Saturday, July 18, 2020

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers

I love cabbage rolls. I especially like those from Lebanese steakhouses here in Northeastern Oklahoma. (Shout out to my friend Greg Gawey).

I can and have made them myself. Frankly, they are tedious and you need to make large batches to justify the work.

Stuffed peppers are not the same thing, but the flavors are very similar and just as comforting. I do not pretend to offer an authentic spice blend in this recipe. Very few Lebanese cooks, home or commercial, will tell all. The internet has cabbage rolls, of course. Even Martha Stewart has posted one.

When you read those recipes, you find there are as many different ones as there are regions. Some that look tasty call for things like 7 spice. When I looked that up, I found a startling diverse set of recipes for the spice. I gave up. Instead I have reverse engineered a spice blend. The proportion on the spices can and should be adjusted by you to suit your own taste, as should the amount you use in the meat.

This recipe is based on 4 to 6 large bell peppers. Figure 1 or 2 halves per person depending on the size of the peppers.

Ingredients for Stuffing

one pound ground beef or lamb
1 cup chilled cooked rice
one medium yellow onion, diced small
1or 2 cloves of garlic, minced 
2 teaspoons of spice blend
salt and pepper to taste.

Ingredients for Spice Blend

1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, cumin, kosher salt, and Ras el Hanout
1/4 teaspoon each all spice, ground cloves, ground cardamon, black pepper
large pinch of ground nutmeg


4 - 6 large bell peppers, seeds and pith removed

Ingredients for Sauce

2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
3 Tablespoons high quality tomato paste
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 large cloves garlic, smashed and minced
drizzle of EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
aprox. 1/2 cup water
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes


For the spice blend: Mix all the spices in a small single bowl and set aside.

For the peppers: If using long peppers find two spots opposite each other where the peppers can sit without rolling. Slice horizontally in half. Remove the seed and pith. Using the point of a small knife make two small holes in the bottom of each pepper for drainage later. 

If using the round and blocky type of peppers, slice the stem end of the pepper off just as the sides start to go down.

Seed the peppers and remove the pith. If necessary, take a thin slice off the bottom lobes to allow the pepper to sit squarely. Again, make two small slits in the bottom of each pepper.

For the stuffing: In a bowl, add the meat, the rice, the minced garlic, the minced onion, and two teaspoons of the spice blend. Reserve any excess spice. Mix the ingredients well with one hand and set aside.

For the sauce: Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Alternatively, if you have a stick blender, put the tomatoes in a regular tall side bowl. Add the tomato paste.

The cherry tomatoes add a freshness. The tomato paste adds intense flavor and body. Add the garlic, as much of the remaining spice as you desire, and the water. Blend or process until the mixture is smooth and no chunks of tomato remain.

Assembly and Baking

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Be sure the rack is in the middle.

Stuff the peppers loosely with  the stuffing mixture.

Use the smallest baking dish in which the peppers fit comfortably. Pour your sauce into the dish and place your peppers in the dish. Put one spoonful of the sauce on the top of each pepper.

Bake until the filling reaches 145 degrees and the peppers have softened. Usually 25 minutes to 35 minutes. (Note: The long flat peppers cook more quickly.)

Use a slotted spoon and remove the peppers one by one. Hover each pepper over the baking dish to allow juices to drain. Place the peppers on your serving dish. Stir the remaining sauce well to remove any bits stuck to the bottom of the dish. If necessary add a bit of water to he sauce if too dried. Spoon sauce over the peppers for service. Side dishes can include tabouli, green beans stewed in tomatoes, and or a cucumber and tomato salad.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Pork Tenderloin Roulade with Dates and Feta

Roulades (AKA roll ups or "stuffed" meats) allow the cook to create unlimited flavors. They also help you to present beautiful plates.

Sadly, most home cooks are intimidated by them. The idea of cutting a large chunk of meat into a flatish piece seems too difficult. The work involved appears too much.

But, hey! You're stuck at home under a shelter in place order. What else do you have to do?


1 large pork tenderloin
3/4 cup of any 2 or three stuffing combination that may appeal to you. For example:
  • mushrooms and bacon bits
  • curried raisons and apricot
  • spinach, parmesan, and pinenuts
  • stewed apples and onions
  • softened and diced dates and feta


Unpack the tenderloin and dry it. 

