Saturday, July 13, 2024


One-day's picking: frying peppers.

Green peppers to spare! Enough for gazpacho (only needs a small piece), for pipirrana chopped salad (maybe a couple of peppers), for stuffing (two or three per person). I’m picking a small basket of them every day or two, so it’s time to try some other favorite recipes.

We only planted one variety of pepper—Italian frying peppers. No bell peppers, no chiles. In Spain this pepper is an all-purpose variety, used for everything.

It’s a long, slim pepper, sometimes kinky; thin skinned, with crisp flesh, a bittersweet taste. Raw, frying peppers are chopped into salads such as pipirrana. They are the best pepper for sofrito, the sautéed mix of onion, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes that is the starting point for so many dishes in Spanish cooking, from paella to stew. Oh, yes, they are also used for frying.

The peppers are not fried crisp, but cooked in oil until they are completely tender, only lightly browned. Serve them hot or room temperature as a tapa, with bread to accompany. Use them as a side with grilled meat or fish. Heap them on a burger or make a serranito, a classic sandwich of pork loin, serrano ham, fried peppers, and alioli (garlic mayo). 

Fried peppers, tapa bar-style.

Classic serranito sandwich--fried peppers, pork loin, cured ham, and alioli.

Fried Green Peppers
Pimientos Fritos

Fry peppers in one layer.

You only need about ½ inch of oil in a large skillet. Heat the oil very hot, then reduce the heat. Place the peppers in a single layer in the skillet. If hot oil tends to splatter as peppers release their water, partially cover the pan. Fry the peppers until they are limp and the skins wrinkled and very lightly browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Repeat with additional batches. The peppers can be served hot, room temperature or cold. They can be packed in sealed bags and frozen.

To eat the peppers, tapa bar-style, hold a pepper by the stem and lower it into your mouth. Bite off the pepper; discard the stem and seeds. 

12 peppers
Olive oil for frying
Flaky salt

Wash and dry the peppers. Leave them whole, but cut a slit in their tips. Heat oil to a depth of ½ inch in a large skillet. Place peppers in the oil in a single layer and lower the heat to medium. If hot oil splatters, partially cover the pan. Fry the peppers slowly until wrinkly and beginning to brown, then turn them and fry the reverse side. Fry the peppers until completely limp, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Continue frying remaining peppers. Sprinkle them while hot with salt.

Serranito Sandwich
Bocata de Serranito

Fried green peppers add a special touch to this sandwich with pork loin and ham. Sliced tomato is optional. 

Use a crusty sandwich roll (bollo) or a section of baguette for the serranito. Split it open and toast the halves in a toaster or on a plancha. Spread with alioli (garlic mayonnaise), plain mayo or olive oil with crushed garlic. 

Remove stem and seeds from the fried peppers before adding to the sandwich. If desired, the peppers can be skinned as well. 

Makes 1 sandwich

1-2 thin slices boneless pork loin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
Crusty sandwich roll (bollo), toasted
Alioli or mayonnaise
2-3 fried green peppers
Thinly sliced serrano or ibérico ham
Slices tomato (optional)

Alioli or mayo from a squeeze bottle on toasted roll.
Sprinkle the sliced pork loin with salt and pepper. Cook them quickly on a lightly oiled plancha or skillet until lightly browned. Remove.

Split the sandwich roll in half. Spread with alioli or mayonnaise. Put the pork loin slices on the bottom half. Remove stems and seeds from the peppers and heap them on top of the pork. Add sliced ham and tomato, if using. Cover with the other half of the roll. Place the sandwich on a cutting board and slice it in half.

More peppers to come!

More ways to use green peppers:

Piperade (Piparrada). (Make the piperade with all green frying peppers)

Saturday, July 6, 2024



Individually sized, about 8 ounces each.

The little garden just keeps coming. Now it’s eggplant. My go-to dish for using eggplant is pisto, a summer vegetable stew (recipe for pisto is here ). But these eggplants are so perfectly sized, I can’t resist stuffing them. 

This stuffing is with meat, which could be ground beef, pork, lamb, chicken or a combination of any of them. For a vegetarian version, substitute well-drained cooked lentils for the ground meat.  

Pre-cook the eggplant shells in the microwave. Finish the stuffed shells under the broiler.

Serve the stuffed eggplants hot, room temperature or chilled.

Stuffed Eggplants
Berenjenas Rellenas

You can cook the eggplants in a microwave (about 4 minutes) or bake them in a 350ºF oven until soft, about 30 minutes. That can be done in advance. You need a simple béchamel sauce to nap the eggplants. That, too, can be made in advance. Once stuffed and ready, the eggplants need only 5 to 10 minutes under the broiler to gratin the tops. 

