The Cook Is Happy

It occurred to me Saturday that if I have one hobby, it’s cooking. Handy, since I’ll be doing it almost every day for the next 18,000 or so days. Saturday I was working away in the kitchen, making a white-chocolate brownie torte, a mandarin-orange/pineapple “joy” cake, and a summer fruit compote that you have to taste to be able to say you’ve lived “life worth calling life.”

But this post isn’t about last Saturday, or dessert, or about how cooking is my hobby. It’s about how this overly-self-critical cook is happy today.

Last week bell peppers were on sale for $0.98 each. I bought six of them and had big plans for the five I’d not yet used when we decided to pack our bags for a 48-hour whirlwind trip to Kansas, leaving the peppers to get a little to shriveled up for their initial life purpose.

Last night we had my organ teacher and his wife, affectionately known to us as “The Fergs,” over for dinner at our apartment. It took careful research in four cookbooks to decide on the exact menu. The result: Stuffed peppers, rosemary potatoes, and romaine salad. I should’ve taken pictures, it was so pretty, but it wouldn’t have done justice because the flavors, and the combination of flavors, was perfection on a plate. Sometimes I fear that my parents lied to me and my name is really Julie.

The peppers (red, yellow, orange, and green) were halved lengthwise, cleaned, steamed for five minutes, and heaped up with this yummy stuff:

  • about 10 oz. ground meat (I used 1/2 Italian sausage, 1/2 ground beef)
  • a small onion, finely chopped
  • dried thyme
  • fresh basil
  • worcestershire sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh garlic
  • about 3/4 c. chopped fresh mushrooms
  • about 3/4 c. canned crushed tomatoes
  • about 1/3 c. shredded mozzerella
  • about 1/4 c. grated parmesan
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Then they were baked for about 30 minutes at 375F and served in the nice, shiny, polished stainless roasting pan Susie Keister gave me at our wedding. It couldn’t have had a better maiden voyage. 😉

The 4 potatoes were washed and cut into wedges and tossed with 2 TBSP olive oil, about 2 TBSP dried rosemary, and, to change it up a bit on my mom’s standard recipe, I followed Betty Crocker’s advice and added 1 tsp dried thyme and some salt & pepper. They were baked alongside the peppers.

I decided we needed something light and sweet as a complement. (The cookbooks keep using the word “foil” so I guess I should say “foil” so I sound smart.) So I topped the fresh romaine salad with craisins and about a cup of whole walnuts, toasted in 1 TBSP butter. I made a vinaigrette on the side: I blended about 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar with about 2 TBSP honey, and then slowly whisked in about 3/4 c. olive oil and salt to taste, and just for fun, I added about 2 TSP poppy seeds. It was a hit.

We had just the right amount of leftovers for a re-run of the whole affair at lunch this afternoon, after which I commented again how perfect it was. That was when Mike commented on how unusual and surprising it was to hear me glorying in my success, since he’s come to expect the usual “shoulda, coulda, woulda” commentary that I tend to offer over each meal. But, see, cooking is an art, and a good artist critiques herself. Now that I’ve reached perfection however, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

Probably start all over again tomorrow.

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