Unique Varieties: Mr. Volante's Cornetta Peppers
The last few months at Volantes have put to rest any theories and notions that we don’t like change. We have thrown ourselves whole-heartedly and with only enough caution to this exciting venture into the what Volante Farms is becoming, a true Place for All Seasons. We have always sought out new produce and vegetables for your tables and have tried to keep pace with food trends. Every year we scour seed catalogs for interesting new vegetables that might just hit the spot. This year for example we are trying a couple new (old) tomatoes, parsnips, turnips, asparagus, and something called a flower sprout, which we aren’t so sure about yet. We have tried new varieties of corn, beans, peas, lettuce and peppers. We are always interested in finding the plants that will grow the best for us and will taste the best and will spark an intriguing meal for you at home.
There is a firm contrast point to this though that helps define why we are successful at what we do. We recognize our triumphs and we embrace them. We learn what varieties of corn grow best in cool weather, or what green beans do not. There are even local tastes to be taken into account. We know our customers prefer a yellow squash that is not too crooked neck and that has a green as opposed to white or yellow stem. We also know that one of our mot popular spring garden seedlings is our very own Mr Volante’s Cornetta Pepper.
This pepper was brought from Italy by Ferdinand Volante. It is a slender red when ripe pepper reminiscent of its hot cousin the Hot Portugal. But hot it is not. In fact it is one of the sweetest peppers you may ever taste. We harvest the first two plant-ripened bushels of Cornettas every year for our own personal seed stores. Ferdinand used to collect, dry, and save the seeds from these peppers himself. Since his passing one of our field crew, Lefty, does the arduous cutting, coring, and cleaning chore to make sure we have plants the following year. The trick to this tradition, is not just in the seeding, but in the aftermath. Ferdinand would have a tendency to fry up those peppers after he got all the seeds out and then would bring them down, oily and warm at 6,7 or 8 am on a cold fall morning. We employees would scoop the peppers off the plate, in their sandwich layers of paper towels, and shove them into hot loaves of Cavagnis Italian Bread. And this tasty situation was worth looking forward to year after year. A little oil, a little salt, a little garlic was the only recipe we ever got. the trick was always to know that to Ferdinand nothing was ever little.
Considered an Italian frying pepper, if you are a fan of peppers at all you should learn to love this pepper. How? By trying it once in the traditional Volante way. If you haven’t grown them yourselves, we are now done with our seed harvest for 2012, and are now offering the excess for sale on the stand. Grab a large handful. I would say enough to cover a standard baking sheet will yield enough for 4-6 sandwiches. All the extras will be eaten by you, the chef, on their way out of the oven.
Follow this recipe, more or less, which is Ferdinand Volante’s recipe, more or less for an amazing treat from the garden. Accompanying photos are from last week’s harvest of seed peppers, which we can now cook on site in our Farm Kitchen, instead of at my house. Like all good traditions the first batch of peppers still went to the employees of the Farmstand this year and we gathered around a batch of soggy sweet peppers in the back room and scooped them up with our home-baked baguettes late last Tuesday afternoon. Satiated, we have released some to chef Todd to include on steak sandwich specials this week in his own way, but the recipe below is pure Volante:
Choose ripe red Cornettas. they can even be ripe to the point of wrinkly they will still taste fine. green ones are ok, but nothing beats the reddest ones.
Cut the stem end off and slice in half, length-wise, trimming off especially bad spots, and scraping away the seeds. Once you acquire the taste for these peppers you will probably forgo the whole seed scraping portion so that you can eat them quicker, but for the first few rounds, I’d suggest seeding.
In a large bowl combine cleaned peppers with a healthy pour of olive oil. Salt liberally with coarse sea or kosher salt. Grind on some fresh black pepper. Drop in a head’s worth of peeled garlic cloves if you are a fan of garlic, leaving them whole allows for easy removal for those with more sensitive palates.
Using your hands, toss peppers and spices liberally in the oil so that they are fully and well coated. If you think they may not be oily enough, you should certainly add more. The same goes for the salt.
Spread evenly on a baking sheet, one with preferably high sides. place in a preheated 400 degree oven. Check after 15 minutes. peppers should be soft and melting into pan a little bit. you need to gauge your own oven on this, but ideally another 5-10 minutes will finish them off. You may want to broil the last 5 minutes to get a little carbon on the peppers, that is a personal touch.
remove peppers from oven, set down tray and consider burning your fingers to try the pepper that is calling your name.
Set tray aside and line plate with absorbent paper towels, place peppers on it and layer paper towels on top, continuing until all peppers are on plate and having oil drain a little bit.
Find a warm loaf of bread, slice open, and fill with peppers. Enjoy. Realize it is very early and time to go to work. Repeat as necessary while the season lasts.