Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This is the story of stuffed peppers that morphed into Bolognese sauce. My culinary adventures are usually quite boring, but last night's dinner preparation was rife with trials and tribulations.
Allow me to provide a short backdrop to this extraordinary adventure.
A friend of my husband's recently introduced him to a fruit store in New Jersey (I believe it's in the Meadowlands, a name that is reminiscent of cows at pasture but in reality marks the home of a sprawling commercial site). The store provides excellent fruits and vegetables at remarkably low prices. I don't know if the merchandise "accidentally" falls off a truck, but I do know good produce when I see it.
Last Friday's haul included some decent looking peppers. They were the color of green bell peppers, but longer and more narrow. My husband happens to love stuffed peppers so whenever he buys peppers, I know that I will eventually be going to buy some ground meat.
And so it was.
On Monday afternoon I chopped some onions and garlic and added them to the meat along with a variety of spices. I then prepared the peppers, stuffed them and cooked them in tomato sauce, adding a dash of red pepper flakes for a touch of spiciness.
A touch of spiciness, indeed. Ignorance will not kill you but some knowledge might prevent your face and fingers from burning up. The knowledge, for example, of the simple fact that I had just finished stuffing Poblano peppers - long peppers that look quite innocent but can turn out to be extremely HOT!!!
When I called my husband, he said he had tasted a pepper in the store and it was not hot. Could have fooled me! A quick internet search confirms that some, but not all poblanos are hot. He must have tasted the wrong one. It seems that the role of a wife requires a not at all negligible amount of martyrdom.
Meanwhile, my daughter was climbing on the printer, throwing food all over the place and running around without any clothes on, and my face and hands were still on fire. My ultimate concern was the removal of my contact lenses, which I would have liked to get done before heading for bed.
Another Google search yielded advice for hot pepper residue removal: milk, yogurt, lemon, vinegar. I tried vinegar and it helped assuage the pain, but it was still there and I knew not to touch my eyes. I wasn't willing to sacrifice a cup of milk or dip my hands in yogurt, neither of which are practical solutions for the mother of an active two year old who will NOT go to sleep. I waited for my husband to show up and save my life, which he did, unbelievably, with a vat of acetone.
By the time my husband tasted the peppers, much of the heat had gone. It figures, doesn't it? They were still too hot for me to eat though. The next day, my husband suggested I recycle the meat stuffing- perhaps by making a meat calzone. I did not feel like putting up dough, and I had to get rid of some pasta because I recently bought ten boxes of Ronzoni pasta at $0.77 each (who can resist such a deal?!) and believe it or not, pasta cannot sit around forever in those boxes.
I came up with ultimate forbidden food: spaghetti in Bolognese sauce. Bolognese is a sauce of 2 kinds of meat, tomatoes, and milk or heavy cream. I wasn't about to treif up my kitchen, body and soul, but I did want to try a version of the sauce using rice milk, which I usually have in stock.
And so, I chopped some carrot, onion and garlic, sauteed them in olive oil and added the meat stuffing, breaking it up as it warmed up. Before removing the stuffing from the peppers I geared up by donning two disposable gloves on each hand. I wasn't about to risk hot fingers again.
I added some white wine and raised the flame, allowing most of the wine to evaporate. I lowered the flame and added tomato paste, water and yes, the rice milk. Miraculously, lightning did not come down from heaven to strike me for cooking this daring dish.
I lowered the heat and let the sauce simmer and slowly thicken while I cooked the spaghetti.
The result was pretty enjoyable and the abundant sauce will last another day or two.