I think that there is a powerful connection between how food tastes and the satisfaction we derive from eating. When food tastes good, we can be satisfied with just enough - and don't need to keep eating to fill the flavor void.
I'm still in the seasonal eating mode. And why not? Ripe produce is still abundant in our gardens, at our farmer's markets or roadside stands. Local vegetables and fruits are fresher, have more nutrients and taste better because they haven't traveled thousands of miles to get to us.
Since spending a couple of weeks on the Colorado/New Mexico border, I've been obsessed with chiles â New Mexican green chiles. Drive through almost any large town in the southwest in late summer or early autumn and you'll see a pickup truck filled with burlap bags of freshly harvested green chiles. Next to it will be a circular drum roaster turning over a fire to perfectly roast the peels of the chiles until they're evenly blistered in a matter of minutes.
New Mexicans grow several varieties of Anaheim chile, capiscum annuum, which have been bred for the southwestern high desert climate to yield a larger, more flavorful and spicy green chile which is pale green, slender and about 6 inches in length. In the north, Anaheim chiles are the closest variety in size and taste.
What's seasonal about roasted green chiles is smelling them in the air at a roadside stand or a local farmer's market, and knowing that a batch of green chile sauce or green chili can soon be simmering on the stove. But like the best of all vegetables ready at their peak of harvest, you want to find a way to preserve that goodness throughout the winter when you've reached the end of seasonal eating.
We may not be lucky enough in the midwest to have a chile roaster on every corner, but late summer and early fall can be a perfect time to visit any farmers' market and load up a few bags of freshly grown red bell peppers or spicier Anaheim or Poblano chiles to roast at home and freeze for use throughout the winter.
Choose firm, unwrinkled peppers grown by farmers who don't use pesticides on their vegetables. (Not sure how to find that out? Just ask!) At home, rinse peppers and pat dry. Roast directly on the rack of a grill over medium heat on a gas grill, or over fresh coals. Turn every few minutes as the skin becomes charred and blistered to evenly roast. Don't be timid about charring the skin - it will be easier to peel the peppers later, and the flavor will be wonderful. Remove peppers to a bowl and let cool for 15 minutes to room temperature. Pack several peppers or chiles into small (pint or quart-sized) zippered plastic freezer bags and freeze immediately.
Roasted peppers last beautifully when they are frozen whole and unpeeled in small freezer bags. Once thawed, they can be easily peeled and chopped to be added to cornbread, polenta, chili or winter soups. Remove the veins and seeds in hotter peppers to reduce the heat. Peppers - especially red bell peppers and hotter green chile peppers - are wonderful vegetables to eat regularly for their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxident benefits, as well as the vitamins A and C they contain. Hot peppers, which contain capsaicin, are excellent circulatory and immune system boosters. When peppers are roasted, their flavors become more complex, adding sweet smokiness and a little spice to foods. And who couldn't use a little spice around here - especially in the middle of winter? I'm already more satisfied just thinking about it.