battle 3–day 4–peppers

I really enjoyed pepper week. With squash and mushrooms I knew what I was up against since they’d been forced down my throat before, but I went into the battle with peppers armed with a lot of misinformation. That shit’ll getcha killed. Fortunately, peppers are but weak, meek little vegetables and I dominated them with my cunning and sheer determination to win, win, win.

dinner peppers

I cooked my last pepper meal, Beth’s roasted pepper pasta, last night and it was about as cumbersome as Melissa’s stuffed peppers. It wasn’t hard, but it was time consuming and involved several moving parts. I can only do about one part at a time when I’m cooking—I read and re-read recipes, I check and re-check ingredients, I wash and re-wash the cutting board—so dinner took a long, long, long time to get all those parts cranking to a slow crawl. And I knew pepper pasta would take a while, but I wasn’t in a hurry and that just gave me more time to….what the? Is David hovering? Is he rushing me?

Friends. Don’t hover. I had just gotten the peppers turned in the oven and the water boiling on the stove for the pasta (count that, two things going at once) when David said, “Do you think dinner will be ready by 8? There’s this band I want to see…” Then he started trying to help. I read somewhere once that positive reinforcement techniques used in animal training also work on people; the woman who wrote the article tried it on her husband when he was hovering in the kitchen, so I tried it on David. I directed him to the other side of the counter, cut up some cheese and crackers, put them in front of him, and said, “Stay.” He did. Score.

For the next several minutes we discussed whether it would be OK to use Pecorino Romano in addition to or instead of parmesan because I was running low on parmesan, and I had a whole block of Romano from last week when I tried to make mushroom risotto but couldn’t find all the ingredients at the farmer’s market (I basically only found the cheese…I don’t know why I bought it even though I couldn’t find anything else and it was looking likely that I would abandon the risotto…oh, yes I do, because it’s cheese). While I was grating what was left of the parmesan, I remembered Sarah’s golden cheese gem from last week—when it looks like enough, add more. So I decided it would probably be necessary to use all the parmesan and a bit (or half) of the Romano.

So. The peppers were roasting, the water was boiling, the cheese was grated and….plates were spinning. It was definitely coming together. I was feeling confident. I read the recipe, assessed my ingredients, washed the cutting board again and then determined I had enough time to throw a load of laundry in the wash before I had to read the recipe and wash the cutting board again.

I was feeling so proud when I was in the laundry room, singing self-congratulatory tunes to myself about how great I am (it was my own private party drenched in delusions of grandeur…the very best goddamn kind). I was cooking. I was cleaning. I was eating grown up food. I was reminding myself to tell David to tell me he was proud of me, too, when I heard, “MAGGIE!”

Maggie. The dog.

David said, “Hey, you had decided you were cool with Pecorino Romano, right?”

Then he made kissy faces at the dog, who had just eaten what was left of my parmesan. David and Maggie totally fucked up my mojo last night. I directed them both to the living room and instead of treats I gave them evil looks. “Stay.”

evidence

Beth’s roasted pepper pasta meal really is easy. There’s not a ton to do; it’s mostly a lot of sitting around and waiting for the peppers to bake or roast or whatever, a little bit of reading the recipe a thousand times, and then, right at the very end, everything comes together very quickly. Or at least it did for me. Or at least, I felt totally frantic trying to get everything just so and timed just right and just, just, just. But of course, I’m still me and I still don’t know how to cook, so there was just no way in hell I was going to get all those parts moving in my favor. I should probably also take this opportunity to mention that I only know how to cook at one temperature and one speed: hot and fast. I don’t really understand the physics of cooking, but it seems to me if you turn everything on high heat it will get done faster. Right? Many, many meals of mine have gone south (very quickly) this way. At least it was fast. So, right when everything was coming together—the pasta was cooked and drained, the peppers were peeled and diced—I burned the shit out of the garlic I was sautéing (it was absolutely the first time in my life I’ve ever “sautéed” anything). Seriously. Who came up with that word? Sauté?

So, I put everything else away, aside, on hold, and did what works for me: one thing at a time. I stood there and sautéed garlic. Slowly. On medium heat. It took forever. A minute or two at least. Then I added the pasta and peppers and voila….the hardest easy pasta meal you’ll ever make.

