Chorizo-stuffed Poblano Peppers

I remember a time when I thought that a farmers’ market was the local feed mill, railroad shipping point or dairy. My grandfathers were both farmers. Grandpa Hopp milked eight to ten cows, called them all by name and stored the day’s milk in cans immersed in cold well water until the milkman arrived with his truck to pick up the milk and deliver butter and cheese to grandma and grandpa.

Grandpa Rang was older and retired from farming, but grandpa milked a couple of cows and babied the team of horses he loved. Grandma and Grandpa (and we grandkids) drank the milk and Grandma churned the cream into butter. Occasionally she sold some eggs to the feed mill in Hayward where my mother also sold extra eggs. Before I was born, Grandpa Rang raised potatoes, of which he was very proud. He and Grandma still planted a big garden which produced enough potatoes to fill a few bags for storage in the enormous root cellar that could hold enough potatoes to fill a train car.

Growing up near a small city where most families had gardens, I never saw anything like the farmers’ markets one finds today in cities throughout the United States. I saw my first farmers’ market on a September morning in Bad Reichenhall, Germany, where I was a student on a fellowship in Germany. It was not called a Bauernmarkt (farmers market) but simply der Markt (the market). Like our farmers’ markets today, local vendors sold food, flowers and some handicrafts.

After I moved to Münster, which is a much larger city than Bad Reichenhall, I was quickly introduced to a market that was the primary source of fresh food and flowers for many residents in that city of over 180,000 people. You could buy fish, fowl, meats, breads, pastries, cheese and a wide variety of household necessities ranging from hot pads and tablecloths to vases, coffee cups and tableware made by local artisans. Here are two photos that we took at the market when we visited Münster in 2014.

At the Münster market
At the Münster market
Sausages at the Münster market
Sausages at the Münster market

My new student acquaintances taught me how to bargain with salespeople to stretch my limited budget as they did. One technique I still use was to arrive near the end of the market day when vendors were willing to cut prices on their inventories. One of my favorite memories from that year was of a rather stout farm woman in a gray dress who was negotiating with a thin old man in a dark suit. She was selling eggs. As I walked by, he exclaimed to her, “Sie sehen wie Taubeneier aus!” (They look like pigeon eggs!) The two were smiling, so I think it was a familiar routine for both buyer and seller.

I still look for bargains at our local farmers’ markets. Not long ago I found some small poblano peppers. They were about four and a half inches long, so I got four of them for a dollar. I planned to make chile rellanos with them, but they were really too small for that, so decided to stuff them with a mixture of chorizo and rice. The result was a delicious main course for Jerri and me. If you enjoy Mexican dishes, you should try this recipe soon.

INGREDIENTS:

4 small poblano peppers, four to five inches long
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1/2 lb. bulk chorizo sausage
1/2 cup cooked rice
3 T diced onion
5 T taco sauce, divided
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 T cold water

PROCEDURE:

Start by cooking some rice, if necessary. To make about a cup of cooked rice, put a half cup of uncooked rice into a one quart saucepan, add a half teaspoon of salt and a cup of water. Bring the pan to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer covered until most of the water is absorbed, about fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the rice in the covered pan for five minutes before serving.

Peel the peppers while the rice is cooking. It’s not difficult. Preheat the oven broiler to 450º and rinse the peppers. When the broiler is hot, place the peppers on a baking sheet and set them under the broiler for about four minutes. Turn the peppers and broil them for another four minutes. The skin of the peppers should have begun to blister. Put the peppers in a paper bag and let the peppers cool for a few minutes in the closed bag.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350º.

While the peppers are cooling, make the stuffing. Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet and cook the meat slowly over low heat, breaking it into small pieces. Clean and dice about three tablespoons of onion and shred the cheese while the meat is cooking.

Peel the transparent outer skin from the peppers and cut them lengthwise halfway through. Remove the seeds and pulp from the peppers and butterfly them with the stems on.

When the meat is a uniform gray, remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the rice, onion, cheese, cumin and three tablespoons of taco sauce.

Lightly grease a glass baking dish and put the butterflied peppers into the pan. Stuff each pepper with a generous portion of the meat mixture. Top each one with a teaspoon or two of taco sauce and pour a couple tablespoons of water around the peppers. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake the peppers for about fifteen minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the peppers to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with the extra rice, bread and salad for a light dinner.

Kielbasa and Cabbage

As I have written before, Mom’s Boiled Dinner was one of my favorite meals. Paired with fresh homemade bread and some lunchmeat for a sandwich, it was the perfect meal on a cold winter’s night. Kielbasa and cabbage is a good warm-weather dish that gives you that same wonderful combination of meat and vegetables cooked in one pot with only just enough broth to blend the flavors. There is plenty of meat, so you can skip the sandwiches.

Kielbasa is the Polish word for sausage, but there are varieties of sausage called Polish sausage that are not Kielbasa. Today most Kielbasa is found as a smoked cooked sausage, but this recipe uses the fresh variety, which Polish speakers call Kielbasa biala (White Kielbasa). White kielbasa must be cooked. The browned slices of sausage combined with the sweet onions and cabbage give this dish a unique, rich flavor.

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. Fresh Kielbasa
2 T butter, divided
1 1/2 cups sweet onion
1 small cabbage(4 to 5 inches in diameter)
3 or 4 medium carrots
2 or 3 medium potatoes
1 stalk celery
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. beef bouillon
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the sausage into thin slices and put them into a large skillet with a tablespoon of butter over low heat while you prepare the vegetables.

Cut off the stem and root ends and remove the dry outer layer of the onion. Chop it into a quarter-inch dice and set it aside in a small bowl.

Remove any damaged leaves from the cabbage and wash the head. Cut it into medium wedges about two inches thick and set them aside in a mixing bowl. Scrub or scrape the carrots, remove the stem ends and chop the carrot into half-inch slices. Peel and chop the potatoes into half to three-quarter-inch cubes. Clean and chop the celery into half-inch pieces. Put these vegetables together in a mixing bowl.

Raise the heat under the skillet to medium and fry the sausage until it is well browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer it from the skillet to a bowl.

Reduce the heat and put a tablespoon of butter into the skillet. Add the onion and cook it until it is translucent but not browned. Add the vegetables, water and bouillon along with quarter teaspoons of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the skillet and steam the vegetables for ten minutes. Stir in the sausage, add a little water if necessary and replace the cover.

Continue cooking the meat and vegetables for about twenty minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in bowls with bread and a good beer

NOTES: You don’t need to peel thin-skinned new potatoes. If you have some of those tasty potatoes in your pantry, just scrub them well and chop them into pieces. It is easier to slice the sausage if it is partially frozen, but uniform slices are not important. Just be sure that the sausage is cut into small bite-sized pieces.