This very pleasing smoky aroma hit me when I rounded one of the aisles at this past Saturday’s farmers market in downtown Santa Barbara.
As I scanned Fred Ormonde’s stand, I initially got a visual of his vine-ripened tomatoes, onion and shallots, and then a diverse selection of sweet and spicy peppers.
Some of these peppers reach heat levels that even I usually give a hard pass to.
At the very end of his booth, next to containers of popping corn, were two shimmering trays of blackened peppers, the obvious source of the smoky aroma. The underlying skins red, with clearly charred blistered skins, these smoked jalapeño and Serrano chilies were surely coming home with me.
Transforming from green to their more mature stage of red on the plants, these late season jalapeño and Serrano chilies are ideal for transforming into wonderful chipotle peppers.
Ideal for adding a semi-spicy and smoky layer of flavor to your meals, they are most commonly incorporated in Mexican-style cuisine.
These peppers can be easily incorporated into soups, stews, rice or bean dishes, turned into salsas and sauces, or submerged into olive oil to produce a nice chipotle flavored oil to garnish your food.
This week, I prepared some slow-cooked dried beans, incorporating the chipotle peppers.
I started with two of the smoked Serrano chili peppers in the batch, which seemed to provide a medium level of heat. I then diced another and added some to my final bowl for a little extra boost since I am quite fond of spicier food.
You can really use any dried bean you prefer, although I went with some of Two Peas in a Pod Farms “Flor de Mayo” beans, which complement the chipotle peppers quite nicely.
2 cups dried beans
2-3 chipotle peppers, chopped (you can also leave whole if preferred)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
Fresh cilantro leaves to garnish
You can do this in a pot on the stovetop or use a slow cooker. I used the slow cooker for convenience. I pre-soaked my beans overnight before cooking, although a couple of hours would also be sufficient.
Rinse presoaked beans and add to the slow cooker or pot. Then add chipotle peppers, garlic, onion, brown sugar, ground cumin, and a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper.
Fill the pot with water until about 2 inches of liquid is above the beans. Mix to incorporate seasoning.
Cover and cook on high for about 3-4 hours or low setting at about 6-7 hours. Simmering the beans on the stovetop would take about an hour and half. The beans should be tender when done.
Serve these beans as a side or in a bowl with some of the liquid, garnished with fresh cilantro. Add additional seasoning to taste as needed.
Yield: Serves 8 sides.