stuffed bell peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers | A Brown Table

One would think nightmares concerning exams and tests stop after school. Nope, they don't, well at least for me, they haven't! Probably once a month, I have a calculus meets language exam dream that will freak me out. I can never remember all the details but from what I do recall, the dream involves me sitting in a classroom, trying to figure out the answers to questions involving limits and integrals in a different language, a language that I doesn't exists. The clock keeps ticking while I try to figure out the answer to the first question on a very long sheet of paper and thankfully during this mental moment of panic, I wake up. Simply put, I think I'm afraid of the unknown, at least that's what I think it means. However, there are times I am also super excited about things I don't know anything about. For example, with dishes where I have no idea what's inside and the kind that might hold a tasty surprise hidden. Stuffed bell peppers bring on that kind of excitement for me!

Stuffed Bell Peppers | A Brown TableStuffed Bell Peppers | A Brown Table

Our farmer's market has a ton of gorgeous types of bell peppers and they appear to be getting much more vibrant and bigger by the week. So this weekend, I goaded M into picking some up for me to overstuff and pan sear and of course, more importantly eat! You can use any type as long as they are large enough to stuff and you have a pan wide enough to fit them in. 

Stuffed Bell Peppers | A Brown TableStuffed Bell Peppers | A Brown Table

Whenever we ate stuffed bell peppers at home, they would be stuffed them with this spiced pea and potato filling. The filling is simple and easy to make and if you have leftover filling, you can eat it as a side with your main course. I like to squeeze a little fresh lime juice over the cooked bell peppers, that little hint of sour with the spiced filling and blistered papers makes one tasty parcel of goodness. 

Stuffed Bell Peppers | A Brown Table
Stuffed Bell Peppers | A Brown Table

stuffed bell peppers with pea and potato filling

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1 lb baby potatoes (you can also use regular sized)

2 teaspoons olive oil + a little extra to brush the bell peppers

1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 red onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1  1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt

1/2 cup peas, frozen or fresh

4 medium sized firm bell peppers (about 6 inches in height, any color will do)

1 fresh lime

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro/parsley, fresh

1. Cube the potatoes and place them in a bowl of cold tap water. Rinse them to remove any starch under running tap water. Place the potatoes in a medium-size stockpot, cover with water and bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat. Cook the potatoes until they are just tender but not mushy. (Another alternative to boiling, is to place the potatoes in a microwave safe container and cover with water. Heat on high for 8 minutes until the potatoes are just tender). Drain the water, mash the potatoes lightly with a fork or potato masher and keep the potatoes aside.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet with a lid on medium-high. As soon as the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and allow to cook until the seeds begin to sputter. Immediately add the garam masala, chili powder and onion, stir to coat evenly and reduce flame to medium-low, cook until onion is light pink.

3. Add the potatoes, turmeric and salt. Stir to coat evenly and cover the skillet with a lid. Cook for about 10 minutes with occasional stirring. Fold in the peas and then cook for another 5 minutes with a covered lid. Once the peas are cooked, remove from stove and keep the mixture aside. 

4. Slice the top of each of the bell peppers about 1/2 inch from the top. Remove the lid of the bell pepper and remove any seed that are inside. Generously stuff each pepper with the pea and potato filling prepared earlier and cover with the sliced lid. Pass two bamboo skewers through each stuffed bell pepper and cut off any extra length of the skewer. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet with a lid on medium-high flame. Brush each stuffed bell pepper with  the extra oil and place them in the hot skillet. Cover with a lid and cook and rotate each side until the skin of the bell pepper gets slightly blistered. This should take about 1 minute on each side of the pepper. The skewers will help to hold the bell peppers together while they cook. Once the peppers are cooked, remove and discard the skewers. Remove the lid of each bell pepper, garnish with a little fresh cilantro or parsley leaves and squeeze a little fresh lime juice over the stuffing. Place the lid back on top of the pepper leaving it slightly open. Serve warm. 

pumpkin lassi

pumpkin lassi |A Brown Table

Limits. They should be called restrictors. I realize, I place too many of these little fences around my thoughts. Self-imposed, they are and stifling they can be. But, to grow, these limits need to be pushed away. At first, even pushing the walls down seem hard and daunting. The anticipation of emotions of fear and nervousness about the unknown. Should success be the end goal of every endeavor? I don't know and I don't think I will ever have an answer to that but the thought of having attempted brings me comfort. But it also brings me strength, the strength to break down these limits and experience. To make mistakes and learn, isn't that the true purpose of any venture. 