Using a sharp knife remove the silver skin, membrane, excess fat, and any stray bits.

With that same sharp knife, using the point and first inch of the blade, on one side or another, cut straight down about 1/2 inch deep. Slightly rotate the tenderloin and repeat. Continue the same step, slowly unrolling the tenderloin.

Once that step is finished, place the meat on top of moistened cling film and cover with another moistened sheet. use a meat mallet or the bottom of a small but heavy sauce pan to pound the meat flat.

For this roulade, I chose dates and feta. I crumbled the cheese finely and soaked the date pieces in hot water for 15 minutes.

Salt and pepper the inside of the roll generously. Spread your stuffing on the side near you, starting about an inch from the edge. 

Roll the tenderloin edge over the stuffing and continue to roll to make a tube with the seam side down. Using kitchen twine, tie your roll every 2 or three inches. Do not draw the string tight enough to cut into the meat. You merely want to keep the roll closed.

Now you are ready to cook.

Traditional Roasting

Set the oven to 300 degrees with the rack in the middle.

Season the exterior with salt and pepper.

In a skillet with 2 Tbs. neutral oil over medium high heat, sear all sides of the tenderloin.

Place the seared tenderloin in the oven and roast. Check the temperature every five minutes after 20 minutes and continue until the interior meat reaches 135 degrees for medium or 145 degrees for medium well. 

Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let the meat rest for ten minutes to allow the tenderloin to collect itself as the meat rises another 5 degrees.

Slice, removing the twine as you go.

Sous Vide Method

Vacuum seal the tenderloin and submerge in a hot water bath set for your choice of 140 to 150 degrees. Cook time should be between 1 and 4 hours.

Remove the tenderloin from the bag. Dry the tenderloin, season with salt and pepper, and sear the exterior to brown it, slice an serve immediately. Sous Vide meat does not need to rest.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Sunday Red Sauce


One 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes in their juice or puree
One small or 1/2 large onion diced small
6 to 8 cloves minced gar4lic
1 Tablespoon dried Italian herbs
1 four inch line anchovy paste
1/2 stick butter
1 pound sweet Italian sausage 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 two inch piece of Parmesan rind (optional)
1 cup water or broth


Fry the sweet sausage, breaking it up into small pieces. Continue to cook until the sausage renders and begins to caramelize. Remove the meat to a slow cooker.

Saute' the onions in the fat from the sausage until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the garlic turns fragrant. Transfer the onions and garlic to the slow cooker.

Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir well.

Set the cooker to low and simmer 4 or more hours.

Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.

Cooking and Serving Notes

The anchovy paste and the cheese rind will add a depth of flavor without being able to taste them individually. 

Do note the lack of salt in the recipe. The anchovy paste and cheese rind will add salt to the sauce so wait until the end to adjust.

Serve with bucatini, fusilli, penne or other pasta with size or ridges. Spaghetti does not have enough surface area.

When ready to serve, make sure the cooked pasta and sauce are mixed together well  before serving. Ladling sauce on top of the pasta may look good in television commercials, but for eating you will want every bit of the pasta coated.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Cheesy Corn Chowder

Cheesy Corn Chowder

When Nancy and I were just starting our life after graduate school, we met several nice couples. One was Art and Rita Crotzer. With job changes and life happening, we lost track of them. But from time to time, I remember them. I remember them every time I make Cheesy Corn Chowder from Rita's recipe. I've made very few changes to the written recipe she gave us.

Serves 4 to 6


4 Ears of corn, kernels removed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 quart plus 1 cup of chicken stock
2 carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/8” rings
2 potatoes, peeled and cut in ½” cubes
4 slices bacon, cut in 1” rectangles
2 cloves garlic minced
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste


Melt the butter over medium heat and when bubbling, add bacon pieces and sauté slowly to half done.

Add the onion and carrot and continue to slowly sauté until onions turn translucent.

Add the stock, corn, Worcestershire sauce, potato, nutmeg, pepper (but not salt). Simmer until potatoes are just done.

