by Ken Katz
As everybody knows, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but what’s even harder is getting this old (Katz) cat to embrace produce that hasn’t typically graced our table in the past. Given our reliance on the Grand Lake Farmers Market’s Bounty Boxes for the past three plus months that’s becoming something of a necessity as what comes inside that box is always a surprise. Sometimes we’re more pleasantly surprised than others – even though we’re always hugely impressed by the quality and freshness of the produce – especially compared to supplemental items we’ve occasionally ordered online and picked up curbside at various supermarkets that shall remain unnamed.
The first three weeks of July were especially rewarding with basics like corn on the cob and carrots from Rodriguez Bros. Ranch (my personal favorite). Unfortunately (or so it seemed), the box last Saturday lacked both but had, in abundance, chile peppers – which are basically anathema in the Katz household. It also had cilantro which was gorgeous but something my wife and I have never cooked with – at least not that I remember. Our prospects began to look a bit less gloomy once I Googled Gypsy Peppers and learned that not only won’t they burn your innards, they’re actually milder than bell peppers.
Knowing that, I searched for recipes and found multiple examples of stuffed peppers. Almost all stuffed with diced tomatoes and parmesan cheese and assorted other ingredients. Typically, meat wasn’t included but I chose to add one mild Italian sausage for the four peppers I’d selected. To prepare, I removed the sausage casing and then lightly browned and crumbled it in a cast iron pan along with some diced red onion from Ledesma Farms included in our Bounty Box the week before. After transferring both to a mixing bowl, I added half a diced tomato; a fairly large quantity of chopped cilantro leaves; a few green olives; freshly ground parmesan and black pepper plus some Old Bay seasoning.
The hard part (after making a T-shaped incision in each of the peppers and removing the innards) was inserting the stuffing that was topped off with French bread crumbs. After moving the peppers to a sheet of aluminum foil placed on a baking sheet, I drizzled a small amount of olive oil onto the stuffing and down the sides of the peppers. The majority of the recipes I found online were for grilled peppers but, for me, oven-baked was the easier choice. The recipe I saw specified baking at 350 degrees for fifty minutes. Since I got a very late start on this, I jacked up the temperature to 450; crossed my fingers; and checked the oven repeatedly until the skins were soft and beginning to scorch.
If I may say so, the result was delicious – far better than I could have hoped and it was nicely complemented by the pasta which was cooked al dente and then transferred to a hot pan where I tossed it with bread crumbs, olive oil and diced green olives, tomatoes and Italian Mix Giardiniera. Would I make this again? Absolutely! Am I ready to tackle rutabaga? Probably not – at least not yet.
Editor’s Note: We’d love to make this column a regular Splash Pad News feature. For next month’s edition, Splash Pad News Editor and Contributor Sheila McCormick has already promised us a peek inside her kitchen which, this time of year, benefits immensely from a back yard garden where they harvest green beans, chard, squash, and stone fruits. If you’d like to invite us into your kitchen, please send an email with your proposal to email@example.com. The only requirement is that most of the major ingredients should be locally sourced and/or purchased from neighboring locally owned businesses.