For the past few weeks, I've been working on a little personal photography project, one to learn and grow from. My goal was to try and capture moments during the process of cooking. I've also been wanting to step away from focusing more on the final product but depict some of the stages through which ingredients get transformed. Some moments are more exciting than others but even the simpler moments have a story to tell. It could be something as icky as pulling the strings out of a pumpkin or something as delightful as icing a cake. But every step in preparing a meal is special which is why I find preparing food a grace and an even bigger joy to share. I do hope you enjoy this series as I share these moments with you.

pumpkin lassi |A Brown Table

I don't think I could have predicted that I'd be sharing a pumpkin lassi recipe in fall . But here I am, doing just that. Tinged with the brightness of saffron and the sweet flesh of roasted pumpkin purée, this yogurt drink is dreamy. Dreamy with the colors and flavors of fall and one of its golden harvest, the spectacular pumpkin. So drink up and enjoy!

pumpkin lassi |A Brown Table

Kitchen Tips

  • If you want to make your own pumpkin purée at home, you can do what I did. It's relatively easy and simple to do this and whatever, I don't use I freeze in airtight ziploc bags until needed. Start with a small pumpkin and cut in half, discard the strings and seeds, place it on a baking sheet at bake in a preheat oven at 400F for about 35-40 minutes or until the flesh is soft and tender. Remove and scoop the flesh out and blend it in a blender until completely smooth. For every 1 cup of puree, I add 1/4 cup of water to keep things moving in the blender. Try to use as little water as possible. The purée should be as smooth as possible. 
  • Don't use greek yogurt, use the regular plain, unsweetened variety.
  • Avoid the temptation to use milk to prepare the drink in place of water. Lassi is traditionally made with chilled water. 
pumpkin lassi |A Brown Table

Here are some of my favorite reads that I'm drooling over this week,

pumpkin lassi |A Brown Table

pumpkin lassi

yields : 2 servings

ingredients 

4 tablespoons unsweetened pumpkin purée

1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened yogurt (not Greek yogurt)

3/4 cup ice cold water

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon saffron strands soaked in 4 tablespoons boiling water

3-4 tablespoons molasses (you could also use brown sugar or honey, adjust sweetness as needed)

chopped nuts or saffron strands to garnish (I used saffron)

1. Place all the ingredients together in a blender and pulse for about 1 minute on high speed until smooth and combined. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed. 

2. Pour into chilled glasses containing ice. Serve immediately and garnish with strands of saffron if desired.

 

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup | A Brown Table

For some reason, squash seems to take the center stage during autumn in the kitchen. I should rephrase that, it becomes more visible, however, most of us, do eat all sorts of squash year round. My friend, Amanda of Heartbeet Kitchen HeartBeet Kitchen addresses just this, in her wonderful and informative new cookbook, Smitten with Squash . Not only does she share a wonderful collection of recipes but she also discusses easier ways to prepare and cook different members of this delicious and diverse family.

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup | A Brown Table

When I received her book a few weeks ago, I was immediately drawn to the sheer amount of helpful information on the different types of squashes and maintaining them, from how to select the best kind, to best the way in preparing them to cook. 

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup | A Brown Table

Amanda has come up with a collection of unique recipes that all utilize squashes in some sort of tasty way in her book, from savory to sweet there's something to satisfy everyone tastebuds. But since the weather is cooling down, and in some places faster than others (though not as much here in Northern California), I thought it would be perfect to share this simple yet delicious warm and comforting acorn squash soup from Amanda's book. There's roasting, caramelizing, and puréeing followed by sessions of eager eating of copious amount of this vibrant and tasty soup. This acorn squash soup has mild notes of a gentle sweetness from the caramelized onions mixed in with the silky and buttery texture of the acorn squash and then there's the little topping of toasted nuts. The acorn squash recipe originally called for pecans but I ran out and ended up using salted pistachios instead, they worked perfectly!

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup |A Brown Table

Folks, Amanda is giving away a copy of her cookbook, Smitten with Squash to one lucky reader! Leave a comment below to tell me what's the most innovative dish you've made with squash and I will pick the best one! The giveaway is open to legal residents of the United States only and will end a week from now on October 22, 2014.

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup |A Brown Table

caramelized onion and acorn squash soup (from the Smitten with Squash Cookbook by Amanda Paa)

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1 lb acorn squash, halved, de-seeded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter 

2 (1 lb) medium yellow or white onions, halved and thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

2 cups low sodium vegetable (or chicken) stock 

3/4 cup buttermilk or whole milk

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/4 cup salted toasted pistachios (or pecans), coarsely chopped 

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400F. Remove any stringy material that might be present in the squash after it is deseeded. Brush the surface of the flesh of the squash halves with the vegetable oil. Place the squash halves on a baking sheet with cut side upwards, roast in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the flesh is tender and easily pierced by a fork. Remove the pulp with a spoon and keep aside until ready to use.

2. While the squash continues to roast in the oven, heat a wide, thick-bottomed stainless steel skillet (I used a cast-iron skillet) over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt. Scatter the onion slices evenly over the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, without stirring to brown, then stir and spread the onions to "sweat" and release their moisture content. After about 10 minutes, most of the released liquid should evaporate, add the salt and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring often to ensure the onions don't burn. When the onions are a uniform brown color, they are done.

3. Pour in 1 cup of the stock and scrape the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to release any bits and flavors from the onions. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend on medium speed for about a minute. Add the rest of the broth, half of the squash flesh and puree again for one minute. Then add the buttermilk and rest of the squash, purée until silky smooth. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Before serving garnish each bowl of warm soup with a tablespoon of the pistachios.