Thanks to the generosity of friends, my off-site garden is planted heavily in peppers. I bought a few plants, but then found myself being handed oodles of pepper plants from friends and neighbors and one anonymous donor* that had run out of room in their gardens for all the pepper plants they had started/bought. I seriously have about 40 pepper plants (having bought 6) down there, most of which are heirloom chile peppers, but there are a few sweet ones too.
So what to do with all these peppers? I want to do more with them than my usual pepper jelly (already made a few batches) and pickling – there will be a round of hot sauce (which I ferment for months so that it’s similar to Tabasco), and while I throw them in with the squash almost nightly, I wanted to find another way to use them up in mass quantities. I started combing through my cookbooks, looking for some inspiration and I found it. “Pasta with Jalapeño Pesto” from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons jumped out at me one afternoon. I went about making it with what I had on hand – a mix of peppers (because while I might have some 40 pepper plants, not a one of them is a jalapeño), and used it to top a batch of vegetable tostadas for dinner, trying to dress up the “squash, it’s what for dinner again“. (Confession: they were supposed to be veggie tacos, but I left the corn tortillas in the oven a little too long, so they became tostadas.)
The original recipe called for toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro and olive oil. Going with what I had on hand, I used walnuts, parsley from the garden and to keep things light, bumped up the lime juice to compensate for skipping the olive oil and then added just a wee bit of water as needed.
The end result was excellent. As in, eat with a spoon excellent. As in, I think I need a few more batches and I think I need to pop some of this in the freezer. I can see it lending itself to just about anything that needs a bit of zip.
Pepper Pesto Sauce
(Adapted from Vegetarian Planet)
2 cups sweet peppers (about 2 bell peppers or a handful of sweet peppers)
A handful hot peppers
1/4 cup walnuts (or almonds or pine nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds)
1/4 – 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro
1-3 garlic cloves
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup or so)
Water as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the peppers on a baking sheet covered in foil and place in broiler. Roast for a few minutes, turning frequently, until the skin blisters. (Note: smaller chiles don’t roast well!). Pull out and cover (I like using a clean dishtowel) to let peppers cool a bit. When cool enough to handle, skin and core the peppers, removing the seeds of the sweet peppers and as many of the hot ones as you desire.
(Note: If you’d like to roast your garlic as well, just coat in olive oil and toss in with the peppers!)
(Note!! Don’t forget to wear gloves when handling hot peppers!!)
In a food processor or blender, combine the nuts, herbs, peppers, garlic and lime juice. Blend until you reach the consistency you desire, adding salt and pepper. This keeps in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen.
(* I came home one day last spring to find a pack of pepper plants on the front porch. Not knowing who left them, I posted the question on facebook a few times and have asked every neighbor if they know anything about them. Absolutely no one has owned up to the gift of the green bell pepper plants. My cousin John joked it was the ghost of his father and I think he might actually be on to something. At any rate, thank you to whomever left them.)