Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mom's Stuffed Stuff

I have dozens of recipes here for stuffed peppers, eggplants, tomato, onions etc. Many of these come from my travels to Europe, specifically Greece and Italy. We know that many of the Sicilian and island traditions come from Greece and from the Mid-east. The spices, raisins and dried fruit in many of our recipes come from Arabic and Jewish links. Many of the others come from Greece. Of course many of Italy's traditions come from early Greek influences on Etruscan and other tribal contacts. In fact much of Etruscan culture reflects Greece. Today it is easy to find some of the best Greek temples and city ruins in places like Syracusa, Agrigento and Paestum. These are often better than anywhere in Greece. There is no question that rice was an important crop back through our history, so do not feel slighted if I do not include rice in the recipes of this post. It may be a very important part of the family's culinary history. This post is about my immediate family, and we just did not do rice. I would encourage members of the family to contact me with variations on any of these recipes because all of them are important and I would like to include them so that I reflect the entire family and not just mine.

Stuffed Peppers

Choose block shaped green peppers for this.
Check that there are bumps arranged on the bottom of the peppers that will allow the peppers to stand firmly upright. If you plan to do enough of these to fill the bottom of your cooking vessel, this is not so important, as the crowd of peppers pushed together will support themselves.

Four medium sized peppers, tops cut off level, and the internal vanes and seeds removed.

One pound of ground beef, veal or pork. (A mix of the three works well as mentioned in earlier recipes.)

Bread crumbs made from grated stale bread, crushed dried bread or processed(in a food processor) fresh bread. White bread especially French or Italian preferred.

Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese(finely grated)

One beaten egg

One eggshell full of water


Salt and Pepper

Recipe for meatless sauce elsewhere in the site or your favorite meatless sauce. However, pepperoni or sausage goes particularly well with the peppers.

Put the meat into a large bowl. Pour in about one third the volume of the meat in bread crumbs. (Fresher bread will require more volume and much less water) add an equal amount of grated cheese. Put in the egg and seasonings. Be careful of the salt as the cheese will be very salty. Romano and cheaper cheese will be saltiest. Mix thoroughly with your hands till a more or less smooth paste has formed. Fry a tiny patty of the mix in a frying pan and taste. Adjust the seasonings, amount of water, bread and cheese at this point. This will affect taste as well as texture.
You could easily mix in the minced tops of the peppers and perhaps minced onion as well. Mom was adamant that her meat mixtures needed no garlic. I never had a reason to complain. I really love garlic, and I never missed it. The peppers get a lot of flavor from the sauce. Be especially careful of jarred minced garlic, as it gets old after a while. The meat mixture is just poached and might not kill off any culture that has grown in the garlic. Mom often used powdered garlic in Northern Maine especially as a correcting seasoning late in the process. Fresh garlic was very expensive in 50s Northern Maine. Again, she never used garlic in the meat and bread mixtures.

When the sauce is ready and bubbling away, stuff the meat mixture into the peppers loosely as it will expand from the water in the sauce. Lower the peppers into the bubbling sauce, and lower the heat to just about 185 degrees. In other words it should just barely be moving. Cook at low heat till the peppers are tender.

These would work well when the peppers are cut in half vertically, stuffed and placed in a lasagna pan. Pour the sauce over it, cover and bake in a low oven till the peppers are tender. Arrange sausage or other meats around and between the peppers. Sprinkle with Mozzarella in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Serve alone or with pasta. In Italy, you would have this after a salad or similar antipasto and pasta using the sauce from the peppers. The peppers would be served as a separate main dish perhaps quartered and arranged neatly on a large plate with a small amount of the sauce and perhaps a sausage.
You could use this recipe and other stuffing recipes inside hollowed out eggplants, tomatoes or onions, and baked. This is very Greek, but they would likely mix rice into the meat and stuff very loosely(there might be some allspice or cinnamon mixed in as well.

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