Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Peppers stuffed with tomatoes and chilies

This recipe is an adaptation from Jamie Oliver's version. It was done from memory, so isn't exactly the same. It looked so good when he did it on his Jamie at Home program. It got the ultimate madame accolade, "We can serve this to people."

The Food Network didn't publish the actual recipe, but it is very straightforward and very adaptable. One comment that Jamie Oliver made was that "Mr. Pepper loves Mr. Garlic who also loves Mr. Tomato." I had some visions in the kitchen that I put out of mind as I was cooking.

I made the filling up (except for the basil) a couple of hours before stuffing the peppers and cooking the dish. The oven temp. will be 400F, the cooking time in total is about 50 minutes.

1 Red Pepper, halved lengthwise, deseeded and the stem left on
2 Yellow Peppers, halved lengthwise, deseeded and the stem left on
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
1 Clove garlic, peeled and sliced finely
18 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
½ green jalapeno
2 sweet chili peppers – not bell peppers but something like Italian sweet peppers
2 T Capers, soaked and drained
Handful olives, pitted – I used a mixture of green and black because that is what I had
A Bunch Fresh Basil, leaves picked
1 T Sherry vinegar
3T Extra Virgin Olive oil
6 Sliced Pancetta or Smoked Bacon
6 Slices bread, preferably rustic and grilled/toasted
3 Oz herbed goat cheese

Make the stuffing by combining the tomatoes, garlic, finely chopped chili peppers, capers, vinegar, olives and oil. Season with a little salt and pepper. Set aside until you are ready to stuff the peppers. Letting the flavors combine doesn't do any harm.
When you are ready to cook the dish, preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the ribs from the pepper halves and season the insides with a little salt and pepper. In a deep cooking tray, lay the peppers open side up. Tear up the basil and put in the bottom of the peppers, and then stuff the peppers tightly with the reserved stuffing mixture. Make sure you use all the liquid that has collected in the bowl. Artfully drape a piece of very thinly sliced pancetta over the top of each stuffed pepper. Cover tightly with alumin(i)um foil and bake covered for 20 or so minutes. Uncover and bake for a further 20 or 30 minutes. The pancetta will become very crispy. Note: The yellow peppers cooked a little faster than the red peppers. The red peppers could have done with a bit longer – next time I will bump up the covered cooking time to 25 minutes instead of 20. Probably leave the uncovered time about the same.
To serve, place each pepper on its own slice of grilled bread. I used home made sourdough for this. Dab the top of each hot pepper with a little goat cheese. You can also decorate with some greens (e.g. arugula), but I served them plain – with a glass or 3 of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


This doesn't have anything to do human food and the kitchen, but I had to jot it down somewhere....

It was a nice day here today, so I thought it would be fun to set up the squirrelcam to take video of the squirrels as they cavort - feeding from a bungee suspended corn cake.

Easier said than done.

The video camera mounts onto a tripod, so that step was straight forward. The remote control for the camera is at the business end - in front of the lens. So any attempt by me to power it on would frighten the buddha tummied little buggers away.

No problem - in the most Heath Robinson way imaginable, I rigged up a mirror in front of the camera and aimed it so I could bounce the remote control signal to the receptor on the camera. Easy enough. So now we have the camera on a tripod, the mirror on a low table in front of it, artfully held in place with a rock to get the angle just right.

This is all just outside a living room window. The camera set to a suitable zoom, the mirror aimed perfectly - a pregnant pause while we await the arrival of Mr. Squirrel.

No sign. Then the camera goes into a snit and powers down - to quote the manual, "To save running the battery down, and to avoid wear on the tape." Well the camera is plugged in to a convenient outlet so no worry about the battery. But the tape wear - frankly I don't care. But as in all things that are done to protect you - it doesn't work quite right. Clearly the product designers in Japan had not expected squirrelcam.

