Stuffed Bell Peppers

stuffed green bell pepperIt’s pepper time in our neck of the woods. The summer’s presented us with a few heat waves, and while that might not be all that pleasant for us, it is for our local produce. When making a dinner of stuffed peppers, you may want to wait for a gap between hot days. Who wants to turn on the oven when it’s 100 degrees F outside? Certainly not me, but even on a warm day, this is a quick to prepare dinner, with a minimum of oven time.

What goes well with green bell peppers? I thought sausage mixed with rice pilaf and some blue cheese seemed like just the ticket. Then I paired dinner with a Cabernet Sauvignon, one with a bit of bell pepper characteristic but not too heavy on the tannins. It was a good match. ***One other thing, you’ll have stuffing left over. Save it for the next morning, scramble some eggs, mix it all together, and make into a frittata. Waste not, want not!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 2-4

4 green bell peppers, tops cut off and seeds and ribs removed
1 lb sausage
1 cup rice pilaf (I used a local company’s — though they’re offered all over — Wild Porcini Mushroom pilaf. You can also make your own.)
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Warm a skillet over medium heat and cook sausage. Set aside.
Cook rice pilaf to package directions.
Stir together pilaf, sausage, and blue cheese. Stuff mixture into each pepper until nice and full. Set tops of peppers back onto the rest of the bell.
Place peppers onto a wire rack set into a baking pan and cook for 30 minutes. About 20 minutes in, take the pepper tops off and set onto the rack in the baking sheet so the stuffing browns a bit.
Remove pan from the oven and let sit about five minutes. Place peppers on plates and serve.

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs

wrapped figsThere’s something so satisfying about the pop of fig seeds between the teeth. While the fruit cooked into cookies has become a household staple, the fig in its whole form still seems slightly exotic, even though it was one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans. Eating the whole fruit conjures images of the Roman aristocracy, being fanned as they reclined, popping ripe grapes and figs dripping in honey into their mouths.

When one adds the sensory satisfaction with the images of the toga-wearing rich, it’s no wonder that figs seem like a very decadent treat. While it’s all kinds of amazing in the mouth, making a sweet and savory fig finish is easy peasy, and is a lovely end to a dinner of wine, cheese, crackers, and tapenade.

sherryStuffed Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto

9 brown figs
3-4 tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese
9 pieces of prosciutto
drizzle of fig balsamic vinegar
drizzle of honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the stem off of each fig and slice each fig in half. Grab a teaspoon or two of blue cheese, depending on the size of the fig, and put on the inside of one half of a cut fig. Take the other half and lightly smoosh the cheese inside. While holding the fig together, wrap in a piece of prosciutto. Place on a cookie sheet lined in parchment paper and repeat the stuffing/wrapping steps until all figs are on the sheet. Drizzle the figs with the balsamic vinegar and then follow with a drizzle of honey.
Place in the oven and cook 5-8 minutes, until prosciutto is slightly browned.

The only pairing that I found to work with the multiple levels of flavor was a sherry, specifically a beautiful cream sherry, Gonzalez Byass “Solera 1847.” We have really enjoyed this bottle, and while it may not be easy to see in the photo, there’s just enough left to pair with the figs. I guess it’s time to stop by the wine department.

Time For Dessert

dessertI have a killer sweet tooth. Honestly. It’s killer on my waistline. But I was at a wine event a couple of years ago that saved my sweets-lovin’ life.

It was one of those five course meals where every course had a different wine. For dessert, we were served blue cheese, almonds, and tawny port. The sweet course would never be the same for me again.

tawny-portNow that I’ve eschewed pastries for the savory-salty-sweet that a handful of raw almonds and some perfect cheese provide (last night, it was the amazing Boonter’s Blue from Penny Royal Farmstead), the choice of port is important. For the final course of the day to be fully satisfying, you need a dessert wine that will do justice to the craftsmanship of the marbled, aged creation of sheep and goat’s milk. The Graziano Syrah Tawny Port was an exquisite option. The complex, nectarous flavors made me yearn for colder nights spent snuggling by the fire. It was a toothsome treat, and a good way to punctuate a day. Honestly, who needs cake when there are endings such as these?

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