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the habanada pepper: fresh, and dried two ways

I’ve used and written about these peppers so often, both fresh, as seen above, when they were available last summer, and now home-dried, that I decided I had to do a special post about them alone, if only to have something to link to.

The Habanada is a highbred pepper which was developed only recently; I think it it’s a very special one.

This paragraph, from a page on the Cornel University Small Farms Program site, is an introduction to their origin story, which, like most such stories, includes a hero:

Habanada is a brand new pepper, the first truly heatless habanero (hence the haba-nada) bursting with all the bright, tropical flavor of the fruit unmasked. Many attempts have been made over the years but none have achieved the fullness of flavor with absolutely zero heat. Their crisp, thin skin has an exotic, floral flavor like no pepper I have ever tasted. From cast-away seed to a signature show-stopper variety, Michael Mazourek has brought this pepper a long way in just thirteen generations.

I’ve encountered Habanadas only at Norwich Meadows Farm, in the Union Square Greenmarket.

When dried, which I did myself in order to extend their season through the winter and spring, at the suggestion of Haifa Kurdieh, who runs the farm with her husband Zaid, they look like this:

I retrieved the darker, very serious looking mahogany-colored batch from the oven just in time; they have more than a hint of smokiness (and, oddly something like an anise scent), in addition to the elements they retain from the original Habanero. The golden orange ones, which were my second try, are somehow both more gentle and more powerfully aromatic; they’re quite perfect, in every way.

This is a close-up of the dried golden orange, just after they came out of the oven:

All three versions have been wonderful additions to many parts of many meals over the last 6 or 8 months. I miss the fresh peppers, but I’ve been using both the darker and the lighter versions more than frequently ever since I dried them last fall, as a quick search will show. They work with everything, meat, fish, eggs, pasta, vegetables. The only difficulty they present, I might confess, is controlling my addiction (and deciding which of the 2 to use in any particular application).

rye trumpets, ramps, habanada, pepperoncino, parmesan

It was almost a night off, since, although there were 2 courses, this meal was very easy to throw together.

  • most of the bulb sections, including stems, of a bunch of ramps from Berried Treasures, heated with a little olive oil inside a heavy, high-sided, tin-lined copper pan with a bit of crushed dried dark habanada pepper and about the same amount of a crushed dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia until the alliums had softened and begun to give pff an aroma, mixed with half a pound of Sfoglini rye blend ‘trumpets which had been cooked seriously al dente, the roughly chopped ramp leaves now added and everything (including some of the reserved pasta water) tossed and stirred over a low-to-moderate flame for a couple of minutes to blend the flavors and the ingredients, served with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Vache Rosse from Eataly

There was a antipasto, served immediately before the trumpets.

  • three ounces of an incredibly delicious salumi, La Quercia Ridgetop Prosciutto, from Whole Foods, drizzled with a very small amount of Alce Nero DOP ‘Terra di Bari Bitonto from Eataly
  • baby arugula from Lani’s Farm, also drizzled with the oil
  • slices of Bien Cuit rye and sunflower bread from Foragers Market

 

spinach ravioli, garlic, habanada, tomato, pinoli, lovage

If I’m rushed enough to decide it’s time for a quick prepared fresh pasta, and too rushed to think about what to do with it, I often give myself a break and look on this site for inspiration, and sometimes for a complete model.

On Thursday that’s exactly what I did. Some 9 months after enjoying the original (or maybe just something repeating the original), the results were very good, and the dish didn’t even seem familiar.

  • two chopped garlic cloves from Norwich Meadows Farm heated inside a large tin-lined high-sided copper pan in a little olive oil until pungent, most of one orange dried Habanada pepper, crushed, added to the pan and stirred over medium heat for a minute, a large handful of cherry tomatoes from Stokes Farm, halved, and some chopped lovage from Central Valley Farm introduced, followed by a generous amount of pine nuts (pinoli) from Whole Foods Market that had been toasted earlier in a cast iron pan, and finally a 10-ounce package of cooked and drained Rana spinaci e ricotta [spinach and ricotta] ravioli from Eataly was spilled into the pan, as was some of the reserved pasta cooking water, carefully mixed with the sauce over medium heat to emulsify it, the pasta finished in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, and a scattering of garlic flowers from Windfall Farms
  • the wine was an Italian (Campania) white, Cantina di Lisandro Alabranno Fiano 2015, from Chelsea Wine Vault
  • the music was the album, ‘Wassenaer Attr Pergolesi: Concerti Armonici‘, orchestral pieces composed in 1740, Karl Münchinger conducting the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra

cacio e pepe, habanada, 2 foraged greens, tomato, cheese

I love the small challenge of building a meal around pasta, and it’s particularly easy when I can start with a filled pasta from a good local source.

Regional specialties, new inventions, or just out-of-the-ordinary ones are always good.

mushroom pasta, wild garlic, pepper, olives, lovage, cilantro

Dinner for two, assembled quickly last night (May 4) after a long day at an art fair.

  • between one and two tablespoons of olive oil heated slowly inside a large high-sided tin-lined heavy copper pan with a crushed piece of dark habanada pepper, and a handful of wild garlic bulbs from Lani’s Farm, the garlic not allowed to cook fully, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, joined by half a dozen or so halved Kalamata olives olives from Whole Foods Market and a handful of pine nuts which had been slowly heated and browned earlier inside a small well-seasoned cast iron pan, a 10-ounce package of frozen Rana portobello-mushroom-and-ricotta-filled ravioli from Eataly, boiled inside a large pot of well-salted water for 2 minutes and drained, slipped into the copper pan and mixed well with the sauce, everything stirred together over a low flame, along with some of the reserved pasta water (in order to emulsify the liquid), mixed with chopped lovage from Windfall Farms, the pasta then arranged inside 2 shallow bowls, some olive oil drizzled on top and around the edges, the dish finished with a little micro coriander from Windfall Farms
  • the wine was a California (Amador) red, made with the Portuguese Touriga grape, Ana Diogo-Draper Amador Touriga 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Franz Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2, Semyon Bychkov conducting the Vienna Philharmonic