As it happens, I can reach out of the window to turn the recording on and off, so I will have to do that. However to make sure the mirror does get some use, I can zoom the camera in and out when Mr. Squirrel does arrive and is practicing cartwheels on the bungee cord.

I wonder who is training whom?

What better way to spend a Sunday?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon Inspired Sliders

We made this dish to complement our wine choice for "Open That Bottle Night", 2009. The challenge was to turn boeuf bourguignon into finger food, so we served the braise inside small, home made ciabatta rolls.

Ingredients – for the braise

4 lbs English cut beef short ribs
2T canola oil
3 onions – peeled and chopped roughly
3 carrots – peeled and chopped roughly
1 stalk celery – chopped roughly
1 head garlic – individual cloves peeled and chopped
2T tomato paste
1/4 Cup flour
1/2 bottle Red Burgundy
1 28 oz can Italian style tomatoes –no juice, tomatoes chopped
1T Soy sauce (hardly traditional!)
6 prunes (hardly traditional)
3 bay leaves
Ingredients – for the finish

1T canola oil
2 Oz guanciale (can substitute pancetta or non- smoked bacon)
10 oz pearl onions (I used frozen)
6 oz white or cremini mushrooms – cleaned and chopped into ¼ inch pieces
8 thyme sprigs
6T Dry sherry (Madeira would be better, but we had sherry!)

Method – Braise
Note: This can be done the day before – in fact it is probably better if it is done the day before. Separate the ribs into individual pieces and pat dry. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the ribs for about five minutes on each cut surface. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
Remove the ribs, and pour off all about 1T of the fat in the pan. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery to the pan and sweat the vegetables over medium low heat, scraping up the browned bits. After about 5-8 minutes, add the garlic and continue to cook until you can smell the garlic. Then add the tomato paste and ensure that it starts to brown on the bottom of the pan. This adds extra flavor depth to the dish. Once the tomato paste has browned a little, add the flour. Stir to cook. Add the tomatoes, wine and soy sauce and mix the contents well.
Transfer the contents of the skillet to a slow-cooker and sprinkle the prunes on top of the vegetables. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Nestle the ribs into the vegetable mixture thin edges first. You want the ribs pushed into the vegetables, not lying on top of them. Turn the slow cooker to low and leave cooking for at least 6 hours – or until the meat is fork tender. At first as you peer through the lid it will look dry, but then as the vegetables give up their juices, it looks pretty wet.
After it has finished cooking, extract the ribs and strain the juices into a fat separator. The goal is to collect all the juices, but none of the solids. The carrots, onions, etc. have no flavor left by this time.
Pour the juices back over the ribs, taking care to retain as much fat as possible in the separator. Refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, any surplus fat will have congealed on the surface. Scrape it off. Remove the ribs and trim the meat off the bones. Chop into very small pieces. Note if serving this as a main dish, you could leave the meat on the bone, but I wanted to put it into sliders.
Strain the liquids, pushing the prunes, tomato pulp etc against the strainer to extract maximum flavor. You should now have about 1 ½ cups thick, smooth liquid. Pour it back over the chopped meat, cover, and refrigerate.
Method – Finish
Do this after you have refrigerated the chopped meat.
Heat the oil over medium high heat, in a skillet until shimmering. Add the finely chopped guanciale (or pancetta) and cook on low until crispy. Pour off most of the fat. Set the cooked guanciale aside. Turn the heat up to medium, add the pearl onions (still frozen) and sauté (still on medium heat) until they are slightly browned. You will need to shake the pan frequently. Add the chopped mushrooms and the thyme and cook until the mushrooms have given up all their liquid. Add the guanciale back into the skillet. Turn the heat off while adding 3T sherry (or marsala). Turn the heat back on, and cook the mixture down until almost dry. Repeat for the next sherry addition.
Remove the thyme and allow to cool. When cool mix into the beef mixture.
Gently reheat the dish in a saucepot on the stove top. You will need to stir pretty constantly. Reheating in the microwave is not advised, the mixture is thick and tends to scorch and explode!
Slice some small ciabatta rolls (see ciabatta recipe in this blog) so that they have a hinge. Open each roll and insert 1-2T of the meat mixture. Close the lid on the roll.
Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

OTBN 2009

We hosted an "Open That Bottle Night" party again this year. Same general idea as before – invite wine loving friends, ask them to bring something special and be prepared to share the experience. This year there were a total of 10 of us and we shared 8 different wines and a variety of delicious foods. A real treat all around.

