Many years ago our local grocery store started marking down the produce that was beginning to age. In a place where you will NEVER pay last than a dollar and usually easily more than 2 dollars a pound for anything other than potatoes and carrots, getting 3 or 4 pieces of fruit for a dollar is an amazing find! I kid-you-not that we pretty much live off that discounted produce bin. (We also do the same with our meat. What’s on discount today? That’s what’s for dinner.) The funny thing about stocking your produce bowl mainly with discounted goods, is that you never know what you’re going to get, and that unknown can really breed creativity.
For instance, this week pablano peppers and yellow bell peppers were in the bin. Instead of paying $2.50 a pound and $2 each, respectfully, for $4 I got 6 poblanos and 6 bell peppers. “What a great steal! Now, what am I going to do with these?”
I’ve been on a chilies kick lately, so I figured I could come up with something tasty. I also thought about bell pepper soup… thought. I did a lot of thinking about what to do with them… while they sat on my counter day after day and began to wilt.
Then we were invited to a last minute barbecue in which a vegetable side dish would be a good thing to bring. “I’ll make a pepper salad!” I knew it wouldn’t be too spicy, and was a perfect vegetarian option for members of the group.
It was decided, I would gently roast the peppers, large dice them and create a sauce using the sweet marsala cooking wine I have also come to befriend as of late. And then finally, while looking around for just the right finishing flavor, I had the chance to use the amchoor I purchased in Seattle! It was perfect for this Mexican inspired dish!
A Word About Amchoor:
Amchoor, or aamchur, is a tart, yet sweet, and almost smokey spice made from unripened mangoes. It is interesting that I usually think of Central and South America with mangoes, but amchoor is actually produced in India, the world’s largest producer of mangoes, nearly half of all of them, with China right behind. Go figure. Lots of people to feed, right?
To make amchoor, mangoes are harvested early in the season while still green. They are skinned and sliced into thin sheets to be sun-dried. After this they can be fine ground before or after purchase. So why go though so much work to make this powder? What is amchoor good for?
Well, first of all it contains all of the nutrition that fresh mangoes have, and, along with great tangy flavor, it can be used as a meat tenderizer. You can use amchoor to add the fruity flavor you desire, without having to deal with all the moisture they usually contain.
As you can imagine amchoor is mostly used in Indian dishes, and specifically in their northern country. Think samosas and pakora, a fritter like snack, as well as curries, chutneys, and marinades for meat.
Given, for this recipe I used it with what I had considered a Mexican dish, but what isn’t equally Indian about chilies, peppers, and onions?
Amchoor is not particularly hard to find, but you may need to look for it in a specially spice shop or international market. Our local grocery story happens to have a new organic herb and spice section that and carries it right in the health food section. Of-course, you can always purchase it online.
This salad is great stand alone as a side dish, but can also be incorporated into other dishes such as with eggs or in an omelet, tossed in fried rice, or chopped fine for a chutney or meatloaf additive. It has perfect pepper flavors without any spice!
Poblano and Bell Pepper Salad
By: semiserious chefs
- 3 poblano chilies, halved
- 2 yellow bell peppers, halved
- 1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine
- 1/2 T lime juice
- pinch of salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 of a medium sweet onion
- 1/2 t amchoor (see above)
- 1/2 cup of roasted salted pepitos*
- 1/4 cup fine chopped cilantro
*Pepitos are pumpkin seeds. You can buy them pre-roasted or do it yourself. There are directions in this recipe for how to do that.
- Place the halved poblano and bell peppers on a sprayed baking sheet under the broiler. Roast for several minutes on each side until moist and steamy, but not blackened or mushy. You want them to be bright, and still have a little bit of crisp. Remove from broiler and let cool to the touch.
- Chop the sweet onion, and the roasted peppers into equal sized, large diced, pieces. Place the poblano and yellow peppers in a large bowl.
- Add the diced onion, marsala wine, lime, and amchoor to a small sauce pan over medium heat, and bring to a simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add the warm sauce, the toasted pepitos, and cilantro to the peppers. Serve warm or cool with lime wedges optional.