The class was ably led by Caitlin Burke, and I was pleased to collaborate once again with Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farms, Alamance County. Alex (and his wonderful wife Betsy) should be very proud of their operation; he started selling Cherokee Purple tomatoes not long after they were introduced by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (which happened a year after I sent Jeff McCormack the seeds to try), and Peregrine Farms is well known in the area for their superb produce.
The class began with Alex demonstrating his chili roasting technique (there is an outside deck adjacent to the classroom, where Alex had the gas flame-heated roasting screen mechanism all set up). The aroma emanating from the roasting peppers had the class of over 20 eager (and hungry) attendees swooning. We then came back indoors, and Alex and I took turns talking about peppers, alternating with Caitlin preparing the selected recipes, which were distributed to the class members by the remarkable Cooking School staff. What worked very well was the dual focus; Alex shared his experience with growing a variety of peppers commercially for sale to restaurants and shoppers at the Carrboro Farmers Market, and I discussed growing peppers from a home gardener perspective. The fact that peppers - both hot and sweet - thrive so well when grown in containers provides the potential for everyone to enjoy the colors and varieties for themselves.
Here is the menu of dishes that Caitlin prepared:
Roasted Pepper Salsa with blue corn chips
Roasted Pepper Soup
Stuffed Poblano Chilis (Relleno style) in Walnut Sauce
Mexican Chili Chocolate Brownies with Cinnamon Crema
Yes, it was as delicious as it sounds....the salsa was complex and savory, enhanced by using roasted tomatoes, sweet peppers, jalapenos and garlic and spiked with fresh lime juice. The soup was one of the best my wife Susan and I ever tasted, with a sweetness and complexity stemming from the use of carrots, apples and apple cider. The Rellenos were simply incredible, stuffed with a mixture that included pork, peaches, apples, pears and plantain, and topped with a sauce made primarily of pureed walnuts that matched perfectly with the . Finally, how can you not love a dessert that includes the texture of a chewy, rich brownie with the flavors of cinnamon and ancho chili?
Susan and I now have the memories of an exciting collaboration, the energy of an interested classroom of attendees who asked great questions and clearly loved the food, and a set of recipes that we can't wait to try for ourselves.
We are already making plans for next year's classes - both for tomatoes, and peppers. Be sure to watch for them; I will certainly let you know when they are scheduled.
Thanks, Caitlin and Alex, and the great cooking school staff!