To start the party we had some appetizers and some fun/light Prosecco. The Candoni which isn't as bone dry as some, but set the tone for the evening. Griff and Suzy brought a huge plate of cold meats, cheeses, etc. to have as appetizers. Charles/Tracey brought delicious stuffed artichoke hearts and Cathy produced a brie with a sweet glaze and gently hot peppers. Oink, oink!

Before getting into the wines (and they were all wonderful!), we went through a tasting exercise. I had made up some essences of some of the flavor compounds found in wines. These compounds ranged from sweet to tannin with bitter, sour, flowery, fruity, smooth, oak, and acetic. The compounds were made up to be very subtle, so we had to work quite hard to get the flavor profiles. The results were fascinating. Those who don't like Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers didn't care at all for the flowery compounds. Those that really like the big cabs really went for the tannin, and to a lesser extent the oak.

We were encouraged to compare the flavor profile with pure water in each case so we could really get the subtle distinctions. All in all quite an interesting exercise. It also made sure that the assembled gathering were pretty well hydrated before getting to the main event.

We arranged the wines in sequence – from lightest to heaviest. This year they were all red wines, so it was trickier than in years past. Here's what we had.

  • Clos de la Roche (Burgundy 1er cru) 2000 – with a delicious baked chicken dish. Bryan brought this and explained that it was becoming pretty hard to get. What a terrific start to the evening – wish there had been more. That's going to be a familiar theme, by the way.
  • Chateau de Pommard (Burgundy ) 1996 – with Boeuf Bourgignon inspired sliders. Madame and I provided this. It was one we brought back from our trip to Burgundy in 2002. While not the highest quality Burgundy we will ever drink, it still had sufficient complexity for the food. Interestingly it opened up very quickly in the glass.
  • Baron de Barbon (Rioja) 2005. This is a 100% Tempranillo brought by Cathy. Delicious very characteristic Rioja with lots of tannin and some dried fruit bouquet – almost raisin like. That sweetness was in the bouquet, but not on the tongue. Cathy had found it while doing research – and she kindly brought a second bottle which we have kept to ourselves….
  • D.V. Catena (Argentina) 2004. A 100% Malbec brought by David and Sandra. This was the last bottle from their personal favorite collection of Malbecs, so we were honored to share it with them. Sandra prepared an Asian flavored Kobe beef dish that was absolutely delicious (note to self, get recipe from Sandra!) It complemented the wine perfectly – causing of all things the spiciness of the dish to come jumping out.
  • Veraison Synchrony (California, Napa) 2004. This is an interesting and complex wine. It is a blend of equal parts Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (44% each) with 6% Malbec and 6% Merlot, so there is a lot going on. Charles and Tracey brought this to the party after tasting it at a local wine bar called Cru.
  • Darjoush (California, Napa) 2005. This is a huge cabernet Sauvignon, with lots of tannin and an amazing amount of body. Somewhat oaky too. Griff and Suzie found this on their trip to Napa last year (for their 25th. Wedding anniversary) – just about breaking their backs carrying the unbelievably heavy bottles home.

So that was it for the formal stuff – but to add to the fun we opened a bottle of our current favorite Shiraz – The Ausvetia 1998 which we had managed to buy on sale (just as well really!).

All in all this was a terrific party. Even though it looks like a lot of wine, the pours were small and we got to savor everything. Thanks to everyone for coming to a fun party.