Monday, August 15, 2011

Hot Pepper Harvest and a Spicy Stew

A few of our lovely homegrown peppers

This weekend we did a lot of weeding in the brutal heat and sun. Sometimes I feel sorry for Rob because this is what I like to do on the weekend; I like to labor. And so he must labor too. On Saturday we weeded and mowed the grass and took small breaks for limeade and Winn-Dixie Italian ices, which we consumed on the floor of the sun room among our many cats. It was so hot, it was "stupid hot," as I once heard a technician at Super Lube say one August day.

The best part of weeding was admiring the wildflowers in bloom all around me: delicate purple ironweed, yellow cutleaf coneflowers, Turk's caps, woodland sunflowers, and rosinweed (with flowers like happy faces). . . . The meadow and borders are mostly yellow now; August is the month of yellow flowers.

In the garden, the hot peppers are really starting to kick, and our poor scraggly old tomato plants are still producing like crazy even though they look so worn out. On Saturday morning we picked a bunch of tomatoes and made fresh salsa with lime and green onions and our own homegrown garlic, cilantro, and hot peppers. The hot peppers are so pretty; they look like candy--sour balls and such. They're bright red and orange and so wonderfully shiny. We're growing jalapenos, habaneros, cayennes, clown peppers, Tabasco, and Thai Dragons.

Rob thought the salsa was the best he's ever made. "The key is a little lime, but not too much," he said, bragging. "See? I only used half this lime."

We ate mostly salsa for lunch on Saturday. And then that night we cooked up a lentil stew based on this recipe. We changed the recipe kind of a lot, so we could use up as many tomatoes as possible, so I've typed up our version down below. Even though we used pounds of tomatoes in the stew, our refrigerator is still overflowing with them, and the counters are covered, and the cats are rolling them around on the floor like balls. There are tomatoes everywhere--and still more to pick.

Lentil stew with a basil garnish. Basil is so awesome, in my opinion. It's pretty and tasty and it's great in a pollinator garden; ours is always covered with butterflies and bees and interesting wasps.

Rob and Leslie's Spicy Lentil Stew


2 cups red lentils
3 cups water
½ cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
6 fresh cayenne peppers, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbls fresh grated ginger
10 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 cups fresh stewed tomatoes (chop fresh tomatoes and boil them down for about 30 minutes with a little salt)
10-oz bag frozen peas

Spice Blend
4 tsp cumin
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground fenugreek
½ tsp cardomom
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt


Wash the lentils and place them in a pot with 3 cups of water and a little salt. Bring the lentils and salted water to a boil and cover; simmer on low heat for 30 minutes (the lentils will turn mushy). Set cooked lentils aside. Add olive oil to a large pot and saute the onions, carrots, and cayenne peppers for about 10 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. You’ll probably need to cover the pot and sweat the carrots in order to get them to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, and spice blend and saute about 5 minutes. Add the chopped Roma tomatoes and cook 5 more minutes. Add the stewed tomatoes. Simmer until bubbling. Add the cooked lentils and peas and simmer 15 more minutes. Serve over brown rice.

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