October 28, 2011

Pick Me Up

Me and this week, we're not friends.  We're in a fight.

Monday was the first ever national Food Day.  A day to bring awareness and push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.  I would have liked to tell you about it much earlier, but my time this past week has be dedicated to organic chemistry.   Ugh, food is much more exciting than o chem.  Truth.

Two exams back-to-back on Thursday morning.  One of them at 8am and neither of them went so well.

This weekend will be filled with Halloween festivities and I just can't bring myself to get excited about them.  I have however, spent the last week admiring the houses in the 'hood, all decked out and ready for the costumed parade of kids on Monday.  Man, I wish I could still go trick-or-treating.

So next week, I'm looking at you, let's make it a better week.

These sausage stuffed peppers would be a good start.  They have the ability to get you out of a funk, because even if your day wasn't so hot, a good dinner can lift your spirits.  These peppers are really just that good, made even better by the homegrown goodness they contained.  The peppers and eggs and sausage came from wonderful, generous friends.  I even made the tomato sauce out of their tomatoes (you can used canned sauce, though I'd argue your peppers will be filled with less love than these).  The chicken stock was freshly made and aside from the spinach, the rest was pantry staples.

I know there's a million and a half recipes like this one.  Peppers stuffed with ground beef or turkey, grains, couscous, vegetables and cheese, but these ones are different.  For one, there's no baking.  Everything gets cooked in one (large) skillet on the stove top, taking much less time.  Also, the tomato sauce the stuffed pepper halves simmer in is kind of genius.  It picks up all the browned bits from the pan and catches all the juices and reduces it all to a tangy, yet rich sauce to pour over the top when serving.  Oh, and sausage kicks the butt of plain ole ground meat any day.

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Adapted from Food and Wine, October 2010

At a glance, this may look fussier than your standard stuffed pepper recipe - the kind where you lop off the top of the pepper, stuff it full of ground meat or grains and maybe some veggies and cheese, then set it to bake away - but it's not.  If you're swift in the kitchen, you could probably get this on the table in 30 minutes.  The extra step of browning the tops and using sausage instead of ground beef or turkey bumps the flavor way up.  Plus eating the halved peppers is far less awkward than trying to devise a plan of attack on a whole upright stuffed pepper.

4-6 servings

5 oz. baby spinach
2 slices of fresh french bread, finely chopped
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 small to medium sized green bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth

In a very large skillet, cook the spinach over high heat just until wilted, about 1 minute. Drain and press out all of the water. Coarsely chop the spinach. Rinse out and dry the pan.

In a bowl, knead the chopped bread with the milk, egg and cheese to form a paste. Knead in the pine nuts, onion, sausage and spinach and season lightly with salt and pepper. Using lightly moistened hands, divide the mixture among the pepper halves and lightly pack it in.

In the skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the stuffed peppers, filling side down, and cook over high heat until well-browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the peppers and cook until the skins are browned and blistered, about 4 minutes longer. Add the tomato sauce and chicken broth, cover and simmer until the sausage filling is cooked through and the peppers are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve right away.

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