Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare our local produce.
This week's harvest: Anaheim Chile Peppers
I think the most intoxicating scent from a farmers' market is not from the bunches of lemon basil or the stack of floral melons, but the perfume of roasted chile peppers firing away in the bingo-style basket, turning slowly over blazing flames blistering each side of the pepper until they dizzyingly give way and wield to the heat to transform into a charred tender sweet spicy treat that signals the end of summer. Before these peppers tumble down into the bin below, are scooped up into bags and handed over warm and steaming, you will be all set with a pocket full of recipes after reading this post. Don't be surprised if the inside of your car smells like roasted chiles for a few days after, they're that powerful - but is that really so bad?
When are Anaheims in season?
June through December, depending on what altitude you're at, the weather and when you started your plants. Usually you'll see these nightshades from late August through November at the farmers' markets.
Selecting, storage and preparation tips:
For most all fresh peppers, look for non-wrinkly, smooth chiles that appear to be crisp and fresh. If you do happen up on a wrinkled one, try submerging it in cold water for 20 minutes. You might be surprised that it wakes itself right up.
Store loosely wrapped in a plastic bag until ready for use. As usual, try to use them up right away.
If you want a tutorial for roasting chiles at home, this is a good one that covers all the bases: ways to char, steaming and saving.
I've read that people freeze their roasted chiles with success but I think they lose their texture and turn mushy. So, if you are pureeing them, you're fine, but if you like that meaty texture, try to eat them while they're freshly roasted.
Another way of preserving is to let dry and thread onto a heavy wire that can be hung up to further dry. You can use them piece by piece and rehydrate in hot water for sauces or let dry completely and make your own red chile flakes for use the rest of the year. These hanging masterpieces are called ristras. Yes, they also look like hokey southwestern decor, but they're really delicious and part of a great cook's pantry. Just do it. However, don't feel obligated to hang it at your front door.
How hot are they?
Anaheim chiles range from 1,000 - 2,500 scoville units. It's two steps up from bell peppers and one step down from jalapenos - though each chile can have it's own heat scale. Every so often you might get a really mild or really spicy one.
If you ever get a chance to come over to visit with my family, this is what you will be served. I'm pretty sure a copy of this recipe gets tucked into our baby book along with the birth certificate. We've been making this for what seems like the beginning of time and you can use it on almost anything (scrambled eggs, burgers, hot dogs, soups...). We typically eat it piled on top of saltine crackers. Sometimes we get a little frilly and will top the cracker with a slice of cheese first, but either way, this tastes like every family reunion, every football game, every Christmas, and every Sunday supper, it's my family's recipe for "green chiles."
Smith Family Green Chiles
4 cups cleaned seeded roasted green chiles chopped into 1/2" - 1/4" dice
4 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil (like canola)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Mix in a large bowl and serve with saltine crackers and slices of cheddar or jack cheese if you desire. Please be warned, your breath is going to smell like garlic for the next two days but your tummy will be smilin'. Store in the fridge and try to eat them in a week. It won't be hard - believe me.
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I would use this recipe to add to any of the following recipes that will satisfy your chile cravings:
My all-time favorite cheeseburger topper are green chiles and cheese.
Green Chile Posole
The ultimate green chile in a soup recipe.
Green Chile Grilled Cheese
Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.