I had initially planned on using my ever-patient spouse as a guinea pig for this edition of Is My Blog Burning? (You are what you don't eat), hosted by My Latest Supper. Unfortunately, he proved less than patient at the idea of being forced to try something he doesn't like eating. In fact, he was quite peevish. "Why don't you make something YOU don't like?" he queried. "Like what?" I answered smugly, assured in my open-mindedness over exotic foods. "Well, what about those stuffed green peppers you're always going on about?"
Oh dear. He's right: there is one food I hate and have resolutely refused to eat for the last thirty years. Stuffed green peppers. Sigh.
My poor mother. Apparently I went all through babyhood and toddler years perfectly willing to eat stuffed green peppers. And then somewhere around the age of five or six, I decided I hated green peppers. Everything about them: the slime, the smell, the taste, the fact that my mother was insisting I liked them (probably). And so my poor working mother who had gone to the trouble to make something tasty for dinner was saddled with a stubborn little girl who would not eat her dinner. "Just eat the stuffing," she pleaded. "It's just added flavor to it." (Did she think it was something other than the flavor I didn't like?)
And so for years I avoided green peppers like the plague. In early adulthood someone convinced me to try cooked red peppers and I grudgingly admitted they were all right. I even eventually came to love them. And I could almost see that raw green peppers might be satisfying and crunchy to some. But the cooked green pepper taboo remained. Not me, not ever. Not on MY pizza, thank you very much.
I tried to call my mother tonight for the recipe for her stuffed green peppers, but unfortunately she was out. So I turned to the old standard of my childhood, the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Sure enough, there was a recipe. I don't think it was quite the same as my mom's (which I'm pretty sure involved some kind of tomato sauce). But it would do. It still involved cooked green peppers.
Stuffed Green Peppers
I based this recipe on the Fanny Farmer one, with a few minor modifications. I used shallots instead of onions as I was out of the latter. I added some garlic and used Lawry's salt for seasoning.
4-5 shallots, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2 Tbs olive oil
3/4 cup cooked rice
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 Tbs chopped frozen basil
This recipe made enough stuffing for at least four peppers, or six if they are not very large. I had one large green pepper and one medium red. I have leftover stuffing.
Preheat the oven to 375F/180C. Sauté the shallots and the pressed garlic cloves in the olive oil until they are soft. Add the ground beef and turn up the heat to cook the beef quickly. When it is just about done, turn off the heat and drain the meat of any fat that may have collected in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Take the top off the peppers and knock out any seeds that may have fallen into them. If the ridges on the interior are white, slice them off too. Stuff the peppers with the meat and rice mixture. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until the peppers are tender but not soggy.
As mentioned, in addition to the green pepper I had a red pepper. This was insurance in case the green one was as disgusting as I remembered; I figured the red one would at least be edible. In fact, I added one more touch to the red pepper by layering anchovies into the stuffing. I thought that with the garlic and the peppers and the beef a little anchovy would go down well.
And the result? Astonishingly edible is all I can say. It's not a dish I'm going to add to our favorites, but I did eat both peppers. And I liked them. The green pepper flavor wasn't as strong as I remembered and so I wonder if it isn't one of those things that has a stronger smell than taste? Or did I just luck out and get a particularly sweet green pepper? Whatever the reason, I wasn't put off by the flavor. Also, unlike the green peppers of my memory, this one wasn't slimy at all. It still had a bit of bite in it, enough to hold the whole dish together in fact. So I ate my first stuffed green pepper in at least 30 years. And then I ate the red one. (I was right about the anchovies, by the way - very tasty!)
And so, for this edition of Is My Blog Burning? I have conquered a food phobia. I suppose I'll be thankful for being forced to confront this old enemy at some point; at the moment I'm slightly bemused and confused...