If we lived in New England, we could say that right now summer is breathing its final breath before taking off to some equatorial resort far, far away, and leaving everything that isn’t evergreen to die.
Here on the Central Coast of California, where winters are described as “mild”, and at worst, “wet,” we are not nearly as doomed. The Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets even stay open yearround, although they are sparser and mostly earth-toned, but open and stocked with local produce and products just the same.
With that in mind, savoring the last of summer’s fruit is oh so sweet. Peppers, tomatoes and eggplants are three such plants that are nearing extinction from the farmers market stalls. Next week may be the last chance to grab these three goods which meld so harmoniously together in ratatouille, salsas and soups and tapenades. The heart of this column, though, is dedicated to the whole and lone sweet pepper.
Although peppers are most commonly diced, simmered and puréed into the formerly mentioned sauces and dishes, giving them the spotlight by leaving them whole makes for a delicious and healthy meal which calls on Spanish, Portuguese and South American cuisine.
Padrons, the Spanish tapas peppers are still available at the market, larger than earlier in the season, and some are turning yellow and red. These peppers are best fried in a little olive oil and sea salt, and they are a salty treat that pairs well with your margarita or beer.
For stuffing peppers though, go for the poblano, lipstick, or corno de toro peppers which you can find at the Live Earth Farm Stand.
A friend and I recently began experimenting with stuffing sweet peppers, and although the more traditional rice stuffing our moms used to make is great, our favorite stuffed peppers are filled with gooey goat cheese, carrots and jalapeños, served over a bed of greens, and drizzled with a delicious and easy balsamic reduction.
Below is a recipe for stuffed peppers with goat cheese, courtesy of local epicurean Cheir Harty. This dish is easy enough to whip together for yourself, and impressive and special enough to serve at a more festive dinner.
Consider using the smaller peppers to make appetizers or tapas with, or go for the larger poblanos to turn it into the main dish.
Roasted Sweet Peppers stuffed with Goat Cheese:
- Boiling the peppers whole until they are pliable makes for an easier stuffing process, and cuts down on the roasting time.
- Use a sharp knife to cut around the top, then fill with goat cheese, shredded carrots, diced jalapeños and whatever else you may desire, including a tiny bit of lemon zest for a kick. We recommend pre-mixing the cheese and other stuffing ingredients to get the best consistency, and to make things easier on yourself. You can also add a little cream cheese for a richer filling, or a stringy cheese like queso Oaxaca or mozzarella.
- Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 450 degrees, until the skin of the peppers starts to get bubbly and brown.
While the peppers bake, make the balsamic reduction:
- Heat equal parts balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar in a small sauce pan, whisking constantly.
- Add a little bit of the water you used to boil the peppers in for an extra flavor kick. Keep whisking until reduction reaches desired thickness. Drizzle over roasted peppers and a bed of greens. Mmmm.
What do you stuff your peppers with? Tell us in the comments!