Yesterday was my boyfriend’s birthday, and (as usual) I cooked him whatever he wanted for dinner. But as I am a foodie, I also wanted to try something new, some sort of appetizer, or something. Shake the tree a little, if you will. While I was reading Food & Wine a day or two ago I saw a recipe for Stuffed Baby Peppers with Yogurt and Floral Honey which, you know, yum, as I am the sort of foodie who digs floral flavors, wherever I can get them. Remember those violet candies your grandmother had when you were a kid? Yep, loved ‘em. While I was in France I got violet ice cream, one of the best memories I have from there. Rose petals + strawberries + Grand Marnier + some sugar and a chance to macerate + fresh whipped cream at the end = dessert I will knock people over to have. Lavender? Love it, particularly in lavender salted caramels. Too much and it tastes like soap, I agree, but in the right amounts? Heaven. I’m the person who steals unattended nasturtiums from other peoples’ salad plates at events. I even like hoppy beer (kids, hands off). So, floral honey??!? Yeah!
The problem: I didn’t have two weeks to infuse the honey with florally goodness. And the recipe calls for olives, but I’m not in an olive mood. There are times I can’t get enough of ‘em, the olives, and I put them in my salads and on pizzas and in hummus and pita and anywhere else I can think to stick them. But today? Not so much. The boyfriend always reminds me that I have no respect for the inherent integrity of a recipe, and he’s right, and so in that spirit I give you:
Stuffed Baby Peppers with Floral Yogurt, Sweet and Sour Jalapenos, and Walnuts
The first thing I did was prepare the yogurt, but I did so hours before I was officially ready to cook so I didn’t take pictures. But. You take a single-serving of good thick Greek yogurt and whisk it together with (roughly, I unfortunately never measure) a tablespoon of crushed dried rose petals (seriously, crush them thoroughly) and a teaspoon each of rose water and pomegranate molasses. Grate in the zest from one lime and sprinkle with salt, and whisk again. Cover->fridge->done. It’s pungent, elegant and sexy as hell. You can get rose petals and rose water at various shops throughout the interwebs…I mean, it’s not like I have an organic edible flower gardener right down the road from me in central PA. And if you’re really stuck here’s a recipe for pomegranate molasses, but it’s becoming more readily available, so check your grocery store if you think I’m crazy.
There were two of us, so I took ten baby peppers and put them in a grill pan (no, I didn’t fire up my grill and no, don’t put oil or anything on them) to get a little char on them. Once they get their char on (any Greek mythology nerds find this stupidly funny?), set them aside to cool.
Next, pickle your jalapeno. Easy-peasy. Slice a jalapeno super-thin and put it in a non-reactive bowl (Pyrex, something stainless, but not cast-iron or aluminum, as they could leach into your food). Coat with salt–don’t be afraid, it’s a pickle, after all–and put in a good hearty squeeze of honey. Top with enough vinegar to cover the peppers; you want to give them something to hang out in without your having to worry about stirring them to ensure even pickling. I put them in cider vinegar, because peppers (and especially jalapenos, it seems) LOVE cider vinegar. I don’t recommend getting too experimental with the flavor of vinegar you choose, because why ruin a good thing? But use what you’ve got, keep it relatively mild (put the aged balsamic down and walk away, people), and just be aware that it’s going to have to interact with other flavors later.
Cover this and let the peppers hang out for a while, at least an hour. I put them in a sunny spot on the windowsill, but if you don’t have a sunny windowsill just put them aside on the counter. They’re so thin they’ll react to the acid in the vinegar and “cook” (sort of like a ceviche) without heating the pickling liquid. I suppose you can heat the honey, salt and vinegar and pour that on the pickle slices, and then sit all that in the fridge but honestly? That’s one more pan to clean, and I am personally made way more happy by the thought of a happy bowl of jalapenos pickling on my windowsill.
OK, so. Baby sweet peppers grilled, and cooling. Jalapeno pickling in the sun. Relax for a little while. Or, cut the peppers in half and clean the veins and seeds, dry-roast some walnuts and clean and dry a small handful of flat-leaf parsley (you’ll need twenty smallish leaves, for the twenty smallish pepper halves).
Once the peppers are cleaned and cut (and I cut off the stem area on my peppers, which was probably a mistake, as it made them way less finger-foodey and way more in need of a knife and fork, so if you make them try and preserve the stem cap)…
…stuff ’em. Yogurt, then jalapeno, then tuck some parsley into the side. Sprinkle the tops with toasted walnuts and drizzle them with honey.
These little pockets of peppery love hit all sorts of flavor points–they’re sweet, hot, aromatic, fresh from the parsley and grounded thanks to the toasty walnuts. They’re not difficult by any means, they just require time. But MAN, are they ever worth it. Enjoy!