Category Polenta

Roasted Red Peppers — aka Betsy’s Peppers

Yesterday The Professor reminded me that it had been a while since I’d made Betsy’s Peppers — the red peppers, stuffed with tomato, olives, garlic and basil and then roasted. Given his initial suspicion of the dish, I felt a pleasant rush of yesIwasrightness, and decided to indulge his craving.

“I have two red peppers and all of the other ingredients, so I could make them tonight,” I offered.

“I might want more than two halves,” he responded.

So I drove to the grocery to buy more red peppers. On the way I thought about the recipe and what to serve it with. The last time I had made the peppers for dinner, I’d thought of them as a side dish and paired them with a leek frittata and a salad. But once I realized just how much The Professor liked Betsy’s recipe, I started to wonder whether roasted peppers could be turned into the star of the dinner plate.

Since then, I’ve cooked two different recipes for stuffed red peppers and served them as entrees. (You can read about those efforts here and here.) Now was my chance to give Betsy’s Peppers a shot at entree status.

I devised a two-pronged strategy. First, I served the peppers with polenta mixed with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese.

Toasting Pine Nuts

I also made two additions to the recipe. First, I added toasted pine nuts to the stuffing mixture. Partly because my going-on-four-year-old loves pine nuts and I thought it might encourage her to eat more. And partly because pine nuts, olives and garlic seemed like a classic Italian combination. Continuing the Mediterranean theme, I sprinkled feta on top of the peppers just after removing them from the oven.

Red Peppers stuffed with tomatoes, olives, and pine nuts

The pine nuts, it turned out, were over-powered by the strong flavors of the olives and garlic, and didn’t add much to the dish. But The Professor did like the addition of feta and loved the polenta … almost too much. As he put it, “the polenta was doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the meal.”

The peppers alone, he said, were strong on taste and interestingness. But he felt they lacked on substance and gave the overall meal a B+. “The chick peas in Giada’s peppers made them more substantive,” he said.

I reminded him that he’d described Giada’s peppers as “kind of bland,” but I took his point. And, to be fair to Giada, the feta idea had been hers. So I’ll consider chick peas. Maybe that will push the meal of Betsy’s Peppers and Polenta into A- territory.

Jody Adams’ Mushroom Fricassee

Jody Adams is the award-winning chef/owner of Rialto in Cambridge, MA, author of In the Hands of a Chef, a former contestant on BRAVO’s Top Chef Masters, and a truly lovely person. (She’s also a seemingly lapsed blogger.)

Adams focuses on regional Italian cooking. Her menus explore the culinary traditions of Sicily, Sardinia or Emilia-Romagna, and while a handful of regular dishes are available year-round, most of her offerings change with the seasons.  In the autumn months, she sometimes offers, as a side dish, a delicious fricassee of wild mushrooms (shiitakes, chanterelles and more) served in a rich, slightly soupy sauce. It is delicious.

Could it be the basis of a vegetarian entree, I wondered. So last night I experimented: I made Adams’ mushroom fricassee (I used shiitakes, portobellos, chanterelles, oysters and blue foot mushrooms, and used olive oil instead of the butter the recipe called for), and I served it on a bed of soft polenta, topped with a poached egg and a sprinkle of parmesan.

The Professor, an initial skeptic, deemed it “good,” though he declined to grade the first effort, preferring to evaluate it after a few attempts. But this much was clear: The combination of flavors worked well, and the addition of dry Marsala (a wine I’d never cooked with before) helped create a hearty broth. But overall, the fricassee was very, very rich — in part because Adams calls for cooking each type of mushroom separately and adding butter/oil each time. There’s a reason that Adams serves it as a side dish, rather than a larger dinner portion.

I am going to try a version of the dish again, but I’ll cut the amount of olive oil next time. And I’m going to study the recipe for Mushroom Hash (topped with a poached egg!) that, by coincidence, Martha Rose Shulman published this week in her New York Times’ Recipes for Health column.