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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

 

pasta, alliums, lemon, chilis, habanada, smoked swordfish

Pasta has a wonderful affinity for any smoked food, whether meat, fish, or vegetable, and this recipe, in which I had incorporated smoked monkfish the first time I worked with it, is an excellent exemplar.

  • one small pink onion (“I like to call them rosé onions”, Tyler, who grew them, told me) from Alewife Farm, thinly-sliced, and half a dozen sliced small red scallions from Hawthorne Valley Farm, sautéed together in 4 ounces of olive oil inside a large, high-sided tin-lined copper pan for 4 minutes, the juice of one and a half organic lemons from Whole Foods Market then added and the pan kept over a decent flame for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring, the heat then reduced to low and a pinch of sea salt, some very good red pepper flakes (remaining from the delivery of an excellent Waldy’s Wood Fired Pizza a few days earlier), plus 4 or 5 chopped fresh medium-size habanada peppers from Norwich Meadows Farm stirred into the sauce until both the hot and sweet peppers had become pungent, 8 ounces of Afeltra Pasta di Gragnano linguine from Eataly which had been just cooked until barely al dente, added, along with – pouring very gradually while blending – almost a cup of reserved pasta water, continuing to stir until it had emulsified, one thinly-sliced 2 or 4-ounce piece of smoked swordfish from P.E & D.D. Seafood added and tossed with the sauced linguine, the dish transferred to low serving bowls, drizzled with a little olive oil around the edges, sprinkled with lemon zest and more red pepper flakes, and garnished with homemade toasted breadcrumbs

There was a small cheese course, but, for no reason in particular, I didn’t photograph it.

  • an Ardith Mae fresh chevre, served with freshly-ground black pepper, crushed pink peppercorns, micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge on the side, and lightly-toasted slices of a She Wolf Bakery sourdough baguette and an Orwashers sourdough with Moroccan olives

 

monkfish inguazato; roasted romanesco with habanada

Say it fast: ‘coda di rospo inguazato con broccoli romanesco‘.

We had returned from  a month in Berlin only 4 days earlier, where ‘monkfish’ is called Seeteufel [‘sea devil’], a response to its appearance when hauled from the sea. I’ve been enjoying using German names to describe food normally not specific to German cookery, but I wasn’t tempted this time, especially if I was also going to include the name of the vegetable that accompanied this wonderful dish.

And while both the German and the Italian names (the latter translates as ‘tail of a toad’) describe the fish itself better than the English, ‘monkfish’, none of them comes close to describing the taste of its flesh, its’ tail’, which is so much more pleasant than its scary mug.

  • two 9-ounce monkfish tails from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, prepared using a David Pasternak recipe which includes M’hamsa Couscous from Tunisia (purchased at Whole Foods), olive oil, sliced garlic John D. Madura Farm, two 400-gram cans of really superb Mutti baby Roma tomatoes from Eataly (which are also available at Whole Foods), and cracked Sicilian green olives from Whole Foods, and 2 whole dried Sicilian pepperoncino from Buon Italia

roasted striped bass; micro radish; pole beans, habanada

It was the first meal that I had actually cooked in over a month. Because of a little sleep deprivation and the inevitable jet lag which followed on our two flights from Berlin (a total of 12 hours), I didn’t want to be too ambitious, but I did want it to be a proper welcome back.

Also, it was my first visit to the Union Square Greenmarket since early October, and it was a Saturday, even under normal circumstances the most bountiful market day of the week. It was mid-November, but the stalls were overflowing with vegetables and virtually every other fresh summer or fall comestible: I felt like a kid in a candy store!

I had never seen such a variety of seafood available at one Union Square fish stand! Eventually I realized that much of the explanation lay in the fact that I’m never there as early as I was yesterday morning (I lay that entirely on the 6-hour time change  in my sleeping schedule).

I bought a single one-pound section of a striped bass fillet from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, and since I was restocking  the larder after a hiatus in the kitchen, a lot of other things, including these yellow broad pole beans from Norwich Meadows Farm.