Coat shredded cheese in flour, shaking to remove excess flour. Add to simmering stock. Do not boil soup after adding cheese. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to cook out flour and allow soup to thicken.  Taste and adjust salt.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Savory Chicken and Vegetables Bread Pudding


Stale bread or buns, sliced or torn into rough ¾ inch pieces (sufficient to mostly fill your baking vessel)
1 to 1.5 cups diced chicken (dark meat is my preference, but it does not matter)
One carrot, peeled and sliced thin
One onion, diced
One large stalk celery, halved lengthwise and then diced
One handful diced green pepper
(Optional) One large handful sliced mushrooms
Any other vegetable you desire (if peas, do not saute with the others)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 loose cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Swiss, Gruyere, or provolone)
1 cup chicken broth (plus more as needed)
1 cup half and half (plus more as needed
4 eggs
1 or 2 splashes Worcestershire sauce
(Optional) 1 or 2 splashes sriracha sauce
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, minced (do not be shy on the amount) (Simon and Garfunkel, right?)
Salt and pepper
Butter for sautéing and for dotting the casserole


Spray grease your cooking vessel. (a loaf pan works great)

Saute the vegetables in butter on medium low heat until the onion turns translucent and the remainder begins to soften.

Add the garlic and saute one more minute.

In a large bowl mix the bread, the chicken, the cheese, the herbs, and the vegetables
Salt and pepper the mix and turn the mix out into the cooking vessel. Do not pack down.

Crack the eggs into the same bowl and beat them lightly. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add the broth and the half and half plus the Worcestershire sauce and sriracha if using. Mix well until uniform in color

Pour the custard over the bread until it almost covers the bread mixture. If more liquid is needed, mix chicken broth and half and half in equal proportions to supplement.

Cover the vessel with cling film and refrigerate 1 to 24 hours for the custard to infuse the bread.

Preheat the oven to 350. Set the rack to low middle.

Remove the casserole from the refrigerator, sprinkle with shredded cheese, and dot the surface with butter. Place the casserole on a sheet pan and put it in the oven. Bake 50 minutes or until the custard sets.

Note: Leftovers reheat quickly in the microwave.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mediterranean Chicken and Potato Stew (Poulet et Patate a la Provencal)

At the farmers market last Saturday I bought Cherokee Purple tomatoes. I used much of those in a tomato gallette that was the subject of my last post. I diced the parts of the tomatoes not suitable for the gallette. I also bought some fingerling potatoes at the same market. I have thyme, rosemary, and sage in my herb pots and I have bay leaf in the pantry. If you add Nicoise or Kalamata olives, capers, anchovy paste, white wine, and chicken stock to a braise, what is not to love?


4 chicken thighs with or without skin and bone
2 or 3 fingerling potatoes for each piece of chicken
1 onion diced (about 1 cup)
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced sweet bell pepper
a rounded handful of pitted Nicoise olives or Kalamata olives.
1 Tbs. capers
1 rinsed anchovy or its equivalent in anchovy paste
1 Tablespoon flour plus more as needed for dredging
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 sprig rosemary and 1 large sprig thyme (2 tsp. each of rosemary and thyme dried herbs)
1 large sage leaf
1 bay leaf
3 large cloves garlic roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sufficient chicken broth to half submerge the chicken.
salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Small dice the onion, celery, and sweet pepper.

Large dice the tomatoes (You may substitute Muir fire roasted diced tomatoes with juices)

Rough chop the garlic.

Measure the olives and capers

Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces.

If bone in with skin, salt and pepper well. If boneless and skinless, salt and pepper well and dredge in flour. In a heavy bottomed skillet or in the bottom of a dutch oven brown the chicken pieces well on both sides in a Tablespoon of olive oil and a large pat of butter. Set the pieces aside. Note: if using bone in with skin pieces, remove the crisp skin. It has served its purpose and will only turn rubbery in the braise.

Empty all but a Tablespoon of the fat from the pan, but do not wipe the pan. Saute the onion, celery, and pepper in the hot pan. As the  vegetables soften add 1 Tablespoon of flour and mix well into the vegetables.

Add the garlic, olives, tomato paste, capers, and anchovy to the pan. If using anchovy paste add the equivalent of one anchovy.

Add the wine to the pan and simmer until reduced by half. Nestle the browned chicken and potatoes among the vegetables (or place in the braising vessel and add the vegetables over them) and add a tied bundle of the herbs in the middle.

