Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fajita Peppers and Tips for Making Leftovers Taste Better

There's no microwave in the Pinch kitchen, so leftovers go straight to the skillet for reheating. I'm a fan of the skillet and have become adept at resurrecting meals. The best trick I figured out was a means of reheating pasta that didn't leave it fried or pasty. It's water. Heat about 1/4 cup of water in a skillet. Bring it to a boil, then add your leftovers and stir until nicely hot. You can add more water if you need, but go slowly. Overcooked pasta is blechk. Anyway, today's lunch featured leftover fajita peppers and flank steak from the other night's fajita party. And a smidgen of the cotija I snagged at Trader Joe's recently.

Cheese sidebar: For my favorite domestic and imported cheeses I usually go straight to Pastoral. Whole Foods revamped their cheese department when they moved into the super sized location south of North Ave - and for the better. I had sworn off their old cheese department because everything I bought was stifled and off-tasting. But they're now a reliable source when the need arises for a supple triple creme.

Where were we? Cotija! If you haven't ever crumbled some on your fajitas, I highly recommend it. Most versions are pretty firm, you basically grate it. It's really a whole heck of a lot like Ricotta Salata, which I also recommend giving a try. The latter you would sort of crumble or peel atop an open panini, or a serving of pasta. Finding cotija at Trader Joe's was a total treat since that's my source for all regular cheese - gorgonzola, cheddar, fontina, gruyere, all cheeses that appear as supporting flavors in healthy meals. Examples? The Pinch House Salad features a bit of gongonzola; Chanterelle Pizzas - a great fall meal with chanterelles in season now - feature a light sprinkle of fontina; Ham & Gruyere panini are a favorite weekend lunch, especially in the colder months. The cheddar  - Tilamook medium - is around for the kids.

But we were really talking about the Fajita Peppers.  I've been making my peppers the same way for several years. They're smokey and sizzle up nicely in a cast iron pan. I serve them along side grilled chicken or flank steak, with a bowl of guacamole and some lightly charred fresh corn tortillas. Or atop a small bowl of black beans for a scrumptious and hearty lunch. Today, I just heated them up in a hot skillet with nothing added - and they were as glorious as they were the other night.

Fajita Peppers
Serves 4-6

1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow onion
1 jalapeno
Optional: 2-3 Roma tomatoes

2 T canola oil
1 t liquid smoke (I like hickory)
>1 T Worcestershire sauce
Few turns fresh ground pepper
Pinch of kosher salt

First, combine the canola oil, liquid smoke, Worcesteshire, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl:

Then, preheat a medium to large cast iron pan over medium high heat. Note - I don't have issues with tomatoes in my cast iron pan. If you do, use a different skillet.

Prep your veggies:

Halve the onion, peel, and slice crosswise.
Trim red and green bell peppers to thin strips (about 1 ½ inches long and about 2-3 mm thick).
Trim jalapeƱos a bit thinner so that they can be avoided if necessary.
Quarter the tomatoes. Remove the seed gunk and slice quarters in half, lengthwise

Transfer all the veggies to the mixing bowl and toss to coat.

Add the veggies and saute over a good flame for about 4-6 minutes until softened and a wee bit caramelized.

Serve and savor.

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