notes from maggie's farm
survival of the fittest
as you may have heard, texas is burning. we have the dubious distinction of now setting a record for the hottest summer, in any state, any time in history. we've had a break in the heat this week, if only to have that break, and it's breeziness, feed wildfires across the state that have displaced some 1500 families, in our region, alone. the sun is blazing, the earth is parched, the grass is crisp and brown, the animals are hungry, the plants are thirsty. there's no way to supplementally water all that requires it, and our crops have been nothing less than pathetic. pretty close to nil, in fact. nil, that is, except for the peppers.
a member of my oklahoma family once asked me why i used peppers in so many of my dishes. 'natural selection', i replied. survival of the fittest! that's what texas peppers, much like texas people, are--survival of the fittest. sweet, mild, smoky, hot, you name it, we've got it. and the peppers, too! with prayer and persistence, we texans, like those peppers, will pull up our bootstraps and make it, albeit grumbling goodnaturedly, through this rough patch. we will set aside political, ideological and sociological differences and support those around us who find themselves in need. we will come to the aid of our neighbors. that's what texans do.
i moved here 14 years ago last month, and i, like so many of you non-texans, thought texans were rather full of themselves. all this 'everything's bigger in texas' stuff. i honestly thought the only thing bigger was their ten-gallon hat-sized collective ego. weren't they just so proud of their state? whew. and then, as i explored the nooks and crannies of austin, the people and places off the beaten paths, the truly maverick spirit of the lone star state, a crazy thing happened. texas won me over. never, ever thought i'd say this during those first few days of homesickness (where do y'all keep the andouille?) , but now, i'm happy to report-- i'm so proud to be a texan. like a popular bumper sticker that you'll find all over the state reads,
i wasn't born a texan, but i got here as fast as i could.
and i can even find andouille now!
we're making andouille hoagies today. just calling them hoagies (they're poboys to me; just being in a sandwich loaf makes them so.) is a nod to another member of our household, (you know, the yankee). it's a real melting pot, here. and we'll be dressing our andouille hoagie with this magical mixture,
balsamic roasted rosemary sweet peppers
i've got a few shortcuts for roasting peppers that really eases the process. first thing, i cut them in half. no need turning them midway. second thing, i leave the cores just as they are. it's so much easier to just pull the core and seeds away after you roast them. saves scads of time. so cut your sweet peppers, i've got five here, in half, and place them cut side down in a baking pan. drizzle very lightly with a touch of oil.
set oven to broil and place a rack as close to heat source as allowed. broil peppers, with the oven door ajar, until they are charred, as above. stay close--depending on your oven, this could take as little as a few minutes, to the 20 minutes mine required.
remove from oven and place in a heavy plastic bag. seal the bag and allow peppers to sweat for ten minutes. this will facilitate easy removal of the skin, without using water, which washes away much of the sweet smoky goodness you're after.
removes the peppers from the plastic bag, and peel and core the results. as you see above, a little char left won't hurt a thing, in fact i rather like it. perfection is not the goal here. approximation is.
slice peppers and dress them with 1 tsp crushed rosemary, (more, if you like. i do!) kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper, and 2 parts good quality balsamic vinegar to 1 part olive oil. (i know you've heard extra-virgin until you're blue in the face. i know i have. but actually, the rustic flavor of it's cheaper cousin, pure olive oil, is really, really good, here.) you know, these peppers and a little rustic bread would make a fabulous peasants' lunch. cause peasants know how to eat right! but we're getting a little fancy with our hoagies this weekend:
our hoagie is composed of
- one roasted link of andouille sausage. you may choose to grill or fry, but the oven was on, and it's so less messy (now you can use brats, or smoked sausage if you like. it won't be the same, but it won't be bad at all)
- whole wheat hoagie, submarine, or sandwich roll, whatever they might call such a thing in your world, toasted.
- garlic aioli, either purchased or homemade. we used this recipe: emeril's garlic aioli however you can also elect to simply trick up some regular mayo, like this. we'll never tell.
- sauteed onions (always saute twice what you think you'll need. you'll likely eat them all, and if you don't, pop them in the freezer for next time. any next time.) and a few banana pepper rings (if you're a certain yankee, this is a must).
and now it's just a matter of assembly. in the toasted roll, spread aioli, sauteed onions, topped with your sausage link, and that lovely, sweet, smoky magical mixture, your balsamic roasted rosemary sweet peppers. and then.......
game's on, friend.
of course, pepper rings are optional, (unless you're a, you know, certain yankee).
here's to a great weekend!