Stuffed Red Peppers

9 09 2010

Stuffed red peppers make a hearty late summer meal

This week’s markets were awash in vivid colour as peppers hit their seasonal peak in Ontario.  I saw everything from mild poblanos to fiery hot habaneros but the most abundant were red bell and shepherd peppers.  Shepherd peppers are more elongated than bell peppers but they taste very similar and are basically interchangeable in recipes.

A red bell pepper growing in a garden near Picton, Ontario

Red peppers are just green peppers that have ripened.  However, once they turn red, the peppers become much sweeter, making them ideal for stuffing with meat, cheese, rice, grains or seafood.  This version was adapted from a recipe from an old issue of Bon Appétit magazine featuring the foods of Provence.  Stuffed vegetables are very popular in the South of France and are an excellent way to use up extra peppers or zucchini.

The recipe calls for slicing the peppers lengthwise in half and hollowing them out, however, they can also be stuffed by slicing off the top and filling the entire pepper.

A note to vegetarians: Check back soon for a meatless version!

Stuffed Red Peppers

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 sweet or mild Italian sausages
  • 1 small zucchini (about 1-1/2″ in diameter and about 6″ long)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 large red bell or shepherd peppers
  • Rosemary sprigs to garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove the casings from the sausages and place the meat in a large bowl (see Removing Sausage Casing for tips on how to do this efficiently).
  3. Trim the stem and end from the zucchini and grate it into the bowl using a box grater.  Add the onion, garlic, herbs, breadcrumbs, egg and parmesan to the bowl.
  4. Using your hands, work the ingredients into the sausage meat until the mixture is thoroughly combined.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Slice the red peppers lengthwise down the middle.  Trim out the stem and any seeds and ribs.
  6. Spoon the sausage mixture into each pepper half.  Place on a baking sheet or in a shallow pan and bake for 45 minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown. Garnish with rosemary sprigs if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Farmers’ Market Report – July 8th, 2010

8 07 2010

Zucchini blossoms are a rare and delicious summer treat.

Welcome to my first Farmers’ Market Report for Summer 2010!  The markets are at their peak for the next couple of months and this week’s offerings did not disappoint.  In fact, growing conditions in Southern Ontario have been so good this year, there were a few surprises.  Here is a rundown of some of this week’s highlights:

Corn

Corn has arrived at Ontario markets earlier than usual this year.

I was a bit stunned to see the first local corn at the markets already.  Speaking with some farmers, I learned that’s about two weeks earlier than normal this year.  I bought six ears to experiment with, crossing my fingers the quality was going to be decent. The ears were on the small side but the kernels were very tender.  It wasn’t as flavourful as I’d hoped but because it’s so early, I’m sure later harvests will be sweeter. My favourite way to eat corn is boiled, rolled in butter and then topped with salt and pepper. However, if you’re looking for something more elegant, try my recipe for Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.

Peaches

Like corn, peaches are also early this year.  I didn’t buy any this week but we’ve been having a heat wave so hopefully that bodes well for upcoming weeks (peaches love hot, dry weather).  Peach Tiramisu is an elegant, no-bake dessert that showcases fresh peaches beautifully.

Apricots

Apricots were abundant at this week's market.

I often find raw apricots kind of bland with a bit of a mealy texture but the ones I bought today were pretty tasty.  They had a nice sweet-tartness to them so I ate a few out of hand.  I chose ones on the smaller side but the farmers were selling larger ones as well.  Apricots are ideal for both sweet and savoury recipes; why not make some Spicy Apricot Glazed Grilled Shrimp?

Herbs

Fresh herbs were in abundance this week including basil, mint and dill.  I keep an herb pot during the summer for day-to-day herbs but if I decide to do any large batch pickling or pesto, I’ll head to the farmer’s market to buy large amounts at a good price. To make use of summer herbs, check out my recipes for Pesto Sauce and White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs.

Summer Squash

Pattypan squash and baby zucchini.