Add enough chicken stock to have cover the chicken and potatoes. Cover and set on the middle rack in the oven. Bake 50 minutes. Remove the cover and bake an additional 30 to 50 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

Serve in warmed bowls with a blanched green bean salad.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Cherokee Purple Tomato with Pesto Gallette - Summer's Finest

Last week the wife and I dined at an excellent farm to table restaurant, The Reserve at Groggs Green. If you are in Tulsa on the weekend, we urge you to try it.

We were served a truly excellent wedge of summer tomato gallette as a part of the superb meal.

I checked the internet for recipes and found a good looking version in the Cooks Country. That is a sister publication to Cooks Illustrated.

I took that recipe, and my memory of the restaurant dish, and added pesto. Why? Because the basil needed thinning. I used tomatoes I found at the farmers market. I love Cherokee Purple tomatoes. They a very delicate and go bad from bruising so quickly. You will never see them in grocery stores. However, they are juicy and loaded with summer tomato flavor.


3 softball sized Cherokee Purple tomatoes, cored and sliced in 1/4 inch slices and halved (substitute Big Girl or Better Boy tomatoes as necessary)
1/2 cup prepared pesto (see recipe below)
1 large shallot, halved and sliced thin
2 cups finely shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan Reggiano
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
egg wash

Ingredients for the Dough

7.5 ounces of all purpose flour
10 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6-9 Tbs ice water
flour to dust

Ingredients for the Pesto

2 Tbs pine nuts, toasted until fragrant
1 large clove garlic, sliced thin
1 large double handful of fresh basil
5 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 healthy pinch of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Method for Tomatoes and Cheese

Thin slice the shallots.

Slice the tomatoes, salt them heavily, and put them in a colander to drain for at least 30 minutes.

Shred the cheese.

Method for Making the Crust

In a food processor combine the flour and salt. Pulse three times to blend. Add the cubes of butter on top of the flour and pulse until the mixture looks like very small peas in the flour. Turn the mix out to a bowl and add 6 Tbs. ice water. Use a spatula to mix and press the dough together. If the dough will not come together, add another Tbs. of ice water. Continue and repeat until the dough comes together. Quickly compress the dough, form a ball and flatten that ball into a disk. Wrap the disk in cling film and refrigerate for 30 or more minutes. 

Method for the Pesto

While the dough rests in the refrigerator, make the pesto. Put the pine nuts in a hot dry non stick skillet over medium high heat and toast while shaking until the pine nuts are fragrant. Add the nuts, the garlic, and 4 Tbs. of olive oil to the food processor bowl. (No need to wash the processor bowl after the dough, just tap the residue out). Pulse the garlic/nut/oil until the chunks break up a bit. Add the basil, small stems and all. Pulse four or five times. Add a pinch of salt and the desired amount of pepper. Process the mixture while streaming in more olive oil. Continue until you have a runny paste. Do not over process.


Put the rack at the middle of the oven and set the temperature for 375 degrees.

On a floured sheet of parchment lay out the disc of dough. Flour the top. Roll from the center of the disc away from you, turn 1/4 turn and repeat. Lightly dust the disc with more flour if needed. Repeat and continue until you have a rough 12 inch circle approximately 1/8 inch thick.

NOTE: Look at the picture of the rolled dough. You will see small chunks of butter. This is GOOD. Those chunks assure the dough will be flaky and light. If you process until everything is perfectly blended, your dough can be used to side a house.

Use the parchment to slide the crust into a sheet pan.

Use a small spatula to spread the pesto on the crust. Leave about 1.5 inches on the edges.

Spread the gruyere evenly over the pesto.

Dry the tomatoes between layers of kitchen towel. 

Starting in the center, shingle the tomatoes in a spiral until all the pesto is covered. Use pieces of slices to cover any gaps.

Sprinkle the sliced shallots evenly over the tomatoes.

Sprinkle the shredded parmesan over the assembled stuffing.

Starting at the edge farthest from you, pull the crust edge up and over the stuffing. Do the same about two inches around the edge and pinch the fold that forms together. Continue around the edge until the dough has become a tart crust.

Drizzle more olive oil evenly over the stuffing.

Beat one egg with a bit of water. Use a pastry brush to paint the crust which shows. You will not need all the egg wash.

Bake the gallette 45 to 50 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and the interior bubbling.

Remove the baked gallette from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Use a spatula to move the gallette to a wire rack to cool further without steaming the bottom crust.

Slice in wedges and serve warm with a tart green leafy salad.