I really, really, really, really, really, really liked the roasted pepper pasta. We ate it all. All of it. Every last bit. I liked it so much better than pasta with red sauce. And I know I keep saying each meal was my favorite meal yet, but really, this was it, it’s my favorite so far. Beth has agreed to let me share the recipe here, so, enjoy!

pepper pasta

3 large peppers (1 yellow, 2 orange)
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic
1 package spaghetti noodles

  • Heat oven to 450. Put peppers on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Use tongs to turn peppers over. Bake for 20 more minutes. They will look burntish.
  • Remove peppers from oven. Chuck them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Wait 5 minutes.
  • Boil salted water and make spaghetti noodles according to package directions.
  • Pour cold water in the bowl with the peppers.
  • Pull the skin off of the peppers and remove seeds. This is all done, very easily, with your hands. Cut peppers into chunks.
  • Mince or press garlic clove.
  • Heat oil in large skillet. Add garlic and saute until just golden. Add peppers and drained pasta and toss to coat.
  • Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. (I obviously used Pecorino Romano, and it was great.)


Bookmark and Share

Advertisements

battle 3–day 3–peppers

You know how people say “I hate to say I told you so…” when really you know they are dying to say it? I’m not one of those people. I am more than happy to say I told you so, I told you so, I fucking told you so. This is probably not one of my more charming characteristics, but I’m OK with it because I have good hair. And I’m modest.

I beat the crap out of the green pepper last night. I mean, beat it down. Just like I said I would. Consummate Supporter Melissa R. and Infinite Naysayer Jon had offered to make for us Melissa’s family’s stuffed peppers, which were made up of ground beef, rice and Velveeta cheese. She confided later that the original recipe also included onions and celery (onions are never gonna happen and celery doesn’t happen until….oh look, I didn’t even put celery on the list because it’s either too much like onions or I just totally discounted it as a real food altogether), but Melissa is very accustomed to modifying recipes to suit my anti-vegetable, anti-onion diet, so she skipped those two awful additions (thank you, thank you, Melissa).

Melissa really slaved over the stuffed peppers, so I’m pretty glad stuffed pepper night went to someone other than me (huh….I’ve only cooked once this week so far…this is working out swimmingly). We walked in just as the baking peppers were starting to warm their house with a yummy, peppery smell, and then we stood around the kitchen and ate shrimp cocktail and brie while Melissa put the finishing touches on dinner. The peppers came out of the oven bubbling over with cheesy goodness and I have to admit, even though I was a little apprehensive about trying green peppers again and even though I’m always hesitant to put the first bite of whatever new vegetable I’m trying in my mouth, I couldn’t wait to shovel those peppers on our plates and chow down. They looked so great.

stuffed peppers

And they were so great. Holy peppers and meat and rice and cheese. I devoured them.

my lovely dinner plate

I guess one day I’ll really hate something and I won’t recover. But right now I’m winning the crap out of this war on vegetables.


Bookmark and Share

battle 3–day 2–peppers

Green peppers. Greeeeen pepperrrrs.

Can we just clear up a few things about peppers? A) Did you know they aren’t all hot? OK, that’s it. Just A. Don’t you think there should be like a Pepper Association of America (or of the world or the galaxy or the universe) that’s responsible for disseminating information to the public about the fact that only some of the most notorious peppers are hot? I think so. I’m going to look into this. Here’s why: I generally don’t love hot foods. I generally like bland food (David says I like beige-colored food). I’ve gone my whole life avoiding all peppers because I thought they were hot. Hot-t-t-t-t, HOT. And don’t you think, given the pepper’s position in popular culture (…ever heard of the band Red Hot Chili Peppers? Or the little Johnny and June tune Jackson? “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout…”), this is a reasonable assumption? I’m going to go ahead and blame my parents for allowing me to stereotype all peppers just because of a few unruly, spicy sizzlers. Thanks, Mom, thanks, Dad.

So everyone has been going on and on to me about how much they hate green peppers, and I just figured this was why. Because my world revolves around me and I don’t love hot shit, I figured green peppers must be the hottest. They’re not. I don’t know what the big fucking deal is about the green pepper. I didn’t love it, but I don’t know why it has to draw such ire from all you naysayers. Lighten. Up.

cutting peppers

I put my green peppers on pizza. I figured if it was such a scary monster, the best way to tame it would be to put it on something I love and I love pizza. And the main reason I love pizza is because it’s a big piece of bread (beige food) drowned in cheese (beige food). So yesterday when I was all like, ‘I’ll probably default to pizza a lot,’ what I meant by that was pizza equals easy. But of course I’ve never made pizza before. Surprisingly, I actually forget sometimes when I go into the kitchen that I don’t know how to cook, and I think things like, eh, it’s pizza, how hard can it be?

