Monday, June 19, 2006

Let's Stuff Veggies
With fresh produce abounding in the markets and at farm stands, it's a perfect time to go a little vegetarian. I picked up some lovely red peppers the other day that were just begging to be stuffed and baked. Zucchini or yellow squash boats are great for stuffing as well as big bold vidalia onions and fat firm tomatoes. In the fall and winter, cabbage and grape leaves are wonderful stuffed, too.
I decided to forego a meat stuffing and just fly with a tasty, high nutrition, low fat organic japonica rice filling for my two large, red beauties. I buy Lundberg Farms rice at Whole Foods Market but many regular supermarkets carry a good selection of Lundberg rice, too. While the rice was simmering, I sauteed some diced veggies: 1 large carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 1 vidalia onion (mirapoix) in a little olive oil with a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Once the veggies were well coated and starting to soften, I added a splash of red wine (happened to be open) water or broth will do, turned down the heat to low, covered the pan and let the veggies cook down. When the rice was cooked (see cooking directions) I mixed it with the mirapoix, and with the peppers cut in half vertically, stem to bottom, seeded and deveined, I stuffed them, placed them in a baking dish, tossed some Muir Glen organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes over, covered the pan with foil and placed in a 350 oven for an hour and fifteen minutes. I removed the foil and sprinkled grated mozzarella cheese over each pepper half and returned them to the oven for another 15 minutes. The Japonica rice has such a surprising flavor. Rich and meaty with a sweet finish on the palate. Try it as a side dish to liven up a mild fish or poached chicken breast. But, truthfully, it stands up on its own as a fine main course accompanied by colorful vegetables. Give it a try.
I kept my pledge, and went to see An Inconvenient Truth on opening weekend. If you follow box office reports, you know that Cars raked in the most money this past weekend with over $31 million in sales and the plight of global warming came in #12, with about $1.75 million in sales. It's obvious, as a nation, what has our attention. In all fairness, comparing the two films is doing an apples and oranges exercise. I'm glad that many parents took kids to the movies - hurray for the wide screen. What's sad is how few adults made the effort to increase their knowledge about the situation or bothered to stand up and be counted to show the administration that global warming is a major concern for us as citizens and we want something done about it now, before it's too late to avoid disaster. It's not too late to go.
On a happier note, I also contributed to A Prairie Home Companion being in 11th place at the box office this weekend. What a fun film, particularly poignant if you're a listener to the weekly radio program.
And on the reading range, I finished up Bill Buford's book, Heat, which gives a very detailed picture of life on the line of a busy, upscale, restaurant. I loved reading about the hectic prep work and the pressure of filling orders to perfection in record time along with the super talent and mercurical moods of Molto Maria. Yet when I finished the book, I was more convinced than ever that dabbling in home cooking is fine with me. Home eating is fine with me, too, after being further enlightened by some of the food handling horror stories typical of all restaurant kitchens. Buford's disclosures are mild compared to Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, and I understand Bourdain's new book, Nasty Bits, tells more tall tales from the kitchen floor. I think I'll pass on that one for the time being or I'll never eat in a restaurant again.
In between the heat of the kitchen and the joy of the plated food in the dining room, I read Nancy Pickard's new novel, The Virgin of Small Plains. "An unforgettable tale of love, lust, faith, betrayal and redemption. A powerful, mesmerizing suspense novel__a tour de force!" After reading that blurb on the jacket, how could anyone resist? Least of all me! It was a fun fast entertaining book by a prolific author whom I've not read before.
Someone commented recently that she was reading a book that really didn't interest her, but since she'd started it, she was going to finish it. Horrors!
I follow the advice and wisdom of Nancy Pearl. I give any book the benefit of the doubt for the first (?#?) pages. The formula for (?#?) pages is: Hang in for the first 50 pages BUT if you are older than 50, subtract your age from 100 and that is the maximum number of pages to give any book to grab your interest and full attention. If it doesn't do it, put it down and pick up something else. Remember, "too many books; too little time."
Until next time - keep on cooking!

No comments: