Salsa Verde CSA Surprise

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The fickle nature of hot peppers grown outside a greenhouse environment is one of the first lessons you will learn from small farmer’s markets, home gardens, and community supported agriculture. Exposed to drought and variable temperatures, the amounts of capsaicin, the chemical that makes hot peppers seem hot, vary wildly even among the same sort of pepper. The only way to judge the heat index of an individual pepper is to taste a tiny piece of it – and note that the ribs, not the seeds contain most of the chemical, and therefore the super convenient end to slice off will lie to you. So, in practicality, the only way to cook with ‘wild’ peppers is one or two at a time, with surplus of your cooler ingredients on hand to water it down as need be.

Or, you could just stuff completely unlabeled peppers with cheese, bread them until they all look the same, and pan-fry them for a sadistic game of Serrano Chili Surprise. This was not the best idea my farmsteading ex-New Yorker friends and I have ever had. So, instead, something like a recipe for salsa verde (makes 8-12oz):
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  • One small yellow or red onion
  • One pound of tomatillos
  • Salt and/or cilantro to taste
  • Zero to 2 tbsp white vinegar, to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • One. Or two. Or half of one. Or three. Fresh, real, outdoor jalapenos. Or half as many serrano if you’ve got them. Why not.
  • One small poblano, yellow wax, or otherwise unspicy pepper if you’ve got one
  • Zero to one pint of yellow cherry tomatoes which will totally save you at the last minute.

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Start by peeling, washing, and quartering the tomatillos. Then put a large soup pot on the stove with a tablespoon or two of olive or other veggie oil in the bottom and set it to medium heat while you chop the onion, and then chop any non-spicy pepper. Throw the diced onion and spicy pepper in the pot as soon as it’s warm, stirring occasionally.

Before you start on the hot peppers, go find some latex or nitrile gloves and put them on. This step is technically optional.

Slice each pepper down the middle, pull out the seeds and as much of the ribs as you intend to, and try eating a tiny, tiny section. Guess how many peppers you can stand, and chop each into very small pieces. Once the onion pieces in the pot are translucent, add the hot peppers to the pot. Once those are soft, add the tomatillos.

This is the part where people who thought they were too cool for gloves can turn to page Use Olive Oil To Get Hot Pepper Oils Off Your Hands, Milk If You Get It In Your Eyes because we are stupid. And we never learn. Ever.

Stir occasionally. Add a few tablespoons of water if things start to dry out and stick too much. If you lean over the boiling muck for too long with your eyes open, go back to page Use Olive Oil To Get Hot Pepper Oils Off Your Hands, Milk If You Get It In Your Eyes. When you think it’s done, i.e. when all the ingredients are soft, turn the heat off for a few minutes and then dump the whole pot into a blender or food processor. Blend for a few pulses; your goal is to keep the tomatillo pieces from devolving into paste. Try a tiny bit with a spoon. Cry. Drink some dairy or nondairy milk. Add salt, pepper, vinegar to the salsa to taste. Now, this is where you start throwing yellow tomatoes in the top of the food processor, hitting the “pulse” button a few more times, hoping that somehow it will all be okay.

When it is all okay, you can can some or all of the salsa (if and only if you’ve added vinegar), or just eat it as soon as it cools. You have survived salsa verde surprise. Enjoy.

Vegan Sunshine Pizza: Made of Yellow

sunshine pizza with pineappleFor those of us who have a loose definition of pizza and a disdain for most vegan ‘cheese’, there is possibly no better balm for the soul than a hearty, healthy well-made flatbread that flaunts its differences rather than offer up inferior attempts at the traditional. Enter the sunshine pizza.

Originating from a long since closed vegan restaurant in the suburbs of Melbourne, the sunshine pizza is a cheese-free, tomato-free, delicious healthy exercise in colour coordination. Specifically, it is made of yellow. The carefully balanced toppings provide an acidic tang one generally gets from tomato sauce, a surprising amount of protein, and a plethora of texture. Hummus as a base sauce provides even more protein and the smoky, creamy feel one expects of melted cheese. I know Italians who would cringe visibly to hear me call it pizza, but it fills that easy comfort-food gap in a vegan diet deliciously.

Ingredients:

  • 1 thick pre-baked multigrain or whole-wheat pizza base. You’ll want a commercial base for this unless you are capable of making thick, crunchy substantial multigrain pizza bases that are practically a loaf of bread, in which case you should teach me and I’ll save a considerable amount of money on Alvarado Street Bakery pizza crusts)
  • Hummus – twice the amount that you would normally use of tomato sauce. (here’s a basic recipe for frugal folks with a food processor)
  • 1 medium cob of fresh yellow or white corn, stripped down, or 1/2 cup frozen
  • 4oz (or more) smoked tofu, cut into small cubes
  • handful of sunflower seeds
  • canned or jarred artichoke hearts
  • chopped canned or fresh pineapple

If one balks at the idea of pineapple on pizza, adding more artichoke hearts and a little bit more corn makes up for the texture and general topping volume and keeps the tangy/sweet balance comparable. Either way, it’s delicious, relatively healthy, and lacking most common allergens, for those of us canaries who have to worry about such things.