Fat Monday. Or playing to your strengths.

Many, many, years ago, I thought I wanted to be a chef. I did, and somewhat still do, but there is one thing in the way, reality. I like to cook out of joy. Why attach it to a job? I already do that with design, once graphically, and now with making information systems, applications, and websites easier to use. But my first love will always be cooking. I know I get this from my mom and dad. Mom would spend nearly every Sunday making pasta from scratch. And on the 29th of every month, she would make homemade gnocchi. My dad was the asador, the master of the parillada. He gave me my zeal for adventurous eating. Try being a young boy and trying to understand what blood sausage and sweatbreads are. Just taste, and then learn what they are never go the other way, your palate and experiences will always be limited.

Being a fat guy, I could not rely on looks to get dates, and there were not many. A fellow man-larger-carriage, John Popper of Blues Traveler, once said that his music needs to be great, “Because my ass won’t sell records.” I have used humor and food preparation in the wooing of women. It worked; I am not tragically single and have found my partner in life, my wife Michelle, many moons ago. She is not as adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, but we have come a long way from fish sticks (her own admission of an Ohio born girl).

One of the first things, I believe, I every made her were the stuffed peppers below. They are amazing, especially served chilled. Mind you, Michelle despises two of the ingredients, anchovy and olives. But it contains balsamic vinegar, which makes the world go ‘round.  I lost this recipe for many years. It originates from Anthony’s Runway 84 in Ft.Lauderdale. I recently found an article in the Sun Sentinel Online form 1994 that has it. It has been saved to the hard drive and it is not presented to you here. Enjoy this chilled.

The Cubanelle peppers are a native of Florida and available in most supermarkets and produce markets. They are a light green, elongated pepper with a very mild flavor, a perfect vehicle for the savory stuffing.

Stuffed Cubanelle Peppers

  • 12 Cubanelle peppers, stem ends cut off and se
    eded (I used a demitasse spoon to reach into the narrow ends)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 (2-ounce) can flat anchovy fillets, drained and medium chopped
  • 1 (3 1/4-ounce) can pitted black California olives, drained and medium chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fine-chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, medium chopped
  • Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

 

Steps:Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to hold the peppers (on their sides) in a single layer. Set aside.

Mix the bread crumbs with the oil, so that the crumbs, in Anthony’s words, “pack up.”I used my hands to do this. Mix in the remaining ingredients, except 1/4 cup of the vinegar and the olive oil.

Use this mixture to stuff the peppers, just to their tops (the demitasse spoon worked well here, too). Line the stuffed peppers up on their sides in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes or until soft.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup vinegar, cover, and let sit on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Uncover and let come to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly before serving. Makes 12 stuffed peppers.

Use your talents. If you can cook, do it. It is design that you can eat. If you can’t cook, learn to some basics and build as you go at your own pace. The experience of cooking for someone is fulfilling in many ways. Mostly is all about the experience. The prep, the ingredients, the presentation…it is performance art for an audience. And anyone can do it.

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