Monthly Archives: August 2010

Hot, hot, hot: garlic habañero hot sauce

The market has been full of beautiful peppers. The usual bell peppers in red, orange, yellow and green, jalapeños, Hungarian wax, Trinidadian perfume, poblanos, and fiery habañeros.

They are bright and inviting, but to be honest, I hardly know what to do with most of them. Oh, I use bell peppers in all sorts of ways, and I throw jalapeños and serranos into salsas and guacamoles, and I use the occasional Thai bird chile in a stir fry (and I’ve even gotten reasonably adept at what to do with the dried varieties, but that’s another story). But there is a vast world of chiles and peppers I’ve never cooked with. I’ve optimistically brought home baskets of them only to find shriveled specimens lying sadly in the bottom of the refrigerator a few weeks later.

But this year I was determined to expand my pepper universe, at least a little.

And when I came across Melissa Clark’s recipe for a hot sauce based on Sriracha, I knew I had to give a go. I returned from the farmers market armed with habañeros and red bell peppers and a bulb of New York white garlic and went to work.

It was surprisingly easy (I don’t know why I imagined it would be difficult…). After about ten minutes of chopping and ten minutes of cooking (and several days of resting) I had two lovely little jars of fiery orange-red sauce.

This stuff packs a wallop. It is, to my tastebuds at least, significantly hotter than Sriracha. But it is also brighter and more complex.

Next time, I might leave out the habañero seeds for something a little tamer. But heat fiends will love it as is. And since it keeps for a long long time in the refrigerator, I can enjoy it in small quantities without worrying that it will go to waste.

Garlic Habañero Hot Sauce

Source: adapted from Melissa Clark in The New York Times

It is a good idea to use a pair of latex gloves when handling peppers this hot, and avoid inhaling the fumes when the peppers are cooking. This hot sauce is spicier than the Sriracha that inspired it, so use start small when adding it to a dish–you can always add more later. Those looking for a slightly tamer hot sauce should remove the seeds and white parts of the habañeros before adding them to the sauce pan.

4 habañeros
2 medium red bell peppers
5 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

special equipment: latex gloves

Roughly chop the bell peppers and garlic. Wearing latex gloves, chop the habañeros. Remove the seeds for a moderately hot sauce, leave them in if you like things extra hot.

In a medium nonreactive sauce pan with a lid, add the peppers, garlic, and white vinegar. Bring to a boil (take care not to inhale the fumes), turn heat down to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes or until peppers are pierced easily with a knife.

Remove from heat, stir in salt, and puree with an immersion blender (or in a standard blender). Pour into two 8-ounce jars or one 16-ounce jar. Allow to cool before covering. Chill in the refrigerator for a week before using.

Keeps for months in the refrigerator.
Yield: about 2 cups.

By the scoopful: peach jasmine sorbet

It’s been a hot summer in Chicago. This July and August we’ve watched the mercury climb into the nineties more days than I care to count. Too many. I’m not a hot weather kind of girl, give me seventies and a light breeze along the lake, and I’ll take eighties with a cool drink, but nineties, uggh, nineties make me cranky.

It’s been a summer for sunscreen, for trailing my hands through neighbors’ sprinklers as they sway toward the sidewalk. It’s been a summer for open-toed shoes and sleeveless tops and sitting in the shade. But more importantly, it’s been a summer for sorbet.

We’ve been filling our bowls with bright jewel-toned orbs of the stuff: sour cherry lambic, almond, blackberry. Sorbet somehow always feels more refreshing than ice cream, the flavors more intense without the muting effects of milk fat, the bracing iciness just the thing for these hot summer days.

And when I see the bounty of summer fruits weighing down the tables at the farmers markets and have no desire to turn on the oven for, say, pie, I will happily bring home pints of whatever looks extra lovely to peel, slice, puree with sugar syrup, churn, and freeze.

One of our favorites of late has been a sorbet of Michigan peaches enlivened with a splash of jasmine liqueur from Koval Distillery, a great little boutique distillery that’s practically in our neighborhood. There’s something enchanting about the hint of floral jasmine combined with the succulent sweetness of peach that makes this sorbet sing. The alcohol also helps to give this sorbet an excellent texture.

I can’t get enough peaches when they’re in season, and the peaches at the market this summer have been gorgeous.

This puts those beauties to good use. And provides a little relief from the heat.

Peach Jasmine Sorbet

Source: Loosely adapted from Jeni Britton in Food & Wine and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop

The alcohol helps to keep this sorbet scoopable. If you live in an area where Koval liqueurs are available, do seek them out, if not, substitute another liqueur such as St. Germain, which is similar in alcohol content, or substitute half the amount of a liquor such as bourbon. If you prefer not to use corn syrup, you may substitute sugar, but be advised that liquid sweeteners such as corn syrup or glucose improve the texture. Do use ripe sweet peaches if possible (save underripe hard ones, which are lower in sugar but higher in pectin, for jam). The ones I used for this last one were bruised and overripe, which was an advantage here.

2 pounds of ripe peaches (about 6 or 7)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup or glucose (or equal amount of sugar)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Koval Jasmine Liqueur (or St. Germain, or 2 tablespoons bourbon)

Combine the sugar, corn syrup or glucose, and water in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

Blanch the peaches in a large pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes, drain and run under cold water. Peel the peaches–the skin should slip off fairly easily. Remove the pits, and dice the peaches.

Puree the peaches with the sugar syrup in a blender (or use an immersion blender in a high sided container) until smooth. Stir in the jasmine liqueur.

Chill the mixture in a refrigerator overnight. Then churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in the freezer for several hours before eating.

Yield: About one quart.

Stay Curious: a new to me fruit, the ground cherry

Don’t they look lovely? A little bit exotic?

I know I’ve seen them before, sitting in baskets at the farmers market, pale and papery, like tiny tomatillos or ornamental lanterns. I knew they were commonly called ground cherries, and they always seemed intriguing, but somehow, until this morning I had never eaten one.

I was missing out. These little morsels come wrapped like a present. Pull away the paper, and find a delicate round yellow berry with a beguiling flavor.

Sweet and delicate, they taste, well, they taste round, almost nutty, with a flutter of pineapple-strawberry, and maybe a hint of something floral. When you bite into them, they burst with acidity like a cherry tomato.

The man at the Green Acres Farm stand said that most people find them delightful. And in this case, I agree with most people. He sold them as husk cherries, saying that ground cherries just sounded wrong.

Their scientific name is Physalis pruinosa, and they are relatives of tomatoes and tomatillos and cape gooseberries (which aren’t really gooseberries at all).

If, like me, you are behind the times on these, do seek them out.

The bag on my counter won’t last long.