Ingredient Introduction #25 – Banana Peppers

In the Summer, there are a few things we can count on: relentless heat, needle-nosed mosquitos, and an overabundance of fresh produce.

Of course, the last one is my favorite.

I can remember the first garden I planted. My jalapeno plants were on crack. If I linked every pepper I picked, I’m sure I could’ve taken Hansel and Gretel to Mexico and back three times.

It seems like someone is always giving away some sort of freshly picked present.

Yesterday, I got a handful of figs from a co-worker with a healthy harvest.

And before that, my partner in cuisine crime brought home a bag of banana peppers from work.

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Since I got the peppers first, they’re getting preferential treatment… though those figs are calling my name.

Peppers, like onions, seem to always get the same treatment. Cut them up, sauté them in oil, serve them raw in a salad, or cover them in some sort of crust-creating batter and drown them in a sea of bubbly oil.

The banana pepper, and it’s witch’s finger-like appearance, always seem to get sliced and pickled.

Its name comes from a slight resemblance to the potassium packed canary-colored curve you find bunched together in every grocery store.

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In terms of flavor, it’s bright and a bit spicy. A ripe one will be much sweeter than a younger one. In fact, the batch we got was pretty sweet, though smelling them might make you think otherwise.

Like their namesake, they’re loaded with potassium. You also get a good dose of fiber, and vitamins A and C.

My mind immediately went to a salad. And, while I think the peppers are gorgeous on their own, I didn’t just slice them up and scatter them in the big bowl.

I used them to make a vinaigrette.

Here’s what you need:
8 banana peppers
1 tbsp. honey
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
7-8 basil leaves
1 lime, juiced
Salt

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Grill 5 of the peppers until charred. Remove from grill, transfer to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. This allows them to steam, making the skim come off easier.

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In the bowl of a food processor, add the honey, vinegar, basil leaves, lime juice, and a big pinch of salt.

Take the plastic wrap off the bowl of peppers, and peel off the charred skin. It’s okay to leave some of the skin on.

Cut the tops off all 8 peppers (5 of the charred/3 raw). Leave the seeds inside them, and toss them into the food processor.

Process until well-blended.

With the processor running, stream in the oil. Let the mixture process for a few more seconds.

This isn’t your traditional vinaigrette. That’s mainly because I kept down the amount of oil and didn’t skew the ratio with the vinegar. Usually, there’s three-times as much oil as there is acid.

By keeping down the oil here, it’s not as silky smooth. But, I like that. You still get tiny bits of the pepper. That’s a good thing… it’s the star of the show!

The texture reminded me of the ginger dressing you often get at Japanese restaurants.

If I’d left all the peppers raw, it would’ve been even chunkier. Plus, I think charring them adds just a hint of smoky flavor, and certainly brings out the pepper’s power.

I love the color. I think it’s refreshing, and screams Summer.

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The flavor is sweet, but pungent. The lime was a last-minute addition, and it was a good one. It really brought the dressing to life.

You get the sharp bite from the pepper, the floral sweetness of the honey, and just a hint of the aromatic basil.

My partner in cuisine crime added this to his burger, too. He loved it as much as I love that idea. Think outside the box, it always pays off!

Tip: Always make your own vinaigrettes. It’s so easy. Use fresh herbs, berries, sun-dried tomatoes, or other kinds of peppers (poblanos!). Chances are you have oil and vinegar on hand. The homemade version always outweighs the concoction basking in a bottle standing beneath the bright rays of the supermarket lights.

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