The pepper patch is in full swing. I have gotten to the point of picking a half bushel of each type every few days, then I am under the gun to figure out what to do with them. This week, we will tackle banana peppers.
Often intractable forces of nature converge to make us innovate. For example, if an overactive pepper patch coincides with a trip to Costco, then you have the perfect storm to come up with something tasty. Costco is notorious for selling you WAY too much of the thing that you want to buy. At the time you’re thinking, “Boy that free sample of the marinated mozzarella cheese balls will taste great with my vine ripened tomatoes, fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar. Yum.” So you buy the vat of them with about 200 cheese balls, and you use 8. And the vat takes up a good piece of valuable refrigerator real estate until you either figure out how to use them, or wind up pitching them out. Now, we got all these freaking banana peppers, so…….
The banana pepper, or Hungarian was are very attractive, very prolific plants. They are also quite versatile and can be used in a number of ways. You can pickle them, stuff them, use them as a base for all kinds of pasta. The other great thing about them is that you can control the amount of heat by how you prepare them. Most of the heat in any hot pepper is in the seeds and the membrane inside. The walls of the pepper are usually much less hot. So if you decide to stuff them, you have to take out the seeds and the membranes anyway to get the stuffing in, and careful paring of the membranes can give you the range of heat that you want. Some of the hottest food I’ve ever had in a restaurant was based on banana peppers where all the hot stuff was kept in.
The preparation is pretty simple. First, put on a pair of latex gloves to keep from getting hot pepper residue on your hands. You will be so glad later that you did this for a number for reasons. Next cut the tops off the peppers, then being very careful, run a sharp knife around the inside wall of the pepper to remove the seeds and most of the membrane. Now you have hollowed out peppers waiting to be stuffed.
I cut the cheese balls in half to fit down as far as I could push them in. When they were stuffed, I took a slice of bacon and covered the top of the pepper. I wrapped the bacon around the outside wall of the pepper, then secured the whole thing with a toothpick. I also plugged some of them with large Spanish olives if you didn’t want too much bacon (said no one). Then I put them into the air fryer.
The air fryer is a wonderful thing. Cooking them for 15 min at 350 degF does a whole bunch of good things. It cooks the peppers so they are soft and can be easily cut with a fork. It melts the cheese balls and cooks the bacon which manages to keep most of the cheese in the pepper and out of the air fryer.
When they are done, let them cool for a bit, then bon appetit!
Still, you can only use a fraction of the peppers this way. Next time, we’ll tell you what else you can do with them.
Day tripping with Rick in the Pepper Patch