My podcast is having an effect on me. I had Jenni Konner on my second episode and she talked all about letting people into her kitchen during a dinner party, giving people tasks, sharing responsibilities. That’s the total opposite of what I normally do; normally, I get everything done hours ahead then just warm everything up when everyone gets there. It’s a control thing. It’s also an anxiety thing. Basically, it’s a me thing.
Not too long ago, my friend Cary asked if he could cook with me and, with Jenni’s podcast on my mind, I said: “Sure.” I didn’t know what to expect. I went to the market in the morning and bought a bunch of tomatoes, green peppers, and a melon. He texted that he was picking up prune plums from his farmer’s market.
At some point during the day, while doing the crossword puzzle (almost solved it!), I started thinking about those peppers and the tomatoes and I was thinking about stuffing the peppers with the tomatoes and then I was thinking about what else has peppers and tomatoes and I thought about a Greek salad and how I had Feta in my fridge, so I texted Cary to pick up some olives on his way over and we could riff.
When he got here, we put those prune plums to work and made the famous New York Times plum torte.
I’d made it before with much bigger plums, and it comes out looking a bit like a solar system; the one I made with Cary looked much more like a cake.
Once that was done, we walked Winston, then came back and got to work on dinner.
First: Cary sliced up the melon and draped it with prosciutto for a snack. It’s pretty much the ultimate summer appetizer.
As for the peppers, here’s what we did. I had Cary cut the tops off and scoop out the insides and put them in a baking dish.
I also had him rub the peppers, inside and out, with olive oil and then sprinkle everything with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, I heated olive oil in a large skillet and added chopped red onion, which I let soften with some salt, and then 4 to 5 cloves of slivered garlic and a big pinch of red chile flakes.
I added about 5 diced heirloom tomatoes and let those cook down a bit.
When the pan was super liquidy and the tomatoes were starting to disintegrate, I scooped out about a cupful and set it aside, and then added about a cup of Arborio rice. I stirred that in with more salt and waited for the rice to absorb most of the moisture. At that point, I added a glug of Balsamic vinegar, a bunch of halved and pitted Kalamata olives (thank you Cary), a ton of chopped herbs (mint, dill, parsley, basil), and a block of crumbled Feta.
At this point it’s REALLY important to taste and adjust so it’s truly amazing. I found that mine needed a lot more salt and a bit more balsamic to make it zippy.
Then you just preheat your oven to 375 and stuff your peppers. It’s really as simple as spooning that mixture inside each pepper and putting it back in the baking dish.
Once they’re all stuffed, mix some of the tomato sauce you conserved with a splash more balsamic vinegar and, if necessary, some water so you have enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
Put the lids back on the peppers, pop into the oven, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the peppers are wrinkled all over and the inside is fully cooked. A knife should pierce a pepper easily.
To serve, just put a pepper on a plate and spoon some sauce on the side.
It’s a simple, late summer, farmer’s market dinner that’s fun to make with a friend. See, look, I’m reformed!