You may have wondered what the differences are between all of the varieties of peppers. Some are sweet, some are smokey, some are hot and some are REALLY hot. When it comes to peppers, there is a multitude of flavors and uses, stemming from a vast range cultural practices and cuisines. Johnne Smalley has a little more info on the various kinds of peppers and their uses:
“If you were trying to learn English, you would be pretty confused by the use of the word “pepper.” I mean, there’s hot peppers, bell peppers, sweet peppers, dried peppers, chili pepper, and black pepper from peppercorns and is technically a berry. With so many different types of pepper, how do you know when to use which one?
Well, it starts with knowing the differences between the various types. The one thing they have in common though is they’re used as seasoning or flavoring agents, but fresh, dried, and powdered peppers all have different qualities. Knowing what each one tastes like (and how it affects your cooking) will help you understand when to use which one.
Sweet and chile peppers are both fruits from the pepper bush. When they are ground as a spice, they are often called “pepper” in the United States, which can become confusing when compared to peppercorns.
Bell peppers are the most commonly known sweet pepper and are named for their bell-like shape. They have a mild, sweet flavor. Pimentos (or cherry peppers), European sweet, Cubanelle, and sweet banana pepper are also mild peppers. These peppers are used best fresh to add sweet or pungent flavors to your cooking. They can be used raw to add crunch to salads or sandwiches. Red peppers are often used cooked in Mediterranean cuisine, and dark green peppers are part of the holy trinity of Creole-style cooking (onion, garlic, green peppers).
Chile peppers have a high concentration of the hot oil capsaicin. They vary in their level of spiciness, which is measured in Scoville units on the aptly-named Scoville scale. Spicy peppers range in size, shape, and variety, and they come from all over the world (including America, the Caribbean, Thailand, and Mexico). The most common varieties include jalapeño pepper, serrano, poblano, Anaheim, ancho chile pepper, and pasilla. Even hotter peppers include habanero pepper, Tabasco (most commonly known for making hot sauces), Thai chiles, scotch bonnet, and ghost peppers (one of the hottest peppers in the world).
These spicy peppers are often dried and ground into peppers, or pepper flakes. When you’re chopping chile peppers, it’s best to use protection for your hands. Slick your hands with olive oil before dicing, or wear gloves.
Cayenne are long, slender red peppers that are hung to dry until all the moisture is removed, leaving a dark red and crinkly pepper. Finely ground, they should be stored in dark jars with a tight lid. In addition to adding spice to your food, cayenne has been used for its health benefits. Use cayenne pepper in large quantities to add heat to your food (like chili), or in small quantities to brings out the other flavors from your cooking (like adding a pinch to hummus).
Red pepper flakes are dried peppers (usually cayenne peppers) that have been coarsely ground. This allows you to see the difference between the pepper’s fleshy flakes and the seeds. These are sometimes sold as a specific pepper, such as ancho chile flakes or chipotle pepper flakes. Use red pepper flakes to add a bit of spice to pasta dishes or as a topping on pizza.
Aleppo pepper is a Middle-Eastern pepper and has a tangy and spicy flavor. They have a more moderate heat than pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, making them more appropriate if you’re trying to bring out fruity flavors in food. Use Aleppo pepper in Middle Eastern cuisine.”
This week in Local Choice CSA
Bifrost Farms – Plain Chevre
Essence Homestead – Hot peppers and bell peppers
Hexagon Projects Farm – Asian cucumber, slicing cucumber, rainbow chard, heirloom tomatoes, salad tomatoes
Mary Dirty Face Farm – Apples (Pristine)
Towering Heights Farm – Beef sirloin steak
Valley Pasture Farm – Sweet corn, lamb brats
Winnowburrow Farm – Basil, thyme, Sweet Poblano Cucumber Relish
Digging deeper into nutrition with Johnne Smalley of Towering Heights Farm
Grassfed Beef Sirloin Steak
From the Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook: Healthy Cooking and Good Living with Pasture-Raised Foods, by Shannon Hayes, Eating Fresh Publications, 2004, there are four basic principles for cooking grassfed meats:
- Put away your timer, get a good meat thermometer, and be prepared to use it. Grassfed meats are significantly lower in fat than the meats you’re likely to find in the grocery store. Since fat works as an insulator, it changes the way your meat cooks. Lean roasts will cook in the oven faster than roasts that are higher in fat.
