Monday, August 26, 2013

Bisnonna's Stuffed Green Peppers [The Cookbook]

My own memories of the illustrious stuffed pepper are fuzzy at best. I remember my mother making them and I remember them being wrapped, trayed, and put into the freezer. I think they were a cookout, party, or large gathering food of some kind because I recall nothing about them making an appearance at our dinner table. Honestly, I’m not sure if that makes this a great place to start or an awful one. Nevertheless...

It all starts with the bell pepper (also referred to as peperoni in Italian and mango in certain parts of rural Ohio), the least spicy variety of Capsicum annuum. Don’t get me wrong, I love my spicy chiles, but there is something subtle and lovely about a simple green pepper. Then there’s the way they smell...

It’s one of my favorite smells: a fresh bell pepper. When we would go to the farm market or some other produce stand, my father would always smell the bell peppers. That’s how he would choose which ones were right for our purposes. I don’t know if my mother believes him, but I do. Bell peppers smell crisp with a light bitterness that just makes me happy for some reason. Maybe that’s why I like Cabernet Sauvignon.

Despite prepping for a lengthy endeavor, my Bisnonna's Stuffed Peppers turned out to be much simpler than anticipated. I modified her recipe a little: a sin, I know, but I suspected this will happen a lot as many of the recipes do not include exact amounts or really any instructions at all. My modifications here are mainly an issue of experimentation.

And of course there's that rebellious streak. Bisnonna's first instruction is to cut the peppers in half and clean them out. I also remember my mother cutting them in half so that they looked like little boats. I instead cut the tops off because I am not very good at following instructions.

The experimentation carried over into the rice (brown and made in a rice cooker) and to the stuffing mix, to which I added bread crumbs, basil, and red pepper flakes.

The one rule I did not dare to flaut, however, was topping with a little more sauce and some Romano cheese. Madre told me this was incredibly important and I agree.

Stuffed Green Peppers 
Via The Cookbook

Bisnonna writes: 
Cut in half and clean out your green peppers, set them aside. Make your rice according to the box's directions. Brown an onion and a little bit of garlic in some oil, add some ground beef and simmer. Mix this with the rice and add a little bit of sauce. Put this into your green peppers, top with some more sauce and a little bit of Romano cheese. Put them on cookie sheets and bake in a 350 degrees over for about 45 mins. or until tender.

Madre adds:
Remember when you eat these, EAT THE PEPPERS TOO. Grandma used to yell at us kids because we'd eat only the stuffing. One time she had left over stuffing and she told us to eat that. Well, it didn't taste the same.
[I'm not sure what she was on about honestly. It makes a pretty good tortilla dip.] 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

If I had to describe the way my family expresses emotion (every emotion from despair to joy to jealousy), I could do it in one word: food. Celebration was food...and grief was food.

I was nine years old when my mother put together “The Cookbook”. After the death of my great-grandmother, my mother channeled her grief into cobbling together a collection of her recipes and spreading it out among the relatives. She took the pain she felt at losing someone she desperately loved and turned it into a remembrance: a way to keep, at least one aspect of her alive. This is where our story begins: with me, who has been cooking like a college student (ramen noodles for a week straight is healthy, right?) for -far- too long, who once-upon-a-time really was a decent cook, who feels a little disoriented about her place in the world, and a set of recipes: “The Cookbook” as well as many others. Recipes and family stories in hand, we’re going on a culinary expedition! I hope you’re hungry.