Queen of the Supermarket

Rumour has it that Bruce Springsteen wrote his song, Queen of the Supermarket, about a newly opened branch of Whole Foods in New Jersey.  I doubt that he goes to the supermarket very often, and he said that when he visited all he could think about was people ‘getting down and dirty’ in the aisles.  Actually he didn’t say that, but I’m trying not to get an R rating on my blog.  Well, Whole Foods is certainly lovely and I enjoy going to my local branch (5 minutes walk away), but my goodness it is expensive.  Now I haven’t been to Waitrose since Christmas and it’s possible that UK prices have shot up as well, but considering there are only two of us, the bills are stupid.  The big news is that Fairway is opening in the space underneath our block.  Someone described Fairway to me as ‘Whole Foods quality but cheaper’ which made me very happy; but someone else said ‘Fairway?  Meh, I would only buy blueberries there’ which seemed slightly odd.  Anyway, I am hopeful that the first person was correct.

In the meantime, I wander to Whole Foods and marvel at the vegetables.  They are beautifully displayed and the colours are entrancing.  I really appreciate the wide variety of mushrooms available in the States – some confusingly called by a different name; some I’ve never seen but with a familiar name; and some I’ve never heard of.  I can confidently say that to date I haven’t bought a mushroom here that I haven’t enjoyed.  I also love looking at the range of chilli peppers.  Even in Asia, I never had a choice like this.  I must admit to being slightly scared of them – other than jalapeños and Thai bird chillis, I don’t know whether they will ruin a dish or not.

My other big joy here is the range of cheeses.  On my first visit to the States in the mid-90s, I was taken aback by the cheese.  There didn’t seem to be much choice and what there was tasted rather plasticky.  I was further taken aback when a dear friend in the US gave me a recipe which included the phrase ‘take a tin of cheese’ – what the heck was tinned cheese?  If I found it, did I want to eat it?  I never did make that recipe.

With Dad and I being cheesaholics, or as I now know turophiles, we were not looking forward to moving here and not having the choice of cheese.  We were delighted to find that, just as there is a strong artisanal movement in the UK, with small producers making niche cheeses, so there is such a movement here.  A mere ten minute stroll finds Beechers, a Washington state company which makes beautiful cheeses, some based on well known European cheeses, but more excitingly some of their own.  They make the best non-Cheddar Cheddar I have ever had.  We have the Union Square Green Market with many stalls selling goat, sheep and cow cheeses.  We have the Bedford Cheese Company which imports top quality cheeses and also stocks the best from this country.  Go to Philly and you have Di Bruno Bros which knocks NYC’s Murray’s into a cocked hat.  And coming full circle we have Whole Foods which has a wide range of local and imported cheeses.  There is one that not only tastes delicious, but makes me think of Hallie every time I see it….

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And while we are back in Whole Foods, spring has brought the first of the glorious Mediterranean vegetables, most of which I know Andrew dislikes, but the rest of us don’t so maybe you should ignore today’s recipe, darling?

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For too long, I only used peppers in ratatouille or raw with dips.  Today’s recipe changed my attitude.  I found the original recipe in a book of Spanish cookery.  Now El Bulli and Can Roca apart (neither of which I have ever had the joy of visiting), I find Spanish food can be repetitive and rather dull.  I have had some splendid meals there, but I’ve also had some distinctly ordinary stuff.  There is a strong sense of regionalism in the food, and when I had eaten suckling pig for the third time in four days in Castille and Leon (I ordered it on the first night – I was given it on the other two occasions), it lost its charm.  The joy of going out for tapas also dims when it happens too often over a long weekend.  There is great food to be found – the markets show that the produce is there – but I like variety.  Anyway, enough of this!  You’ve all heard me complain about Spain and its food before and I don’t need to go on.

Today’s recipe is Griddled Peppers and it makes a great salad, side or even a full dish with warm bread and some goats cheese.

Griddled Peppers – Ingredients

  • 3 peppers – 1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 red (I don’t use green peppers because they are under ripe and tend to give me hiccups.  I much prefer the sweetness of the ripe peppers)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • One lemon, juiced
  • Olive oil
  • A small handful of flat parsley, washed and chopped
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

Char the peppers on all sides, not forgetting the top.  I do this with a griddle pan but you could do it in a very hot oven, or with a heavy-based frying pan.

When they are all charred, leave to cool slightly and then put into a plastic bag.  Close the bag and leave to cool.  This makes the next stage much easier.

Remove the skin, seeds and stalk from the peppers.  I cut each one into six slices, but it’s up to you.

Layer the peppers, garlic and parsley in a dish.  Pour over 2 tbspns lemon juice and double the amount of olive oil.  Mix.  Taste.  Add more lemon or oil if desired.  Season with pepper (and salt if you like, although, as ever, I never add it).

Enjoy!

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