- Turn down the heat. If the heat is too high when grassfed meat is cooked, the moisture and the fat will exit quickly, which will toughen the protein.
- Learn when to use dry-heat cooking methods and when to use moist-heat methods. Dry-heat cooking methods are appropriate for tender cuts of meat, such as loin cuts. Moist-heat methods are used for tougher cuts of meats, such as shoulder cuts.
- Ease up on the seasonings and sauces. While meats sold in grocery stores may benefit from heavy seasonings, prime cuts of grassfed meat have sufficient flavor to stand on their own. Start out with a simple herb rub or just salt and pepper so you can experience the true flavor of the meat. Then move into more elaborate seasonings.
Cuts of steak can be broken down into three sections. Starting on the upper back and moving down to the mid-back you have the rib, the short loin and the sirloin. The rib contains cuts such as the Rib Roast, the Rib-eye Steak and the back ribs. This is the least tender section of the three. The short loin produces the T-bone, Top Loin Steak, Tenderloin and the Porterhouse—the most tender of the three.
“The backbone’s connected to the … hipbone”—not a song, but a sirloin. There are no fewer than TEN varieties of sirloin steaks. If you care to differentiate, there are sirloins with Pin, Flat, Round or Wedge bones, Top Baseball cuts, Top Caps, Top Butts, Bottom Butt Tri-tips, Bottom Butt Ball Tips, and Bottom Butt Flat steaks. The good news here is that most people enjoy all of these steaks. You just can’t go wrong with a sirloin. These are tender cuts that respond well to sautéing, pan-frying, broiling, pan-broiling or grilling.
According to Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson, “People have been touting the health benefits of apples for at least 5000 years. Our well-known rhyme ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is a remake of a nineteenth-century Welsh saying: ‘Et an apple before gwain to bed maketh the doctor beg his bread’. During the Middle Ages, northern Europeans recounted a legend about a box of golden apples that granted eternal life: When the gods feel old age approaching, goes the story, one bite of the apples makes them young again. In 900 AD, Scandinavians were burying baskets of apples with their dead to nurture them in the afterlife. Egyptians had the same idea three thousand years earlier, as witnessed by the mummified apples found inside the tombs of the pharaohs. Apples have symbolized health and longevity throughout recorded history.”
American farmers first grew varieties of apples that had come from the Old World. Then they began creating made-in-America cultivars. Until 1910, there were more than fifteen thousand varieties growing in U.S. orchards. Over the next few decades, larger orchards began to supply more of the nation’s apples, and they found it more efficient to grow fewer varieties. Today, nine out of ten apples eaten come from only about a dozen varieties, selected for ease of growing and transporting rather than flavor and nutrition.
Not only do the larger orchards stick to the most mainstream varieties, conventional apple production relies heavily on pesticides and fungicides. To experience the variety of flavors and textures of many different apples, you’ll have better luck with smaller orchards such as Mary Dirty Face Farm who provides apples to LCCP. All of their fruit is certified organic.
Thyme is a Mediterranean herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. Thyme is any member of the genus Thymus of aromatic perennial evergreen herbs in the mint family Lamiaceae. Thymes are relatives of the oregano genus Origanum. The species most commonly cultivated and used for culinary purposes is Thymus vulgaris.
The flowers, leaves, and oil of thyme have been used to treat a range of symptoms and complaints.
The ancient Egyptians used thyme as an embalming fluid. In ancient Greece, they used thyme as incense in temples and added it to bathwater.
The Romans used thyme as a flavoring for cheese and alcoholic beverages. They are also supposedly offered it as a cure people for who were melancholic or shy. The Roman army introduced thyme to the British Isles when they conquered that area.
Hippocrates, who lived around 460 BCE to 370 BC and is known today as “the father of Western medicine,” recommended thyme for respiratory diseases.
When the Black Death took hold of Europe in the 1340s, people would wear posies of thyme for protection.
People have used oil of thyme as both an antiseptic and an insect repellent.
Studies report that thyme oil, even at low concentrations, showed potential as a natural preservative against several common foodborne bacteria that cause human illness.
