25 November, 2008

something new to do with a pepper

Because I do get bored with peppers.

Avery can eat them - red, orange or yellow, but we both agree that green is loathsome - till they come out her ears. It's her default setting for any side dish, to go with any main dish. She likes them cooked down in olive oil with plenty of Maldon sea salt, till they're slightly caramelly and have probably left all their nutritional value behind in the sludgy oil on the bottom of the skillet.

So yesterday I was slouching around my beloved Shepherd's Bush Market, killing the time it would take my masterly fishmonger to fillet two sea bream for me, when I came upon a certain veg stand sporting red peppers. But not your ordinary kind that are the size of a half-pint of cream. These were tennis-ball shaped things and very round, with flat bottoms. "You look like you want to be stuffed with something," I said, actually out loud, thereby scaring the poor veg guy to death, I'm sure.

It was but the work of a moment to bring them home and scoop out their seeds and stringy little membranes and sit them in a foil-lined glass dish, whereupon they became:

Red Peppers Stuffed with Mushrooms and Boursin
(one pepper per person, serves four)

4 little round red peppers
1 tbsp butter
2 large flat mushrooms, or 2 handfuls small mushrooms, chopped rather fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package Boursin (an easy-to-find soft French cheese), with garlic and herbs
olive oil to drizzle

Line up your peppers and make sure they can sit without falling over. Saute the mushrooms and garlic in the butter till soft, then spoon in equal measures into each pepper. Stuff in as much Boursin as you can fit (it will obviously depend on the size of the peppers). Drizzle olive oil over as much of the sides of the peppers as you can reach. Do not add salt: the Boursin is salty enough even for me.

Place the dish in a hot over (around 400F, 200C) and roast the peppers for about ten minutes, then take them out and spoon the accumulating oil and juices over the peppers and return them to the oven for perhaps ten more minutes, or until the peppers have begun to look blackened and shrivelly around their cut tops. Divine.


Avery ate the entirety of her pepper, devouring every last scrap of mushroom and cheese, before she even began on the sea bream and mash. I was so pleased! Admittedly the sea bream was blameless but a bit dull: super fresh, but I didn't do anything very interesting with it, just brushed the skin with olive oil and stuck it under the grill, and anyway, we take the skin off, so why bother with the olive oil? Sheer habit. I was paying so much attention to my little pepper friends that I neglected my lovely fish. Ah well, next time I'll be all complacent about my peppers and I can do something creative with the bream. But one discovery per day is quite enough for me.

I've been writing up a storm, here at my solitary desk, broken up only by my weekly tennis game and installation of whatever bizarre activity is occupying Rocco the Mad Tennis Pro. That and making apple and banana cakes, for the School Fair, for Avery, and in fact for Rocco, who smelled it last week when I was delivering it to school and begged on bended knee for one. The writing is going well enough, I suppose. I think I have been READING too much cookery writing, and it's getting me down. After a bit I begin to think, "Why bother? There is so much good food writing out there already and I can't possibly produce anything as good." That's when it's time to walk away for a bit. But my desk is covered with books written by mind-bendingly impressive wordsters, like Adam Gopnik from the New Yorker, Jeffrey Steingarten, Lillian Hellman, Reeve Lindbergh, the list goes on. I am frustratingly intimidated by them all. But I must persevere.

And get this: I picked up Adam Gopnik's mesmerizing "Through the Children's Gate: a Home in New York," just to get a respite from brilliant food writing, and what do I find? A whole chapter called "The Cooking Game," all about his acquaintanceship with Peter Hoffman of the esteemed Savoy Restaurant in SoHo, our old haunt, and their adventures cooking and talking about food. The one simple chapter blows away anything petty I might write on the subject; I do not know any famous chefs, I've never held a cooking competition among three famous ones, that's for sure. Aargh. Add to that, as I'm trawling the internet for a way to tell Adam Gopnik I think he is next to godliness, I find an article he wrote for the New Yorker all about... food and writing, cooking in fiction, and again... diamond-bright, not a wasted word, full of perfect metaphors... I could go on, but for the sake of my self-esteem, I won't. Ah well, onward and upward. The least I can do is to include some of these brilliant people's ideas in my own writing, because it's fun to delve into who influences you. Even if it's a bit exhausting at times.

Right, tomorrow I shall be in the kitchen producing cornbread and Laurie Colwin stuffing for our Thanksgiving down the road. What fun to celebrate with new friends, but how we will miss all of you, at home, doing the American things we have left behind. Happy Turkey Day, everyone.


Rosemary said...

Forget turkey and dressing, well, maybe not the dressing, but this makes me hungry! Hope your Thanksgiving was just what you wanted it to be.

John's Mom

Kristen In London said...

oh, how we missed you! Hope the holiday was lovely: ours was filled with shouts of British laughter, a dish of corn kernels for everyone to make thanks on, and delicious food. A lovely night. But not QUITE an American Thanksgiving...