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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

 

squid roasted with dried oregano, chili, habanada; pak choy

I always find it a treat to return to a squid dinner, both for the fun of the preparation and the enjoyment of the meal. This time we were also able to enjoy one of the most luscious greens ever, and here I have to pinch myself, because it really is the middle of winter.

  • a large rectangular enameled cast iron pan heated on top of the stove until hot, its cooking surface brushed with olive oil, and once the oil was also quite hot, one pound of rinsed and carefully dried one pound of cleaned squid, including many tentacles, from Pure Vida Seafood, quickly arranged inside and immediately sprinkled with a heaping teaspoon of super-pungent dried Sicilian oregano from Buon Italia, most of one crushed dried Sicilian pepperoncino, also from Buon Italia, and one piece of dried orang/gold habanada pepper, crushed, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, followed by a drizzle of 3 tablespoons of organic juice from a Whole Foods lemon, and some olive oil, the pan placed inside a pre-heated 400º oven and roasted for only 5 minutes or a bit more, removed, the squid distributed onto 2 plates, ladled with a bit of their cooking juices, which had been transferred into a sauce pitcher
  • pak choy (also called bok choy) from Norwich Meadows Farm, washed, sliced lengthwise, wilted in olive oil along with 2 Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm which had already been browned very lightly in the oil, the greens seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper and drizzled with a little more olive oil
  • the wine was an Italian (Campania) white, Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo 2015, from Garnet Wines & Liquors
  • the music was Mozart’s ‘Die Entführung aus dem Serail’, with John Eliot Gardiner conducting the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir

eggs, habanada, scallion, chervil, tomato, bacon, toast

I was trying to find something novel about this fast breaker, so I was going to mention the chervil, or actually, micro chervil, but it seems this wasn’t the first time I had included it with eggs.

So there is no novelty, but the whole thing was delicious, because how can you go wrong with bacon and eggs, even if you add a few fussy things to the combination.

The eggs themselves weren’t a novelty, but they were incredibly delicious. I credit the Americauna chickens, and the Amish farmer(s) who got them to New York as fast as they could.

  • on or near the plate above there were small blue-shell Americauna chicken eggs and thick bacon from Millport Dairy Farm, Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods Market, most of the chopped green section of a Japanese scallion from Norwich Meadows Farm, crushed dried orange/gold habanada pepper from Norwich Meadows Farm, Maldon salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a pinch of nearly-dried chopped winter savory from Stokes Farm, micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge, toasts from both a loaf of ‘8 grain 3 seed’ bread from Rock Hill Bakery and a She Wolf Bakery sourdough bâtard, and rich Organic Valley ‘Cultured Pasture Butter’
  • the music was the album, ‘In Excelsis Deo’, described as “Church music, court music and the historical memory of folk songs, 1702-1714”, including works by the Catalan composer Francesc Valls (1671-1747) and Messe à deux chœurs et deux orchestres by the French composer Henry Desmarest (1661-1741), plus “Music from the Time of the Wars between Spain and Catalonia”, all performances by La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concerts des Nations, Jordi Savall conducting

mushroom ravioli, habanada, gaeta olives, pinoli, parmesan

On Friday I was down with a bad cold, or something like that, so I wasn’t up to a trip to the Greenmarket, and I also didn’t trust my ability to put together a meal from scratch, so I reached into the freezer where I can usually find a good filled pasta that would do very well in such a pinch, then looked around for some sympathetic additions I might assemble with it.

It was a pretty ordinary meal, and similar to many I’ve already included on this blog; I wouldn’t normally have bothered to enter it here, except that I saw it looks pretty interesting in the picture.

  • 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 orange/gold habanada pepper, joined by 8 or so pitted Gaeta olives olives from Buon Italia and a handful of pine nuts, also from Buon Italia, slowly heated and browned earlier inside a small well-seasoned cast iron pan, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper then added just before a 10-ounce package of frozen Rana portobello-mushroom-and-ricotta-filled ravioli rounds from Eataly that had just been boiled inside a large pot of well-salted water for 2 minutes and drained was slipped into the copper pan and mixed well with the sauce, everything now stirred together over a low flame, along with some of the reserved pasta water (in order to emulsify the liquid), the mix arranged inside 2 shallow bowls, some olive oil drizzled on top and around the edges, finished with freshly-grated cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano Hombre from Whole Foods Market) and a scattering of micro kohlrabi from Two Guys from Woodbridge

There was a cheese course.

  • a maturing Ardith Mae Chevre
  • a couple pinches of crushed dried wild Italian myrtle [Mirto/Myrtus], berries and leaves, from Buon Italia (in Italy, sometimes used as an alternative to juniper berries, in pork dishes especially – including wild boar, or, in Sardinia and Corsica, in making a liqueur)
  • a bit of micro red amaranth from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • thin toasts of a She Wolf Bakery polenta boule