Cole Slaw with Serrano Peppers

It’s been a year and a half since the Great Hot Pepper Avalanche at the community garden at St. John’s Presbyterian Church–and we’re still struggling in the aftermath.

Constitutionally incapable of letting food go to waste, I spent an afternoon gathering every stray pepper from the garden before the first frost. I ended up freezing five one-gallon bags of Serrano and jalapeno peppers. The date was October 10, 2010. (I believe in labeling.)
In the ensuing months, the peppers were flung into soups, tossed over the top of pasta, and folded into eggs. They were roasted and stirred into salsa. They were minced and spread over quesadillas. They were seared with steaks. Eventually, they were moved 384.93 miles from Durham, NC back to Atlanta.

As of today, we still have 2 gallons left.

Freezing, it turns out, is an excellent way to preserve Serrano and jalapeno peppers. A dreadful experiment with drying, and the recommendation of a friend, led to my discovery of this. Freezing preserves most of the flavor and is incredibly easy. I did nothing to the peppers–didn’t even wash them–before I placed them in the bag (labeling them, of course), and put them in the freezer.

When I need them, I usually set the whole peppers into whatever I’m sauteing to thaw a bit before I chop them up and add them to the dish. Sometimes, if guests are coming, I remember that I never washed them and rinse them beforehand.

One of the best experiments to come out of  the Great Pepper Avalanche is this cole slaw. Fred loves a finely chopped cole slaw, and we both love the kick from the peppers. If you have a food processor this dish is also remarkably easy to prepare. It’s an excellent side with a mild white fish or as an appetizer spread over crackers. 

I’m reluctant to give exact proportions for mayonnaise or salt. Let your taste be your guide. The more mayonnaise, the creamier the texture and the milder the slaw, since it seems to counteract the heat of the peppers. In the version below, I used about 3/4 to 1 cup of Hellmann’s Light (a concession to middle age).

Cole Slaw with Serrano Peppers

4 servings

1/2 large head cabbage
1 small onion
2 Serrano peppers, fresh or frozen
Mayonnaise to taste (can use reduced fat)
Salt to taste

Place a dry small iron or other sturdy metal skillet on high heat. Roast peppers on skillet until very lightly brown. Remove from heat. Let cool, then mince.

Mince cabbage and onion in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer to large bowl. Stir in mayonnaise in approximately 1/4 cup increments until slaw is to desired consistency and taste. Add salt to taste.

Cucumber-Avocado Soup

Several events converged in the making of cucumber-avocado soup yesterday.

 A reminder that The Newlyfeds is about the stories and food, not the photos

The first was last month’s family trip to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, where we made our annual pilgrimage to Hege’s. Hege’s is a “brasserie Francais classique” focusing primarily on seafood. (Fred, of course, ordered steak.) On this trip, they offered a cucumber-avocado soup as a special. It was so good that even my seven-year-old niece loved it. The color was the perfect green for this kind of soup but it’s hard to describe exactly what it was–the only thing that comes to mind is a very unappetizing comparison to a 1970s appliance, only about six shades lighter. Or maybe the minty color of a bedspread you’d get at Pottery Barn.

Color aside, the soup somehow managed to taste like neither cucumber nor avocado, but a summer evening, with a dash of cream and chives. (The server claims there was no cream in the dish, but I am sure he lied–see below). I was determined to try this at home.

The second event was the avalanche of produce that is coming out of the nascent community garden at our church, St. John’s Presbyterian.

You can see the cucumber plants in the fourth box from the front. There are a lot of cucumbers buried in those plants–so many that our small congregation can’t quite manage all of them. And there’s parsley, enough to supply the entire city of Durham for the remainder of 2010. 

Here, of course, was my opportunity to re-create that spectacular cucumber-avocado soup, only this time with parsley in place of the chives. I was a bit reluctant to replace those chives, since they complemented the other flavors of the soup so well. But I hated to see that parsley go to waste, and there’s only so much tabbouleh that one person can eat.

The parsley was a stroke of genius. As a garnish, it added crunchiness and a gentle undertone, with a hint of creamy pine nut balancing its natural sharpness. And like the original, this soup tasted just like summer.

Cucumber-Avocado Soup

4 servings

4 large cucumbers, seeded and roughly chopped
1 avocado
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp. Salvadoran or Honduran creme
2 tbsp. heavy cream or half and half
6 – 8 large Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves, plus generous amounts for garnish (about 1 cup)
2 mint leaves, torn (optional, but these smooth out the flavor)
Salt to taste

Scoop avocado from peel and remove pit. Puree cucumber, avocado, and garlic in food processor until finely minced. Add remaining ingredients except for water and pulse in food processor a few seconds at a time until ingredients are combined. Add water until soup reaches the consistency of thin grits or whatever you prefer. Garnish with very generous amounts of parsley.

The soup is best if served immediately. The avocado will create a brownish film on top of the soup if it is kept overnight.

Note: The creams and avocado make this a rich dish, and I noticed a bit of greasiness around my mouth after each bite that some might find unpleasant. To correct this I would suggest reducing the Salvadoran creme to a teaspoon and substituting half and half or whole milk for the heavy cream, or even omitting these and adding chicken broth until the dish is the proper consistency. I did not have chicken broth on hand when I made this, and that may well be what Hege’s used to get the right flavor instead of cream. But I still think the server lied.