especially good on ciabatta with salami and provolone.  A perfect picnic dinner.  Also try it on sausages/hot dogs, on top of omelets, in quesadillas or tacos, in panninis, or on burgers.

Frying Pepper Relish           Makes about 1 cup


– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 2 frying peppers, seeded and minced
– 1/2 onion, minced
– 1/3 cup minced green olives
– 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced oregano
– 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
– salt and pepper to taste
In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add onion and peppers.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and pepper are very tender, about 8 minutes.  Add olives, oregano, and white wine.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Allow to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Frying peppers have a wonderful silky-smooth texture when they are cooked.  These stuffed peppers make a great appetizer, or they can be served as a main course.
This recipe is easily halved if you have only two peppers.  Freeze remaining sausage links for another occasion.

Sausage Stuffed Frying Peppers                           4 appetizer servings

– 1 pound Turkey Italian Sausage, casings removed
– 1 onion, minced
– 2 jalapeno, seeded, white membranes removed, minced
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
– 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
– 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
– 1 teaspoon paprika
– 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
– 1 1/2 cups grated sharp provolone cheese
– 1 egg, lightly beaten
– 4 large frying peppers, stem end sliced off, sliced lengthwise in half
– extra virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray foil with olive oil spray.
In a large skillet, brown sausage over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add onion, jalapeño, and garlic.   Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. Add breadcrumbs, basil, oregano, paprika, cayenne, and provolone to pan.  Mix ingredients well.  Add salt and pepper to taste as needed.  Mix in egg.
3. Place peppers cut side up on baking sheet.  Mound stuffing in peppers.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until filling is browned and peppers are soft.
I hear we may be getting beets in the distribution this week.  I love to come up with beet recipes because folks seem to have a hard time figuring out how to use this vegetable.  This recipe uses raw beets in a unique, but delicious way.  Terrific as a side dish or a starter, it is bound to be a winner.
This recipe really requires a mandolin to get extra thin slices.

Raw Beet “Carpaccio” with Parmigiano Reggiano                Serves 4

– 2 beets, peeled
– 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
– 1 teaspoon white or red balsamic vinegar (white is milder but harder to find)
– sea salt
– freshly ground black pepper
– 1-2 ounces thinly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
Using a mandolin, very thinly slice beets and place in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl mix olive oil and vinegar.  Pour over beets.  Using your hands (use gloves to avoid staining), knead olive oil mixture into each slice of beet.  Arrange beet slices slightly overlapping on a plate or platter.  Lightly sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Top evenly with shaved cheese.  Pour any remaining olive oil mixture from bowl evenly over beets.  Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

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