Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook

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How to roast peppers in an oven

Method, Fundamentals, Recipe, VegetarianLeannda CavalierComment
Roasted Peppers

It is absolutely incredible how much you can change the flavor of peppers just by roasting them instead of sautéing or sweating them. Let me count the ways: 

1. Roasting adds a smoky touch from the charred skin. The waxy skin of peppers burns up quickly in the oven, acting as a smoky shell for the flesh. 

2. It enhances the sweetness. Ripened bell peppers (red, orange, yellow) are already sweet when they're raw, but other peppers like poblanos, jalapeños and habaneros are decidedly not. Cooking breaks down cell walls, making the sugars much more noticeable. Cooking for a long period of time breaks things down even more, allowing them to react and intensify into more complex flavors. 

3. Both the flavor and the texture get richer, which is great for hearty dishes. Bringing out the oils and juices in the flesh of peppers makes it easier for your mouth to detect all the flavors.

4. The flavor intensifies, but the piquancy softens. Piquancy is the sharpness that leaves you fanning your mouth and reaching for crackers after you take a bite of a raw hot pepper. Roasted peppers are still spicy, but in a more palatable way. 

5. All of this goes double for green peppers, which are unripe. Imagine eating a green bell pepper. It's crunchy, a little astringent and you taste a lot of... green? That's gonna be our chlorophyll. Some enjoy it in raw peppers. Great for photosynthesis. Not so great for chili. 

I'm sure I'm leaving something out, but I think those five enhancements make a pretty strong case. 

Some people like to roast peppers over an open flame on a stovetop. Some people like to grill peppers until they're charred. Great methods. Probably quicker. But who has two thumbs, no grill and an electric range?

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So what's a cook to do? Turn to the broiler. Yes, that button on the oven that's mysterious to people who don't cook, scary to beginners and a God-send to people who cook regularly. Fun fact: broiling is actually a form of grilling. Both are forms of dry heat that work through radiation. 

So now that we've got the why's out of the way, let's move on to the how. 

This method works best for large peppers like poblano and bell peppers. I've also tried it with jalapeños and habaneros, but they’re a little different. You have to watch them more carefully. The flesh is thin and will burn up easily, so reduce the time and watch more closely (noted in recipe). 

Stick around after the recipe for some suggestions for using roasted peppers. 

howtoroastpeppers

So what can you actually do with these peppers? Here are some suggestions:

  • Use them for chili. I swear by this. I tried it once as an experiment and I will never go back!

  • Blend them into a sauce or even a salad dressing. Red pepper vinaigrette is one of my favorites.

  • Throw roasted red bell peppers on a salad or over eggs. Or over a salad with eggs. 

  • Add to a pan with sautéed onions and garlic, then toss with pasta. Alternatively, use cooled roasted peppers to spice up a pasta salad. 

  • Stuff chicken with strips of roasted pepper and cheese. 

  • Mix with melted queso chihuahua (quesadilla cheese) for a smoky dip. 

Those are just a few things I've made and ideas off the top of my head. What are you going to make with roasted peppers? Tell me in the comments!

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How to roast garlic

Method, Make-ahead, Fundamentals, RecipeLeannda CavalierComment
how_to_roast_garlic_pinnable

Sautéing garlic is one of the best ways to build a savory foundation for a dish, but I would argue the best trick up garlic's sleeve takes a little more coaxing.

That's right—roasted garlic is where it's at.  

True story: when I was little, I thought all garlic was like roasted garlic by default. My Ya-ya (grandmother) kept a little repurposed pimento jar full of roasted garlic cloves in the fridge at all times. Fast forward to today, I have a tiny pimento jar of roasted garlic in my fridge too. 

Roasted garlic is more like a bear hug than a punch. Though roasting softens the sharper qualities of garlic, it somehow intensifies the flavor. It's heavy and insistent, but not jarring. 

Roasting brings out its sweetness in garlic by breaking down long chains of fructose, garlic's choice of energy storage. As the garlic browns, those sugars provide a caramel flavor. meanwhile, you're softening the sulfurous zing garlic is known for. 

What you're left with is a pod packed with soft, rich, nutty, caramelly, slightly meaty flavor that leaves a totally different impression than the minced, sautéed iteration. 

Another perk of roasted garlic is the texture itself. First—and not to be minimized—roasted garlic is sooo easy to peel. Second, the cloves can be easily smashed into a paste that lends sauces and other mixtures a savory-sweet kick, without compromising texture. You can even use whole cloves as a garnish, as they are soft, smooth and much less offensive then their raw counterparts. 

Okay, now hear me out. Garlic is SO easy to roast. Read this through and I think you'll realize that. This post is a little long, but only because I want everything to be clear as possible. 

So what can you use this magical ingredient for? Here are some of my faves:

  • Use it to add extra layers of flavor to chili.
  • Rub meats with it before (or after!) cooking.
  • Mix with softened butter to make the best garlic bread of your life.
  • Use roasted garlic paste in sauces.
  • Toss pasta with garlic paste and cream.
  • Spread some on toast (it's different!)
  • Work a little roasted garlic paste into your hamburger or meatball mix.
  • Use it as a condiment on a sandwich. 

