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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

 

wild mushroom-braised chicken; sautéed peppers, savory

So it was just chicken, but it seemed to me it would be a very good chicken. I also had the help of some wonderful foraged mushrooms.

It was very good chicken.

And there was excellent wine.

I had bought the wild mushrooms at the Union Square Greenmarket. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use them that night, but I hadn’t thought about what I would cook them with the next day until after I had left the square and was approaching 23rd Street. I realized I didn’t have anything suitable at home, but I was already some distance from the farmers’ market, so I checked out my local Flatiron district Eataly, where I found they had product, new to me, that it seemed a perfect candidate.

The peppers were also pretty special.

  • two partially-boned Cascun Farm chicken thighs (a total of one pound) from Eataly, browned on both sides inside a heavy oval cast iron enameled pot (one with a secure cover) just large enough for the chicken in some olive oil, removed and set aside, a little butter added and melted, 3 whole Rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm; one small red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm, halved and broken up a bit; and some crushed dried dark habanada pepper added to the pot and heated over a moderate flame until the alliums had softened and colored, then nearly 4 ounces of foraged Wine-cap mushrooms [Stropharia rugosoannulata] from Windfall Farms, roughly chopped, tossed in, stirred, and allowed to soften, the chicken returned to the pot, about 1/4 cup of a proper white wine added (Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, which we have been enjoying as an aperitif) and brought to a boil, the heat lowered to a steady simmer, the pot covered and the chicken and the other ingredients cooked until all were tender, or about 40 minutes, served on a crusty slice of ’12 Grain & Seed Bread’ (organic wheat and whole wheat with 12 cracked grains and seeds) from Bread Alone, the chicken garnished with chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm [the recipe which inspired this, from ‘Chicken Parts, 12 Ways‘, one suggests spreading the softened garlic onto the bread before placing the chicken and the rest of the sauce on top, but I forgot]
  • some ‘Mars’ (sweet, citrusy) French heirloom peppers from Campo Rosso Farm, cut once lengthwise, the seeds and membranes removed, sautéed over a high flame until slightly caramelized, one sliced Japanese scallion, a chopped section from a small Calabrian medium hot cherry pepper from Alewife Farm, and a pinch of crushed dark dried habanada pepper added near the end, the mix tossed with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper and sprinkled with some chopped summer savory from Ryder Farm, served with a drizzle of olive oil
  • the wine was a terrific French (Chinon) red, Bernard Baudry ‘Les Grézeaux’ Chinon 2011, the gift of some wonderful friends
  • the music was Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s 1693 tragédie mise en musique, ‘Médée’, composed with a libretto by Corneille, in a performance by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants

flounder with sage, habanada, scallion; flat beans, savory

Brown butter.

The first appearance of brown butter, long ago, was probably the result of an accident, like so many wonderful things – of all kinds – that we enjoy and take for granted. Last night it was an accident again, a very local accident.

I’ve cooked flounder using the recipe I used yesterday more than once, but this time it came with a twist, a serendipity. The next time it appears it won’t be a fluke.

It started when I placed some butter inside an enameled pan above a low flame, intending only to melt it, but then I stepped away, and when I looked back it had started to color, somewhat alarmingly. Fortunately the pan itself was not black, but a light tan, so I could see what was happening and catch it just in time (the butter wasn’t black and had no burnt taste), so I decided I’d go with it.

The result was extraordinary, in both common meanings of the word.

  • six small flounder fillets (just under one pound together) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides, coated lightly with well-seasoned flour (I used North Country Farms Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour), then submerged in a shallow bowl containing a mixture of one pullet egg from Millport Dairy, a little whole milk, and a pinch of salt, allowed to stay submerged until the vegetable had been cooked and the remaining ingredients for the fish prepared, then removed from the bowl, placed inside a heavy enameled cast iron pan on top of 3 tablespoons of butter that had been melted and allowed to brown, several halved large fresh sage leaves from Phillips Farm, one section of a dried, crushed orange/golden dried habanada pepper from Norwich Meadows Farm, and one sliced ruddy scallion (the ‘Scarlet Scallion’, a Japanese heirloom) from Norwich Meadows Farm (including some of the green section), sautéed over a brisk flame until golden, about 2 1/2 minutes on the first side, 1 1/2 minutes on the second, sprinkled with some juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market, transferred onto warm plates, some chopped parsley from S. & S.O. Farm scattered on top
  • a good sized serving of yellow Romano beans from Norwich Meadows Farm, parboiled in salted water for a few minutes, drained, dried inside the same pot over a medium flame while shaking them, reheated, as the fish was being sautéd, in melted butter inside a heavy tin-lined copper pan, tossed with chopped summer savory from Ryder Farm, seasoned with salt and pepper [the beans had cooked longer than I normally would, but they were still delicious, and I remember that in Italy, unaccountably, vegetables are generally cooked much longer than I ever do]
  • the wine was a Spanish (Galicia, Rias Baixas) white, Campos de Celtas Albariño 2015, from Manley’s Wine & Spirits in the West Village

There was a dessert, a simple fruit serving.

  • Asian melon from Norwich Meadows Farm, a couple of blackberries from Locust Grove Orchards, and a pinch of turbinado sugar, for the crunch, and to sweeten the berries

 

mushroom ravioli, alliums, olive, peppers, pinoli, 2 fennels

To me, these meals in which I use fresh pasta, usually a filled form, always seem like they come pre-assembled, and yet they also offer huge opportunities for customization, working with both necessity and whim.

Last night the necessity was that I had very little time to put something together once I got back from Whole Foods Market where I’d picked up some staples, so I eliminated some of what I had expected to include in the dish. And yet there was also room for whim: Before I was done throwing the entrée together I ended up introducing several ingredients I fancied, although they hadn’t been a part of any plan.

The dish was earthy, fully redolent of the autumn which had not yet actually arrived.

  • Rana mushroom-filled ravioli from Eataly, quickly boiled, drained and transferred to a heavy broad tin-lined copper pan in which a small amount of sliced Japanese scallions from Norwich Meadows Farm, a tiny chopped section of a small Calabrian medium hot cherry pepper from Alewife Farm, a bit of a dried dark habanada pepper, and one small sliced shallot from Paffenroth Farms had been briefly sautéed (warmed, basically) in olive oil, after which some sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a dozen or so pitted Gaeta olives from Buon Italia, and some fennel buds were added, and, with a bit of pasta water, the liquids heated over a moderate flame and  emulsified, the contents of the pot placed in shallow bowls, finished with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts, and a scattering of micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • the wine was a California (Lodi) red, Jacqueline Bahue Cabernet Franc Lodi 2015, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Tchaikovsky’s ‘Manfred Symphony’, in a performance which is a part of the Tchaikovsky Project Vol. 2, Semyon Bychkov conducting the Czech Philharmonic