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beet fusilli, celery, scallion, habanada pepper, breadcrumbs

It had been a stressful day for both of us, beginning with a 5:15 am wake-up, but I still wanted to put some kind of homemade dinner on the table. What we got was some delicious comfort food that I quickly improvised 15 or so hours later.

    • eight ounces of boiled Sfolini Beet fusilli pasta, some of the cooking water reserved (note: this pasta only takes about 5 or 6 minutes to cook, and it goes to al dente with virtually no warning), drained and stirred into a large, heavy, vintage tin-lined copper pan in which about a tablespoon of olive oil had been heated before a handful of chopped young celery stalks from Phillips Farms and one chopped Japanese scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm had been tossed in and sautéed until all of the pieces had softened, after which one section of golden/orange dried habanada pepper, sea salt, and freshly -ground black pepper were added and stirred in, the pasta and vegetables stirred over a moderate flame along with some of the pasta water until the liquid was emulsified, the sauced pasta arranged in 2 low bowls, some olive oil drizzled around the edges, sprinkled with sprinkled with toasted home-made breadcrumbs, and scattered with chopped celery leaves
    • the wine was an Italian (Marche) white, Le Salse, Verdicchio di Matelica, 2015, from Flatiron Wines
    • the music was Haydn’s Symphony No. 60, ‘Il Distratto’, and No. 91, performed by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

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

 

prosciutto, arugula; pasta, alliums, habanada, micro kale

There was a somewhat meaty first course and a vegan main, although since the flavors were so rich,  Barry had to ask me whether meat had any part in the latter. It did not, so I think the suggestion of it came from the savoriness of the habanada pepper, the smokiness of the toasted pine nuts, and/or the earthiness of the micro kale finish.

The antipasto, or the appetizer course, was more southern Italian than the next one.

  • slices from a 2-ounce package of la Quercia ‘Prosciutto Americano’ from Chelsea Whole Foods Market arranged beside some leaves of arugula from Jersey Farm Produce Inc. in the Saturday 23rd Street farmers market, that had been drizzled with olive oil (Renieris Estate ‘Divina’ (Koroneiki varietal), Hania, Crete, from Whole Foods Market, seasoned with local Long Island sea salt from P.E. & D.D. Seafood and freshly-ground black pepper, then one sliced ripe medium red heirloom tomato, its one overripe section first severed from the rest and discarded, placed on top of the arugula, also drizzled with a little of the oil, sprinkled with scissored chives from Space at Ryder Farm, and seasoned with salt and pepper too [the rosemary cracker in the picture to the right of the arugula is an errant part of the accompaniment to our drinks before dinner]
  • slices of ‘Whole wheat Redeemer Bread’ (wheat, water, salt) from Lost Bread Co. (not in the picture)

The primi, or main, in this case, to the extent that it echoed Italy at all, was the more northern Italian of the two.

  • one sliced red spring onion from Norwich Meadows Farm and one chopped clove of ‘Chesnok Red’ garlic from Alewife Farm heated until both were fragrant in a couple tablespoons of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil inside a large antique copper pot, followed by one thinly sliced habanada pepper from Alewife Farm stirred in, and then, as soon as it had finished cooking to an al dente state, 9 ounces from a one-pound box of Sfoglini Einkorn Macaroni, together with a cup of the cooking water, tossed in, the heat under the pan pushed to high and the mix cooked, stirring, until the liquid had emulsified, arranged in shallow bowls with a little olive oil drizzled around the edges, garnished with some micro kale from Norwich Meadows Farm 

 

bauernwurst; tomato; garlic and habanada-roasted squash

The meal included elements of at least three different food traditions, but it wasn’t dominated by any one of them, so naturally we decided to serve a South African wine.

  • four links of Schaller & Weber‘s wonderful Bauernwurst, a coarse, smokey, very traditional German country style sausage, placed next to each other inside a medium Pyrex blue Flameware pot which was then filled with cold water, just enough to cover, heated over a medium-high flame until the water had reached a gentle simmer (by which time they were fully cooked), removed, drained, dried on a paper towel, and placed above a high flame inside a seasoned cast iron pan, after its surface had been brushed with a thin layer of olive oil, seared, turning frequently, until colored on all sides, arranged on the plates with dabs of a rich shallot, garlic, paprika and turmeric mustard from Hudson Valley Charcuterie, and a second mustard, Löwensenf Hönig-Dill
  • one heirloom tomato from Race Farm, halved horizontally, seasoned with local sea salt from P.E. & D.D. Seafood and freshly ground black pepper, softened on both sides in a little olive oil inside a small copper skillet, arranged on the plates on a bed of olive oil-drizzled baby arugula from Campo Rosso Farm, the  tomatoes sprinkled with a bit of chopped chive garlic seed from Space on Ryder Farm, themselves drizzled with a touch more oil