peppers and mushrooms

Not only was pizza not easy, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve made so far. And I almost fucked it up so much it nearly didn’t happen at all. I got the pre-made dough in the bakery section at Publix (many thanks to Occasional Supporter Melissa B. for pointing me right to it yesterday), some expensive organic tomato sauce (I don’t know crap about tomato sauce, but expensive and organic seemed like a good combination), basic mozzarella cheese, mushrooms (to prove that once I’ve added one vegetable to my diet I can keep eating it week after week), one green pepper and Italian sausage (obviously). I thought I was off to a brilliant start with these ingredients; I would make a fresh, colorful, homemade pizza all on my own. Then I opened the package of dough. And looked at David. And he shrugged. I struggled with it, kneading and pulling and wadding it back up again, for a solid 20 minutes before giving up and asking David what he thought I should do. He shrugged again. “I don’t know anything about pizza.” I glared at him. All these years he had me duped into believing he was this amazing cook, but really he was just saying that because he didn’t have to cook because I wouldn’t have eaten whatever he wouldn’t have pretend cooked anyway. Naysayer!

prepizza

Eventually we got around to rolling out the dough with a rolling pin we fashioned out of wax paper and a Kleen Kanteen bottle (of course, because why would we have a rolling pin?), and there laid a blobby amoeba of dough on which I would create my pizza masterpiece. So I started piling shit on. I smeared a thin, thin layer of tomato sauce around the center, because despite my love for tomatoes I don’t really like sauce. Then I added cheese. Then I sprinkled on a few green peppers. Then I added cheese. Then I scattered a small handful of mushrooms. Then I added cheese. Then I loaded it up with ground, browned Italian sausage. And then I added more cheese. And then some more. And finally, more cheese.

precheese

While all this was happening David was heating the grill, which is a Big Green Egg at our house, because our friends Tom and Melissa B. just rave about pizza on the Big Green Egg. I had talked to Tom earlier in the night to make sure I had dotted my Is and crossed my Ts for preparing the egg for pizza, which included putting corn meal on the cooking plate so the pizza didn’t stick, and I was pretty sure we were square. Pizza assembled, check. Egg fired up, check. Transfer pizza from baking sheet to egg….blastit. Corn meal on the baking sheet would have helped a lot. Right about then was when David read aloud from the Big Green Egg manual that they suggest assembling the pizza on the grill. So too little too late, DP.

postcheese

David tried some fancy tricks to get the pizza off the baking sheet, but I had fantastic visions of the whole thing upending and my peppers (my one pepper) going to my begging dog panting at our feet, so I just abandoned the grill entirely and popped that bad boy in the oven. Better luck next time, Big Green Egg.

The oven pizza was fine. It was pretty even. The Italian sausage was great, the mushrooms were delicious, and the green peppers were….crunchy. Ugh. I didn’t mind the flavor they left on the pizza after I picked them all out one by one, but the crunch, ouch, it was like nails on a chalkboard. It reminded me of onions. Green peppers on pizza, out.

pretty pizza

I’m back at it with green peppers again tonight, though, and especially since I didn’t mind the flavor, just the crunch, I feel fairly certain this battle is not yet lost.

Green peppers. Greeeeeen pepppperrrrrrrs.


Bookmark and Share

battle 3–day 1–peppers

Although my newfound love for tomatoes precipitated my interest in learning about other vegetables, it was really one meal I had a few weeks ago at my favorite restaurant, Watershed, that catapulted this whole project into being. Watershed makes the most amazing vegetable plate and during the summer it is usually filled with delicious Southern foods like fried okra and creamed corn, the only vegetables I ate before a few weeks ago. The project-catapulting veggie plate included two slices of tomato (seriously, the best in the universe), fried okra (also the best in the universe…maybe the galaxy…which is bigger? I think the universe…should of paid closer attention in 5th grade science…my husband the-space-freak is going to hate this side note), some other deliciousness I can’t remember right now, and butterbeans. I had never had butterbeans before, but these looked all creamy and fatty, and they were probably soaked in some heart-attack-in-a-vat ham product, plus they’re called butterbeans, not lima beans (ugh, ack, gross), so I couldn’t help but try them and then obviously lick my plate clean. It was after reporting this incident, of which I was most proud, to 200 of my closest friends on Facebook, and sorting through the various responses about how lame my diet is, including one rather vulgar response from my Mom (way to go with the foul mouth, Preacher Mom), that I got the idea to soak every other vegetable in the (what’s bigger than a universe? I really don’t know….) world (seems OK to just stick with what I can get from here for now) in hamhock and see how it goes.

Today, I went back to Watershed for lunch and broke the rules again. I got the vegetable plate, which thank god had fried okra, creamed corn, sliced tomato and cornbread (that really should be enough, right?), but it also had green beans and black eyed peas. Those are pretty far down on the list, like, I’m not even thinking about having to gag on those right now. I mean, this is pepper week. But I have a special affection for Watershed and their fatty, meaty vegetables, so…I…tried…them. The beans and the peas. Beans and peas weeks are going to be hard. I’m not saying they’ll win, I’ll win, but not without a lot of effort.

