And now, for a little cooking interlude...
I happen to like this recipe (from the Sunset Vegetarian Cooking book), but the people who wrote the book have entirely too much time on their hands. I, however, am a little pressed for time and frankly, some of the stuff they say to do is just ridiculous. This is my signature dish (yeah, that sounds a little pretentious – let’s just say that this is what I cook as the vegetarian alternative every year at Christmas).
Note: I live alone. (I know, you’re shocked.) Therefore, I’m the only person who has to eat what I cook. It’s possible that not everyone has the same tastes as I do. Your mileage may vary.
1. Go to the store. Hint: it’s a good idea to check if you have rice before you go so you don’t end up with a third unopened bag of rice. (But there’s a rice shortage or something, so maybe that’s not a bad thing.)
2. Cook the rice. Don’t you hate it when you get to the step in the recipe that says “Add 2 cups cooked brown rice.”? What, you couldn’t have warned be about this ahead of time? Brown rice takes about an hour to cook, which sucks if you’re on a tight schedule.
3. Feed the cats. (Skip this step if you don’t have cats.) I really can’t stress this enough. If you feed them before going into the kitchen, you have at least an hour to get everything done before they wake up from the food coma. This is especially important since this recipe has cheese.
4. Wash all of the dishes you need. Okay, if you cook more often than I do, you may not need to do this. Let’s just say that everything I need to use has a patina of dust.
5. Clean out the fridge so you have somewhere to put the leftovers. And so that you can wash the dishes that held the leftovers that have since gone bad in the fridge. Yes, this is disgusting. But necessary.
6. Crank up the music. I highly recommend the Music Genome Project at Pandora.com. You tell it what music you like and it comes up with a playlist that it thinks you might like. I started with Split Enz. (So I like 80’s music. Sue me.)
What the original recipe calls for:
- 3 large red or green bell peppers
- Boiling water
- 2 cups cooked brown rice or wheat berries
- ¾ cup chopped almonds
- 2 green onions (including tops) thinly sliced
- 1 large tomato, peeled seeded, and chopped
- ¼ cup parsley
- 1 ½ cups (6 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp Worcestershire
- ½ tsp dry basil
- Garlic salt
Let’s break this down a bit:
3 large red or green bell peppers – This should just say 3 large red bell peppers. As far as I’m concerned, green bell peppers are disgusting. I’m not sure why you would put a bunch of effort into making a dinner and ruin it with green bell peppers. However, I realize that other people have different tastes, so knock yourself out.
Boiling water – What, am I assisting in a home birth? You don’t need this.
2 cups cooked brown rice or wheat berries – Frankly, I’m not really sure what wheat berries are. Sounds like a breakfast cereal, and that would really not be appropriate here. I use brown rice. Now, I’m not a big brown rice fan in general, but it really does work better than white rice here. But, hey, I’m not a food snob, so if you want to use Minute Rice (Hi Mom!), be my guest.
¾ cup chopped almonds – All they had at the store was whole and sliced almonds. Chopping nuts is time consuming and messy, so I just used a bag of sliced almonds.
2 green onions (including tops) thinly sliced – Not much to say here, other than my definition of thinly sliced is probably not as thin as the authors’.
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped – WTF!? Are these people on crack? Do you know what’s left after you do this? About 1 tsp of tomato mush, that’s what. Just chop a damn tomato and put it in. Seriously.
¼ cup parsley – I used a rather large bunch of parsley for a double recipe. I didn’t measure it, but I suspect there was at least two cups. No, my math skills are not defective. I think the parsley makes this recipe taste good, and it cooks down quite a bit. I still don’t get the sprig of parsley at the edge of the plate, though.
1½ cups (6 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese – I’m a big fan of cheese, but this is a little excessive. I probably used half of this.
2 eggs, lightly beaten – I used Eggology egg whites. Mostly just because I’m lazy, but also because that stuff lasts for four months in the fridge and you can freeze it. I usually just use eggs, though.
½ tsp Worcestershire – I think it’s interesting that a vegetarian cookbook uses this, since I have yet to find a brand of Worcestershire that doesn’t have fish in it.
½ tsp dry basil – I wasn’t measuring exactly, but I used extra because my dry basil is a little… old. All of my spices are. In fact, I can’t actually remember the last time I bought new spices. (I do dust off the spice rack every once in a while, if that counts.) I remember thinking that I should throw out the spices and buy new ones when I was packing to move to Louisiana. That was two years ago. Whatever.
Garlic salt – Once again, I failed to realize that I don’t own any garlic salt. I used some really old garlic powder (see above) and plain salt. That should be the same thing, right?
Pepper – Yes, I have this!
Cut peppers lengthwise through stems; remove stems and seeds. (Okay, so far.) Drop pepper halves into boiling water; boil, uncovered, for 2 minutes, then plunge into cold water and drain well. (I don’t do this. The peppers get baked in the end. I’m not sure why they should be boiled and baked. Maybe you need to do this if you’re trying to make green bell peppers edible.)
Stir together rice, almonds, green onions, tomato, parsley, 1 cup of the cheese, eggs, Worcestershire, basil, and garlic salt and pepper to taste. (Or, in other words, mix everything together.) Mound mixture into pepper shells. Place peppers in a shallow baking pan; sprinkle tops equally with remaining ½ cup cheese. If made ahead, cover and refrigerate.
Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes (45 minutes, if refrigerated) or until filling is piping hot. (Piping hot!). Makes 6 servings.
That’s it. Pretty simple if you don’t complicate things by torturing tomatoes and boiling the poor peppers. They freeze pretty well if, like me, you live alone.
I’ve also made this with those little bitty bell peppers for an appetizer at a party – if you’re going to do that, don’t cut the mini-peppers lengthwise. Cut off the top and scoop out the insides and then stuff them that way.
See, I do have a kitchen.