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.

Crispy Pork with Baby Bok Choy

Crispy Pork with Baby Bok Choy Stir FryIt all started when I spied the prettiest baby bok choy in the produce department. It was so vibrant and crunchy and just called out for a dish to be prepared in dedication to its delectable-ness. Well okay then, a stir fry seemed in order.

I grabbed some pork, fixin’s for a sauce, and some other pretty produce and set about to make a meal. When I spoke to Charles about his thoughts for a wine to drink, he wanted to try a Barbera. An Italian varietal with an Asian meal might seem to be a rather bold choice, but the best part of wine pairing is the experimentation. The worst that can happen is that the pairing doesn’t work. The world won’t end. You won’t descend down a shame spiral. Have some water with the meal and save the wine to enjoy as a digestif while binge watching whatever current TV obsession you may be in the midst of. We learn from our choices. Sometimes they pay off. Sometimes they’re rather awful, but they’re always an adventure.

How did that bold Barbera option go with dinner? It may not have been a transcendent experience, but it actually paired pretty well. The wine complimented the pork, and nuances of flavor were brought out by the ginger and sweet chili sauce. The Barbera didn’t play along with the green beans in the dish, but all in all, I’d try it again. I might just tweak the recipe a tad — less vinegar, no beans, a little more soy sauce — in order to allow the wine to sing a bit more. My fall back wine that goes with everything, the Gazela Vinho Verde Rosé, would have worked with dinner, too. As would an amber ale. Don’t be afraid to try new things. It makes a meal more exciting.

Crispy Pork with Baby Bok Choy

Serves 4

1 lb pork loin, sliced thinly and at an angle
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
4 baby bok choy, coarsely chopped
1 cup green beans
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon sweet chili sauce
chopped green onions for garnish

Heat a stove-top wok or deep sauté pan over high heat.Toss pork with sesame oil, salt, and pepper and put in pan. Let sit for two minutes. Flip pieces and let sit another two minutes. Stir to make sure everything is cooked and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
Place pan back over high heat. Add oil. Toss in bok choy and stir fry for two minutes then add green beans, garlic, and bell pepper and stir for an additional three minutes. Turn heat down to the lowest setting.
Add vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and chili sauce to a mason jar. Screw on the lid and shake until everything is completely mixed. Stir in the sauce and toss until the sauce is warmed.
Sprinkle the green onions on top and serve with rice.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

slow cooker pork shoulderYou’re probably beginning to realize that while I occasionally enjoy creating a complicated meal, my stand-bys are simpler meals that have a few layers of flavor but are easy peasy to make. And I love my slow cooker. I have a small one that’s perfect for smaller meals as well as small roasts — even a chicken.

A couple of days ago, I found a pork shoulder in the freezer (that place is a constant source of surprise for me) and decided it needed to be dinner. After thawing overnight in the fridge, I slow cooked that bad boy until it was a tender, falling-off-the-bone flavor extravaganza and served it with some smashed potatoes.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

One pork shoulder
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of mixed sweet and hot peppers (I had a bag of pre-sliced sweet bells, jalapenos, etc. that were in the freezer. I recommend a 3 to 1 ratio of sweet to hot.)
2 cups sweet cherries

Throw it all in the slow cooker. Set on low, and go to work. It will be cooked and the flavors will be nicely incorporated by the time you get home. Serve with veggies, potatoes, etc. — whatever side speaks to you.

Any leftovers can be turned into pulled pork sandwiches. I used a gluten-free hamburger bun that I toasted on the grill with a little garlic butter before filling. I added a couple of dollops of Larrupin Red Sauce to the pork for a bit more sweetness and heat.

Put a Bird on It

I just got back from a business trip in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately due to luggage restrictions/items I needed to bring, I had to leave the camera at home. Since I didn’t get any Portland photos, I did the next best thing — I’m sharing one of the awesome velvet paintings my friend, Chris, has created for me. Chris lives in Portland, ergo, Portland photo! Erm, sort-of, right? Anyway… let’s move on.

Portland is a foodie paradise, and even more, a beer-lover’s dream. I consumed way more beer than was good for me, but I had to pack so much consumption into such a short space of time, you really can’t blame me.

The first evening found us at Deschutes Brewery. There, I had the great presence of mind to order a Hop in the Dark. I was a bit skeptical — a dark ale with hops? The resiny flavor played nicely with the chocolate sweetness of the malt. Who knew the two could be such great friends?

My next stop was dinner. While I’ve been told the restaurant at Deschutes is dynamite, I was overruled by my group, so we moved on. After being disappointed that all of the food trucks were closed, we continued to what appeared to be (at least on the outside) a hole-in-the-wall eatery with some nice, outdoor seating. I have to say, the Dan & Louis Oyster Bar makes a spectacular salad. I enjoyed a half salad of the Dungeness Crab Louis with a marionberry vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was spectacular. I can’t recommend it enough. I’m going to need to replicate it, in fact. Dinner was washed down with a Fish Tale Organic Amber Ale, a beer I know quite well and just wanted to enjoy.

There was no hesitation when it came to our next stop, plus it was just down the street. It’s almost a requirement to get a unique concoction at Voodoo Doughnut when you’re visiting the City of Roses. I had their Bacon Maple Bar. It was… weird — keeping Portland as it should be, I guess. I ate the whole thing, odd or not.

Then it was on to a nightcap at Rogue. By this time my head was spinning, what with all of the, um, sugar and socialization, so I opted for an old favorite — Dead Guy Ale. I did indulge in a sample of Rogue’s ode to Voodoo Doughnut, its Bacon Maple Ale. I’m sad to admit that it was the first Rogue creation I haven’t enjoyed. The liquid smoke flavors coupled with the maple sugary-ness just weren’t my thing.

After a full day of learning, my next dinner excursion was at The Original. Holy mother of … really, there should be a special reward for places that make food this delectable. I intended to get the beef stroganoff and had ordered my beer accordingly, but I was wooed by the braised pork shank. I was completely under the spell of the so-tender-it-was-falling-off-the-bone meat drizzled in a brown butter sherry sauce. I have no words. Recalling how staggeringly good that meal was makes me want to weep. Fortunately, the sauce allowed my equally amazing beer to compliment the meal. The Original had Fort George Bourbon Barrel Cavatica Stout on tap. What a gorgeous beer! Black, malty, sweet, and smooth — I wish I had purchased a case.

And that was it, a short adventure filled with brewed and culinary pleasures. I gained a lot of knowledge on new, awesome techniques in social networking, gained some new friends and colleagues, and most definitely gained some pounds. It was great. Stay weird, Portland, and stay yummy!

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