I have a feeling that zucchini are going to take over many gardens this summer, judging by the number and size of them at this week’s market.  Many of the yellow and green zucchini on display were already getting a little big for my taste (smaller ones tend to be less watery and are better for most recipes).  Pattypan squash were also abundant this week. You can make the most of summer squash by making Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil or a moist Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I was also excited to find zucchini blossoms at a local grocer this week.  They are fragile and rare but will occasionally turn up at local markets.  To use them, try my recipes for Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms.

I discovered another summer squash this week that I was not familiar with: vegetable marrow (see photo below).  I asked the farmer about them and learned that they are very similar to zucchini and are often stuffed with a ground meat mixture.  It seems to be a popular vegetable in England.  You can find a recipe for stuffed vegetable marrow here: Recipe for Stuffed Marrow with Sausage Meat.

Vegetable marrow are similar to zucchini and are delicious stuffed.

Cucumbers

My husband loves cucumbers and often eats sliced cukes with a dash of salt and pepper as a snack.  They also add a fresh note to sandwiches and salads.  A crisp Asian Summer Slaw makes a great no-cook dinner.  Some of the stalls were selling dill alongside baby cucumbers – one-stop shopping for pickle makers.  Pick up some smoked salmon to make a Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad that is accented with fresh dill.

Cherries

Both sweet and sour Ontario cherries were abundant this week.  While sweet cherries are imported from the U.S. each spring, sour ones are harder to find.  My grandmother had a sour cherry tree in her yard so they were the only kind we ever had when I was growing up.  They’re not very good raw but once cooked and sweetened, they have a tartness that is addictive.  For a classic sour cherry pie recipe, check out this one from Epicurious.com: Classic Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust.  If you have sweet cherries, why not make a Cherry Clafouti with Almonds or a simple Cherry Almond Bread?

Asparagus

I was told that this is probably the last week for asparagus this year.  Usually by the end of the season, asparagus is starting to look tired but not this year.  The stalks were thick, robust and vibrant.  This was an exceptional year for asparagus and I enjoyed it in a variety of dishes.  Check out the Asparagus Archives for some delicious ideas ranging from Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms to a rich and decadent Roasted Asparagus Lasagna.

Until next week,

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped with Prosciutto

8 11 2009
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Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped with Prosciutto

Pork is the perfect autumn dinner – it pairs well with seasonal herbs such as sage and thyme and it’s robust enough for cooler weather.  It’s also incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed as ham, bacon, chops, ground, pulled or roasted.  Tenderloins are available at any supermarket or butcher and are small enough to cook quickly. Unfortunately, they can also be a bit dry and boring. By stuffing it with a savoury mix of bread cubes, herbs, swiss chard, diced prosciutto and mozzarella, I’ve made a basic loin a little more interesting.  Wrapping it in prosciutto helps keep the meat moist and adds extra flavour.  Serve with orzo, rice, risotto or roasted potatoes.

To get the recipe, check out a recent article I wrote for Suite 101.com: Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped with Prosciutto.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole

15 09 2009

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My husband Allan loves pasta with clams.  He has always enjoyed various pasta and seafood combinations but one night in Italy, he had the ultimate version of his favourite: Lingine alle Vongole (linguine with clams).  We were at Ristorante Romano, a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant on the Tuscan coast.  The seafood at Romano’s was fresh and impeccably prepared with typical Italian simplicity.  When we returned home, we decided to develop our own version of this classic pasta dish.

The key to this dish is using high quality ingredients.  Choose small, live clams in their shells and be sure to discard any that don’t open when cooked.  Fresh parsley, oregano, garlic and hot peppers are preferable over dried and keep the dish fresh and light tasting.  Sautéeing the whole garlic and peppers in the oil and then discarding them gives the pasta a hint of garlic flavour and heat without overpowering the dish.  However, if you prefer a bit more punch, feel free to mince some of the garlic and peppers and leave them in the sauce.  Although I usually prefer fresh pasta, this is one dish where dried works better.  If linguine isn’t available, substitute spaghetti or bucatini instead.

I guarantee that this recipe is simple to prepare: Allan doesn’t normally cook (aside from the occasional crème brûlée) and he can put this together in no time.  The pasta and clams cook at roughly the same time so everything should come together at once.

Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine with Clams)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • Approximately 18 small clams, in their shells (such as baby clams, littlenecks, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + 2 Tablespoons to finish the dish
  • 2 small hot peppers, such as Thai bird chiles OR 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley + extra for garnish
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb / 500 grams good quality dried linguine
  • A large deep skillet with a lid (or some way to cover it, such as a large plate)
  • A large pot to boil pasta
  1. Rinse clams in cold water to ensure the shells are clean and free of grit.  Make sure all of the shells are closed tight and discard any whose shells have opened.
  2. Heat a large pot of salted water to cook the pasta.  Bring to a boil on high heat.
  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic cloves and whole chile peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown, watching carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn.  Remove the garlic and chiles from the pan but keep the oil in the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Place the clams (in their shells) in the skillet and add the wine, chopped oregano and 2 teaspoons fresh parsley.  Cover with the lid and let simmer on medium heat.  
  5. Place the linguine in the pot of boiling water.  The clams and pasta will take about the same amount of time to cook, about 9 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer for 9 minutes.
  6. After 9 minutes, check on the clams.  The shells should be wide open.  If a few are still closed or partially open, give them a couple more minutes.  Any that do not open in that time should be discarded.   Test the linguine – it should be al dente.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta and set it aside.  Drain the linguine.
  7. Add the cooked linguine to the skillet with the clams.  Toss to coat, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if it seems dry.  Drizzle with remaining 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and stir thoroughly.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with a bit of fresh parsley.
  9. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of dry white wine.

Note: Italians don’t usually eat cheese with seafood pasta so if you want to keep it traditional, refrain from garnishing with grated parmesan.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Linguine with clams + a glass of wine = the perfect meal!

Linguine with clams + a glass of wine = the perfect summer meal





Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

19 08 2009

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Mid-August is peak tomato season and usually markets are bursting with all shapes and sizes of the delicious fruit (yes, tomatoes are fruit).  However, this year many areas have been plagued with cold, wet weather and an unfortunate blight has taken a toll on vines in some regions.  The few local tomatoes I’ve tried have been tasteless and mealy but I’m hoping to find better specimens in coming weeks.  I have found that smaller cherry, grape and cocktail tomatoes have been sweeter and juicier than the field varieties I’ve tried.

If field tomatoes are poor in your area, why not make a delicious dish with cherry tomatoes?  They should be easy to find at most markets and roasting them concentrates their flavours, giving them a sweet and slightly charred flavour.  Turned into a simple sauce with fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil, it makes delicious vegetarian summer meal.  

Click here to get the recipe from a recent Suite 101.com article I wrote:  Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti





Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil

16 08 2009

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It’s no secret that I love savoury tarts. I have posted a number of different recipes for vegetable-based pies/tarts/quiches including Swiss Chard Tart, Leek and Ham Tart, Crustless Asparagus Quiche and Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta.  There’s just something about them that appeals to me and luckily the French and Italians have a strong tradition of cooking seasonal produce in pie form so I find inspiration everywhere. 

This pie is a great way to use the abundance of zucchini that crops up every summer. As a child growing up in the country, zucchini would over take gardens by the end of summer and people would give them away by the basketful.  I’m sure that farmers must laugh at city folk who actually pay for zucchini at the markets but since I don’t have room to grow my own, I have no real choice. One of my favourite recipes is Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting but I enjoy savoury main dishes made with this versatile summer squash as well. 

Zucchini Pie makes a great vegetarian main dish or an delicious side to grilled meats. Click here to check out my recent article for Suite 101.com:  Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs

10 08 2009

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It’s corn season again!  It’s one of my favourite vegetables so I have fun experimenting with various ideas during its brief season. While corn-on-the cob with butter, salt and pepper is a classic that’s hard to beat, sometimes the menu calls for something a little more elegant.  Sweet roasted corn with red pepper, crispy herbs, brown butter and a hint of heat makes a tasty dish that pairs well with grilled meats, seafood or vegetarian dishes.  You can also toss the corn with pasta for a quick and delicious main course.  Click here to read my recent article for Suite 101.com: Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!