Saturday, 11 September 2010

Carrot & Chili Pepper Escabeche

by Kate
Living the Frugal Life

Because I've found myself making this easy dish again with late summer carrots and chili peppers, I'm re-running this earlier post from my personal blog.

The Chantenay carrots I grew this year are coming in well right now. They don't look normal, do they? Gardening has so many of these "real world" opportunities for discovery. Yet even if their tops are nibbled by rabbits, and they're not exactly supermarket models, these big fatties give me a whole lotta carrot to deal with. So I've been making escabeche with them, our recently harvested garlic, and some poblano chili peppers that are also ready in my garden about now. In my usual, rambling, inexact way, I present my methodology/recipe for this dish. The steps may sound a little complicated, but I find that I can hand wash a few dishes or attend to other things during the hands-off periods in the progress of the recipe.

Chili Pepper and Garden Fresh Carrot Escabeche

You will need:

a garden with carrots growing in it
olive oil
1-2 bay leaves
fresh chili peppers, of whatever potency you prefer
2 cloves of garlic
oregano, dried or fresh - chopped if fresh
rainbow peppercorns (optional)
distilled white vinegar or cider vinegar
kosher salt or sea salt

First, dig up some carrots that are ready to come out of the earth. Rinse 'em off, compost the greens, and trim off any wispy side and bottom roots. Once inside, scrub the skins very well with a scrub brush, and trim any damaged areas, but do not peel them.

Select a saucepan according to the quantity of carrots you have. You'll want the carrots to fit (just) in a single layer in the bottom of the pan after a very coarse chopping up. Put this pan on the smallest burner you've got. Into the cold pan, pour sufficient olive oil to form a shallow pool that covers the bottom of the pan. You want more oil than just enough to coat, but only a very shallow pool, about 1/8 inch or so. Add one or two bay leaves (fresh are spectacular if you can get them) and put the heat on under the pan at the lowest possible setting. Let it heat for about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop the carrots. Slice a couple of chili peppers open, and knock out any loose seeds. You may remove all the seeds if you prefer. Smash and peel two small cloves of garlic, and have some oregano on hand. (Don't overdo the garlic; it should not be the dominant flavor in this dish.) Optionally, rainbow peppercorns can also be used, so if you want those, have them handy.

Remove the bay leaves from the oil and discard them. Increase the heat to medium high and add the chili pepper slices and the crushed garlic. Cook the peppers and garlic in the oil for 2-3 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove the chili peppers and reserve. Add the chopped carrots, the peppercorns if you're using them, and a very hefty pinch of the oregano. Increase the heat to high and immediately add enough water to just barely cover the carrots. Put the lid on the pot and bring the liquid to a rapid simmer.

When the water simmers well, turn off the heat. Without dumping the contents of the pot into a colander, fish out the carrots and remove them to a bowl right away, and add the reserved chili peppers to them. Douse with a generous splash of distilled vinegar while the carrots are still hot. Toss the vegetables well in the vinegar. When they have cooled slightly, skim some of the cooking liquid out of the cooking pot and add it to the bowl with the peppers and carrots. Aim for about a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and the oily cooking liquid. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Serve the escabeche while still slightly warm, or chill and snack on them from time to time. They'll keep for a week or so in the fridge, and they're a nice addition to summertime smorgasbord-type meals. Also good with open faced tomato and basil sandwiches. These barely-cooked carrots have a nice firmness to them that is almost crunchy. Toothsome and satisfying. Brave eaters can enjoy the peppers. (And shhhhh! Don't tell anyone they're vegan!) Pretty tasty, if I say so myself.