Use any ground meat--beef, pork, lamb, chicken or a combination of two of them. The grated zucchini is optional; it helps keep the stuffing mixture moist (and uses up a surplus of garden zucchini).

Score the eggplant and microwave.
Serves 8 as a starter or 4 as a main dish.

4 eggplants, each about 8 ounces
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 pound ground meat
½ cup grated zucchini (optional)
¼ cup white wine
1 cup grated tomato pulp (2 medium tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Béchamel sauce (recipe follows)
Thinly sliced tomato
½ cup grated cheese
Basil sprigs to garnish

Remove the calyx (spiny leaves) from the eggplants, leaving the stem. Cut them in half lengthwise, cutting through the stem. Place them cut-side down on a plate and cover them with plastic wrap. Microwave on High for 4 minutes. Leave the eggplants in the microwave a few minutes more. They should be soft when tested with a skewer. Remove and let them drain cut-side down in a colander. Repeat with remaining eggplants

Scoop out flesh with a spoon.

When eggplants are cool enough to handle, use a spoon or melon ball cutter to scoop out the flesh, leaving a shell. Chop the flesh and set aside. Leave the shells in a colander to drain.

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions and garlics until softened. Add the ground meat and fry until it loses its pink color. Add the grated zucchini, if using, and the chopped eggplant. Cook 2 minutes. Add the wine and tomato pulp. Season with salt, pepper, and chopped basil. Cook 20 minutes until all the liquid is cooked away. Stir in the parsley.

Spread béchamel over stuffing, top with cheese.
Place the eggplant shells in a single layer on a lightly oiled sheet pan. Spoon the meat filling into the shells and press it down firmly. Spread a layer of béchamel sauce on top of the eggplants. Press a tomato slice into each of them. Cover the eggplants with grated cheese.

Preheat broiler (gratin/grill) to 450ºF.

Place the eggplants under the broiler until the béchamel is bubbly and cheese lightly browned. Serve hot or room temperature. Garnish the eggplant with sprigs of basil.

Olive Oil Béchamel Sauce 
Salsa Bechamel

Use this easy sauce to nap the stuffed eggplants or any food that you intend to gratin. 

The sauce can be made in advance of the stuffed eggplants. Cover the surface of the sauce with plastic film so it doesn’t form a crust. If necessary, heat it 30 seconds in a microwave to loosen the sauce enough to spread easily.

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook it, stirring, on low for 2 minutes. Stir in the pimentón. Whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened, 5 minutes. Season with salt. 

More ways to stuff an eggplant:

Saturday, June 29, 2024


My small, fenced-in huerta (vegetable garden) continues to delight, this week with more green beans than we can possibly consume in a couple of days. Freezer bags at the ready! And some favorite recipes.

This one, for beans and potatoes, is quick to prepare. With sliced chorizo added, it is like Potatoes a la Riojana. Without the chorizo it’s a terrific summer vegetarian dish (add smoked sweet pimentón).

One-day's picking. Some will be blanched and frozen. 

I love this variety of pole bean (Helda) that makes a large, flat, stringless pod. The beans somewhat resemble “Romano” or “Italian” variety of beans found in America markets but maybe have a crisper texture and sweet taste. 

To cook the beans: Snap or cut off the stem ends and tails, too, if you prefer. Cut the beans if desired. Bring salted water to a boil, add the beans. Cook the beans 3 minutes for crisp-tender, 5 minutes for very tender. Drain and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking and fix the green color. 

Blanch the beans and add them to the pan once the potatoes are tender. Use the bean cooking water to cook the potatoes.

Green Beans and Potatoes, Rioja Style
Judías Verdes con Patatas a la Riojana

Serves 4

12 ounces green beans
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ pounds potatoes
1 cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon hot smoked pimentón
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups bean cooking liquid or water
4 ounces chorizo, sliced (optional)

Cut the beans into 3-inch pieces. Cook them in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the beans, saving the cooking water.  Cover the beans with cold water.

Heat the oil in a cazuela or skillet and sauté the onions until softened. Peel the potatoes and cut-snap them into 1 ¼-inch pieces. Add the potatoes, green and red peppers to the pan with the onions and fry until the potatoes just start to brown. 

Stir in the cumin, pimentón, and salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, 10 minutes. Add the chorizo and cook 5 minutes.

Drain the beans and add them to the pan with the potatoes. Heat thoroughly and serve.

More bean recipes: