Monday, September 04, 2006
Madison County in Tel Aviv
Stuffed peppers... not necessarily a romantic dish, isn't it? When we think of romantic dining, some delicate, nouvelle-cuisine thing in delicate china comes to mind. Preferably something that is eaten sensually (and optimally fed to the other person, by hand). Stuffed peppers don't exactly fall into that category. Or do they?
For me, they do. And the credit all goes to Robert James Waller's The Bridges of Madison County. The book (for those of you who haven't read it, and there can't be too many who haven't heard about it) is an amazing, tear-jerking story of an Iowa housewife who meets a National Geographic photographer. The two fall in love - an unpredictable, all-consuming, impossible love. And one of the exotic features about the photographer - who is so different from the housewife's husband and all other men she knows - is his vegetarianism.
So, she makes him stuffed peppers. She stuffs them with wild rice and cheese. And it's a lovely, romantic, fabulous dinner.
Now here's why stuffed peppers are such a romantic food. First of all, they are extremely sexy. The contrast between their bold, colorful exterior and their comforting, nutritious interior is beautiful to see and fabulous to eat. Second, they are messy. Beautiful before touched, they require crossing a boundary when cutting into them and spilling their goodness on the plate. And third, they are soaked in good tomato sauce - the sexiest sauce of all, in my humble opinion.
The version photographed here (and eaten for lunch today by a hungry man studying for a university exam and his blogging girlfriend) is a bit unusual, and consists of cooked millet, leeks and dried tomatoes. You can be quite creative about the filling and many whole grains will do fine; the millet, however, tends to absorb flavors and liquids, sort of like couscous. Enjoy!
Stuffed Peppers with Millet, Leeks and Dried Tomatoes
4 large, nice, red peppers
1 1/2 cup cooked millet
3 garlic cloves
5-6 dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons rosemary, thyme, or (best) mixture of the two
2 1/2 cups good quality tomato sauce (or, if you're in a hurry, make a quick sauce by quickly mixing, without cooking, tomato paste, water, herbs and crushed garlic)
Cut the top of the peppers and remove as many of the seeds as you can.
Slice the leeks into little circles. Chop up the garlic cloves, and heat up the cloves and leeks in a pan with a little olive oil. Add cooked millet, chop in the dried tomatoes and herbs, and mix with a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce - until the millet's "thirst" is "quenched" and it's soft and moist.
Place the peppers in a baking pan so they stand firmly, and stuff each of them with the millet mixture. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the peppers (and make sure at least 1 cm of the baking pan is covered in liquid). Stick in a hot oven for about 35 minutes, or more if you want the peppers softer. If they get dry, add a bit of sauce and water on top.