Good morning, everyone. I hope you had a nice weekend. The rain wasn't very nice, I know, or the misty gray drizzle, but we tried to enjoy ourselves anyways. After all, it's important to send off August with plenty of huzzah. We want it to know how welcome it is to return when the time rolls around again.
And of course, the rain felt pretty good in the kitchen. I can't remember the last time I've actually wanted to turn on the oven and cook, but yesterday, I did. I cranked that bad boy right up and cleaned out the fridge. There were chocolate chip cookies—these ones, with an extra pack of Ghiradelli's for oomph—another batch of roasted carrots and fennel for soup, and finally, Marion Cunningham's stuffed green peppers. Here are the cookies, waiting their turn.
Unfortunately, it isn't the cookies I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is the stuffed green peppers, and the picture I have for you of them is not nearly so pretty. (I could go into how a certain four-legged, black-haired member of my family has suddenly developed a rather soft spot for vegetables, particularly good-old fashioned ones baked and heaping with sautéed onions and garlic and tomatoes and oregano with a nice hefty slab of mozzarella plopped down on top, but I'm not sure you'd believe me.) The point is, don't judge these things by their picture. Please. They really are a lot tastier than they look.
In case you aren't quite convinced, here is a list of their top-shelf qualities, in order of importance:
1. They have a layer of melted, crispy-where-it-has-dribbled mozzarella on top, which, if you've done your shopping around here, came from the wonderful woman at the Provincetown farmers' market who sells it fresh on the street and who routinely empties your wallet without you noticing because she is That Good.
2. They are filled with sautéed onions and garlic and tomatoes and oregano and chunks of crusty bread.
3. Do we really need to go on here? If you're not convinced yet, then maybe Marion and I just aren't for you. Heck, if you even needed convincing after all that about the mozzarella, then maybe we're not for you. Even my dog thought these were good. And he does not eat vegetables, people, Ever. (Except for raw green beans. He will sit out on the deck and chew through a whole bushel of them as if they were the best marrow filled chew toy you ever licked. But beyond that, I swear, nothing. Especially nothing slippery, like say, baked peppers and garlic and onions and tomatoes sautéed.) Apparently, there are no safe bets anymore.
Anyways, it's a bit sunnier today I know, so you don't have to make them right away. But the next time it starts to drizzle or maybe even get dark, just think about it, okay? You don't need much—not a lot of ingredients or even time. A trip to the farmers' market this weekend might help, and maybe a pair of slippers and a good, colorful apron, but beyond that, you should be good to go. So enjoy the day, and when you get around to it, let me know how this went.
STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS
If you've never read any Marion Cunningham, you really ought to. She has a wonderfully old fashioned yet practical take on things, and she delivers it all without a fuss. These peppers are a perfect example—fresh and easy and satisfying but very healthy at the same time. I adapted them a bit to fit what I had in my kitchen—her version does not have bread cubes but uses eggplant, which I didn't have on hand—and she also did without the mozzarella on top. Feel free to play around a bit depending on what you have; so long as you keep the tomato-onion-garlic-oregano flavor base, you have a very good chance of success.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 green bell peppers, halved and seeded
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 pint very ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
1 slice stale crusty bread, cut into small cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces fresh mozzarella
4 basil leaves for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and use a little bit of the olive oil to grease a pie plate. Drop the pepper halves into a pot of salted boiling water and put a plate on top of them so they stay submerged. Parboil for 4 minutes, remove, and set aside.
In a large sauté pan, heat up the rest of the olive oil over medium high heat. When the pan is warm, add the onions and the garlic and cook for several minutes, or until both begin to get soft. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the bread cubes.
Arrange the pepper halves face up in the pie plate and stuff the tomato mixture into each. Top each one with a 1/2-ounce slice of mozzarella and bake for 20 minutes. When you pull them out, put a basil leaf on top of all the mozzarella slices, and enjoy the peppers at once. (Marion says you can also eat them cold, but I can only vouch for them hot.)