Watershed

The best suggestions I’ve gotten throughout this project have been process-oriented, like not making veggies the main feature of my meal, and although I think peppers seem like a good veggie to test drive that suggestion, I’ve got basically no ideas. The best I can come up with are fajitas and pizza (I think I’m going to default to pizza a lot). I’ve also had no fewer than four people offer to make stuffed peppers this week (Supporter Melissa R. wins this one; she made her family recipe sound most appealing and even though the project’s biggest naysayer also lives under her roof, he’s probably the one who will have to do most of the cooking, so who’s naysaying now, sucka???), so that’s a couple of nights, but otherwise peppers are stumping me. I want something awesome!

Because I didn’t go to the grocery store or farmer’s market Sunday, I wasn’t really ready last night, and because Mondays suck, I wasn’t in the mood to go to the grocery store or farmer’s market yesterday either, so I didn’t. We went out. I could pretend I wanted to start this week off with a bang and have an expert cook my very first pepper (er, second) to get me started off right, but really I was just lazy. We went to Mezcalito’s Cantina in Oakhurst in search of fajitas. It turns out Mezcalito’s is more Spanish-Venezuelan-Cuban fusion than it is Mexican or Tex-Mex, so I was shit out of luck on fajitas. I panicked for about a minute because now that meant I would have to actually order something with peppers in it and I wasn’t going to be guaranteed to appreciate the other things on the plate the way I knew I would with fajitas (meat). Fuck me and my laziness. I studied the menu intently, considering items with peppers, ruling out items with peppers, salivating over the chicken special that did not contain peppers, and finally settling on something with a Spanish name I didn’t recognize that was served on top of poblano pepper mashed potatoes. At the very least, I could scrape off whatever was on top and just eat the mashed potatoes.

Mezcalitos

!!!!! It was beef!!!!! The Spanish name I didn’t recognize and didn’t write down and isn’t on the Web site was beef! Beef shoulder actually. It was awesome. And the poblano pepper mash was excellent, too. I want us all to just take a minute to sit with this: I had meat and potatoes for my first pepper meal.

This project rules.


Bookmark and Share

battle 3–peppers

I went to a cookout Friday and put this whole project to its first major test: one of the vegetables I’ve supposedly added to my diet permanently was on the menu…and I ate it. And it was great. And it was only Week 2! It’s working! We had kabobs on the grill, which fortunately had a ton of red meat on them, and they were colorfully decorated with mushrooms and red, green and yellow peppers. And onions. I ignored the onions, of course. New Naysayer Chad is convinced he can get onions on the list or trick me into eating them (which is absolutely against the rules). Silly, deluded Naysayer Chad. And hipster Tom. And Mellow Dad. Onions are out. You lose.

Back in the real world, I excitedly enjoyed the mushrooms, and I inaugurated pepper week early by cutting a grilled red pepper into tiny little squares and nibbling on it carefully, fearful it would scorch my mouth (aren’t peppers supposed to be hot?). But I liked it. I haven’t determined yet what this means for red peppers, like if I’ve committed some major transgression against the project by breaking the rules and battling the red pepper two days early, if I still need to incorporate them into this week since I already know I like them, or what, but I know I’m going to have trouble with green peppers, so I’m going to concentrate more on them and worry about my departure from the rules with the red pepper later (I blame it on the vast amounts of tequila I consumed before dinner and the fact that my dinner companions dared me…even though they knew peppers were on deck for this week and I would get around to all of them eventually…naysayers and rulebreakers!).

Even though I had a relatively successful week with mushrooms, I did also learn two more valuable lessons from the parts I flubbed:

  1. My inability to cook could possibly hinder my total victory over some vegetables. For one thing, because I don’t know where shit is at the farmer’s market or grocery store I wound up completely abandoning the mushroom risotto last week (does anyone know what Arborio rice is or where to find it at the store?). The other thing is, unless recipes or instructions specifically say to dig out all that weird looking stuff under the mushroom and cut the stalk-y bit down to the very nub, I’m not going to know to do that, and then my portabella is going to fill up with oil and catch on fire, which it did. Spectacularly. So, if you send me recipes or ideas–and please keep them coming, I need them–assume you are working with someone who has the culinary skills of a nine-year-old.
  2. Partying hard on the weekends makes planning for the week and shopping for veggies on Sunday a real drag. This is another reason I’ve never really cooked. I have a life. I’m not sure what’s valuable about this lesson, actually, I’m just telling you, it blows. In other news, Paul McCartney was amazing at Piedmont Park this weekend. Have you heard of this guy? He was in a little band called the Beatles. I mean, we lost our shit when this happened.

Onward to peppers. Bring it, peppers.


Bookmark and Share