There are a million and one ways to use this, I'm positive. I'm finding new ones all the time. What will you do with your roasted garlic? Let me know in the comments!

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Wedding cake revisited: how to eat a year-old cake

Leannda Cavalier1 Comment

This post was originally published on my old blog. This version may contain minor edits and updates. The original is preserved at Recipe Repository

The perfect anniversary dessert. Dry on the outside, gooey on the inside.

Tastes mostly like the ice you used to scrape off the sides of the pizza bagel freezer at the grocery store when you were little (you know you did!), yet smells reminiscent of broccoli and marinara sauce. Cuts like bread pudding and has a mysterious stream of water leaking out of the bottom.

Romantic, right?

Is that how you picture year-old frozen wedding cake? We need to talk. It doesn’t have to be that way.

My husband and I just celebrated our first anniversary, and the frozen top of our tiramisu cake was… perfect! It was still packed with flavor–the one it was supposed to have and no other mystery tastes/odors. I would say the biggest changes between the fresh and frozen product is that the cake becomes more dense and the icing gets smushed. It is frozen cake after all.

Still, if I had to guess how long our cake was frozen, I’d say a few days tops. 

We got a backup cake just in case the method we used didn’t work, but we didn’t even need it! I mean, we still ate it… who passes up that good of a cake? Just robots, I’m pretty sure.

We also may have bought 26 extra cupcakes because they were day-old cupcakes for a dollar… but you’ll have to ask my lawyer about that.

There are a billion tips out there for how to freeze your wedding cake, and most of them say different things. I can’t even find the guide I loosely followed last year when my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and husband’s aunt helped me cloak ours in layer after layer.

I’m not a baking expert. I’ve only frozen the one cake. But, this one was kind of a big deal, and it worked out perfectly.

I can’t give you a foolproof method of what works for every cake every time, but I can tell you step-by-step what we did, and some things I learned along the way.

So here goes:

How to Freeze a Wedding Cake for Your Anniversary

1. Take a peek at what’s under the cake. Plastic? Good! Foil? Good! Cardboard? Nope. remove the cake from the cardboard and set aside on a plate, then cover the cardboard with foil.  Cardboard can absorb smells and put those smells into your cake. It also has a smell of its own it can put in the cake. Not cool, unless you want your year-old cake to smell like that time you left all your empty moving boxes outside and it rained.  

2. Replace the cake and remove any flowers or decorations.

3. Place the cake in the freezer, uncovered for two hours.* This is called flash freezing.

4. Remove cake from the freezer and tightly wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap, making certain it’s sealed and there are no air bubbles.

5. Add a layer of aluminum foil (enough to cover the entire cake, so I’d use two long sheets placed in an X-shape under the cake, then wrapped tightly over the top).

6. Add a layer of newspaper in the same fashion.

7. Repeat the aluminum and newspaper layers four more times.

8. End on two layers of foil, sealed as tightly as possible.

9. Mark with tape and a felt tip marker so no one will accidentally open it to see what it is.

10. Put it near the back of the freezer and freeze for one year

Layer breakdown from inside to outside:

2 layers plastic wrap

1 layer of aluminum foil

1 layer of newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

2 layers foil

*Consider cleaning and defrosting your several days before the wedding for this purpose.

To defost:

1. Remove the cake from the freezer and remove all wrappings.

2. Loosely wrap the cake with waxed paper and place cake in the refrigerator to defrost overnight. 

3. Remove cake from the freezer 3-4 hours before eating to defrost fully, keeping covered until you are ready to serve.  

Tips:

-This is a two-person process.  You need at least one person wrapping, and one person holding the previous layer tight.

-Your cake won’t freeze well for a long period of time if it is cut. You should freeze it as an entire round, covered in frosting.

-Do not put in a defrosting freezer. You want as constant a temperature as possible.

-If the power goes out, DO NOT OPEN THE FREEZER DOOR. See the last tip.

-If your cake is fondant or something other than buttercream, you may want to consider looking up specific tips for that, I’m sure there are many floating around out there.

-Freeze your cake as soon as possible. We put ours in the morning after the wedding.  

Again, there are other options out there, many of which look easier than this. I haven’t tried those ones, but most look just a little too easy to ease my mind when it comes to the best/most expensive/most symbolic cake I’ve ever had. And I already take cake seriously.

Want to shop around for other options? I get it. Here are some resources I looked through last year when planning the deep freeze, and a few I found while writing this:

-weddingbee.com

-Martha Stewart

-The Washington Post

-dweddings.com

-Tiny Test Kitchen

-Philadelphia Magazine

 

P.S. If you’re near the Charleston area of West Virginia, you really should try out Sugar Pie Bakery. That’s where we got all the cake in the pictures above.

We wanted a tiramisu cake so bad and couldn’t find one anywhere in the area. We mentioned that during our cake consultation and they created the best one I’ve EVER had from scratch. They now feature it regularly as a monthly cupcake flavor, so you’re welcome.

I love their s’mores, peanut butter cup, chocolate cheesecake, red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes, and I’m sure I’d love anything else they made. They’re also super-friendly with unbeatable service.