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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

 

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

baked eggs, leeks, tomato, habanada, crème fraîche, herbs

It was again Sunday breakfast with eggs, this time without the bacon, but with tomatoes (which usually make an appearance at this time) – and leeks, which were standing in for one or more of the smaller alliums which are usually a part of our weekend treat.

Because of other commitments, right now I’m in the midst of almost a week of evenings when I am unable to cook dinner. I hadn’t foreseen this when I was buying vegetables in the Greenmarket, which helps explain the inclusion of the leeks here.

  • three medium leeks from Norwich Meadows Farm, cooked with 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter inside a tin-lined heavy copper sauté pan until they were tender, approximately a third of a cup of chopped herbs added (thyme and rosemary from Eataly, peppermint from Lani’s Farm, flat-leaf parsley from Whole Foods, oregano from Lani’s Farm, and lovage from Two Guys from Woodbridge), transferred to a buttered glazed ceramic oven dish, the mixture spread evenly on the bottom, 6 eggs from Millport Dairy Farm cracked on top, 6 large Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods, each cut in 3 slices, scattered about, and dollops of Ronnybrook Farms crème fraîche, stirred with a little whole milk (double cream would have been more convenient, but I had none), dropped on the surfaces around the eggs and the tomatoes, the dish seasoned with good sea salt and freshly-ground Tellicherry pepper, set on a rack in the middle of an oven preheated to 400º, then served on 2 plates atop thick slices of a toasted ‘polenta boule’ from She Wolf Bakery [I sprinkled some micro bronze fennel from Two Guys from Woodbridge on the plated eggs after I had taken the picture at the top]
  • the music was Heinrich Schutz’s 1619, ‘Musikalische Exequien’, Sigiswald Kuijken conducting La Petite Bande