This was supposed to be text in praise of being busy, but I find it quite hard to write about things weeks after they have happened. As the frequency of posting indicates, my days are rather filled with activities these days - I am spending more time at the university even though the initial excitement of new courses has already worn off, there is a new job on my weekly schedule, and this new version of this website is still in the works - and finally, my flatmate and I (mostly me, she travels all the time) finally moved our butts off the couch and went to Nice this weekend, but more on that next time; now, let me get back to my previous trip.
My stay in Barcelona back in February resulted with several new pages scribbled with things to try in the kitchen, which will probably have to wait until the summer, when aubergines and peppers are at their best. In my head, I am already planning menus for late-night dinners in my favorite style of a lot of small things to mix on the plate: crispy roasted potatoes, fried tiny green peppers, grilled leeks and aubergines, artichokes prepared in a way which won't intimidate me too much, bowls of romesco and allioli, a basket of bread, torn not sliced - but for now, it's those stuffed peppers, which are just a play on Catalan flavors and techniques. Maybe I will read more on the subject before July comes. I sure will have to clean and organize the balcony, which has become our storage space, the same purporse it had served last winter.
Roasting vegetables rends them very sweet and brings out some deeper layers of flavor, sometimes adding a smoky edge, softening and caramelizing at the same time - it's my favorite way of preparing carrots, beets or tomatoes. It's also very uncomplicated - just cut the produce, cover with some oil to prevent drying, then let the heat of an oven do its magic, which works especially well on peppers. While I could eat those nightshades the same manner I eat apples, those cooked in the oven become simply irresistible. They taste of sunshine, even if I haven't seen it in weeks myself (welcome to Milan, the greyest and dampest city I've seen). And sort of just melt in your mouth. Try adding them to pestos, hummus or dips. Or stuff them, raw, with something well-spiced and allow of all the flavors blend for half an hour or so.
The stuffing I made is based on rice and a but here are some more ideas:
- couscous, thyme, olives and tomatoes
- spinach, onions, raisins
- buckwheat, green beans, garlic
(makes 3 servings)
for the stuffing:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small aubergine, 1 cm cube
1/2 cup pumpkin cubes / 1 small carrot, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 tbsp raisins
100g / 1/2 cup short-grain rice, like arborio or bomba
500 ml vegetable stock / water
250 ml passata / tomato juice
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1 tsp dried nyora flakes / sweet paprika
1 tsp salt (or less, to taste)
1 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 lemon, juice and zest
3 medium peppers
3 tbsp breadcrumbs
3 tbsp ground almonds
1 tbsp olive oil
In a large cooking pan, preheat oil, then add onion and cook for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add aubergine and cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes. Add pumpkin/carrot, tomatoes and stir to combine, then add rice and raisins, stock and passata, stir until there are no dry bits of rice, cover with a tight-fitting lid, lower the heat to very low and cook for 20 minutes, checking after 10 if extra liquid is necessary - if so, add 1/2 cup of water.
Prepare the "picada": in a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, parsley and salt to paste, then add the breadcrumbs, nyora/paprika and lemon.
Check the rice for softness - if it's ready, add the seasoning and stir well, then cook for another 3 minutes until the smell of garlic becomes sweeter. Remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 180*.
Wash and cut your peppers in half, remove all the white parts - you can keep the stem if you think it looks cute. The edible part of the vegetable will easily come off once it's cooked.
Stuff the peppers, using about 3 tablespoons of the prepared rice per pepper.
Combine the almonds, breadcrumbs and olive oil. Using about 1 tbsp per pepper, sprinkle the crumb, then press gently into the stuffing.
Arrange the peppers in an oven-safe dish. Roast for 45-60 minutes, until the crumble is golden and the edges of your peppers begin to take on a dark, almost black color.
Serve with an extra sprinkling of parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. The peppers are easy to reheat and will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge.