The first signs of Spring came out in style this past weekend with some excellent sun, a light breeze and warm temperatures that helped you forgot the horror that snowpacolypse. On Sunday a group of of us went on our first outdoor climb of the new year at Great Falls. Despite rather high water levels we had a blast and got some excellent climbs in.

Apples And Pears Pot Pouri

Inspired by the weather, I ventured out to the Falls Church Farmers Market on Saturday, which has actually been open since January. Props to that. There’s something calming about Farmers Markets; centering. Scores of people walking about just talking, sampling food; no rush, no place they have to be. It’s just a contrast from the usual everyday life in DC where actually forget about how much stress and urgency we’re practically swimming in.

Yukon Golds Yukon Golds - Quartered

With us being on the tale end of winter, I honed in on the root vegetables; beets, leeks, potatoes… and a few apples of course (huuuuge Fuji’s. yum!) The leeks ended up in a nice simple, but delicious potato leek soup and I have visions of a small batch of borscht for the beets. The potatoes, yukon golds to be exact, had their own destiny.

Oven Baked Yukon Golds

A very smart person once said that the secret to good food is to use fresh ingredients and do very little to them. While it’s easy to to consider the potato as nothing more than bland, there is an essence of flavor somewhere and simplicity is the best way to draw that out. Local fresh is key here. Potatoes start with a rather thin skin when just yanked out of the ground and this thing tends to get thicker as the months roll by (which I can promise you is happening with spuds at your local megamart). When looking for potatoes at your local market, look for paper thin and you won’t be disappointed. Then, toss with a bit of oil, some salt and pepper and then whatever herbs you may like (fresh if you got em but dried if you don’t).

Oven Baked Yukon Golds
Consider this a guideline. Throw out the cookbook (or, put it back on the shelf).

Yukon Gold potatoes
herbs (rosemary, thyme…)

Preheat your oven to 400°. Cut your potatoes into 1.5 piece cubes, most likely just in half unless there notably large; in which case quarter them. Toss with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Start with one and add more if necessary for a light coating. Throw in a tablespoon of fresh herbs or a teaspoon of dried and set on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes until the pieces are easily pierced but still firm. Let cool briefly, serve and enjoy.

Heather and Jane’s birthday party this past Saturday was a blast. There were friends, music, drinks, games and oh-so-much food. The latter has to be expected when one of us is involved. There was mac & cheese, chips, beans, veggies, cakes… enough food to last a lifetime. I offered to help Heather with the food prep because it’s very easy to get in over your head with that sort of thing. Plus, hey, it’s an excuse to cook something.

Chopped Red Peppers

I made hummus before and I really enjoyed the results, so I decided to try a variation with fire roasted red bell peppers. Now I was going to post that recipe today, but then it occurred to me that there might be some readers out there that don’t know how to fire roast red bell peppers. So instead, we’ll go, step by step, this process.

Charred Red Peppers

Option 1 – Open Flame
The easiest way to fire roast red bell peppers is with an open flame, whether it be a grill or a gas stove. Simply place it above so the flames lick the bell pepper and rotate as the skin chars. You really want a lot of charring. It doesn’t need to be completely black, but too little char = peeling difficulty (and sadness). Then place in plastic bag. By putting it an air tight container while it cools, the steaming action will make it easy to remove the skin. Let sit for 30 minutes and peel off the skin with your hands. Then core and seed as usual.

Uneven Charring

Option 2 – Oven
Some people don’t have a gas stove or grill, but they can always fall back to their oven. Chances are, if you’re fire roasting a bell pepper you’re going to puree, dice, or do some kind of significant cutting to the pepper. Because of this I recommend cutting the bell pepper into eighth; coring and seeding it as you go. This will make it easier to seed as well as ensure that all the pepper is being charred. In addition, ovens often don’t char as evenly (see above) and an under-charred pepper is incredibly frustrating to peel. Set the peppers on a baking sheet on the top rack of your oven and broil, removing pieces as they become charred. No time guidelines here. Just keep a watchful eye!. Then, just like in option 1, remove from the heat and seal in plastic. After 30 minutes, remove and peel off the skin. Enjoy!

Steaming To Peel