A Polish study observed that thyme oil was effective against resistant strains of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia and Pseudomonas bacteria.
Thyme’s essential oil, usually referred to as “oil of thyme,” contains between 20 and 60 percent thymol. Thymol is a common meat preservative, and olive farmers often combine thymol into the oil that preserves olives in the Mediterranean.
German thyme and English thyme are most commonly used to flavor your eggs, poultry, meat, and seafood. Though they have different growth habits, their flavor is essentially the same. Thyme is a wonderful seasoning for any meat and whole sprigs can be laid across a roast, steak or whole chicken, or tossed in with root veggies so the flavor will absorb. Try adding fresh thyme to your salads and sprinkling it on soups and pasta. Don’t be afraid to use it liberally, especially with pork and lamb!
For superior flavor, use fresh thyme, but it also dries very well. Tie the stems with twine and hang out of direct sunlight – or spread on a sheet pan in your oven at 100 degrees or less – until the leaves crumble off easily. You will want to remove any hard stems. Store dried thyme in a jar for up to two years.
This week’s meal plans are provided by Rachel Henderson of Mary Dirty Face Farm
Cucumber Chevre Bites (adapted from Pinch Me Good)
- 2 large cucumbers
- 8 oz herb goat cheese, softened
- 10 cherry tomatoes, sliced
- Peel the cucumber or not but I think they look cute with the stripes.
- Slice the cucumber into 1/4 inch size slices, using a small spoon scoop out the seeds.
- Fill a piping bag or plastic ziplock bag with the softened goat cheese.
- To assemble: Fill each cucumber slice with a dollop of the goat cheese using the piping bag to fill each slice.
- Top each with a slice of the cherry tomato.
- Sprinkle with some chopped dill or any herb you have and ENJOY!
Sirloin Steak and Tomato Salad, adapted from Beef It’s What’s For Dinner
- 1 beef Top Sirloin Steak Boneless, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 1 pound)
- 2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon vinaigrette dressing, divided
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
- 12 cups mixed salad greens
- 4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
- Salt and pepper
- Brush onion slices with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette; set aside. Press chile powder onto beef steak. Place steak in center of grid over medium, ash-covered coals; arrange onions around steak. Grill steak, covered, 11 to 15 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 13 to 16 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally. Grill onions 13 to 15 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally.
- Separate onion slices into rings. Carve steak into slices. Season beef and onions with salt and pepper, as desired.
- Toss salad greens with remaining 1/3 cup vinaigrette and divide among 4 salad plates. Top with tomatoes, onions and beef.
Blooming Grilled Apples (for dessert after your grilled Lamb Brats and Sweet Corn), adapted from Delish
4 apples — Pristine are nice a firm, with a sweet-tart flavor that’s perfect for desserts!
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 tbsp. cinnamon-sugar
1/3 c. chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds
- Slice off the top ¼ of the apples and scoop out cores.
- Using a paring knife, make a deep cut around the center of the apple.
- Flip over apples and make narrow cuts all around, making sure to not cut through the bottom. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter and cinnamon-sugar. Brush apples all over with mixture, then fill center with nuts.
- Wrap apples in foil and grill until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Top with ice cream if you like
Friend Greens Meatless Balls
- 1 bunch chard, about 10 cups loosely packed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- salt, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta
- 1 or 2 eggs
- oil for frying
- Pulse greens in a food processor or finely chop with a knife—they should be small but not puréed or mushy. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the oil, onion, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cilantro, and cumin seeds. Stir for 30 seconds.
- Add greens to pan and sauté for a minute or two, until they have wilted. Turn the mixture into a large bowl.
- Let cool for five minutes, then add the breadcrumbs and feta. Mix well, then taste for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary—this is your chance to get the seasoning right while the mixture is egg-free. Crack one egg into the bowl and mix with your hands to incorporate. Squeeze a small ball of the mixture. If it holds together, begin portioning out the remaining mixture into small balls. If it doesn’t hold together, add another egg. I usually find one egg to be enough.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add balls to pan—they should sizzle when they hit the oil—then turn heat down to medium or medium-low. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Use a fork to flip the balls to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Thanks for reading and – as always – we welcome any questions, comments or suggestions in the comments below OR email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy another week of eating local!