Friday Funday

Mike forced me to cook this week. I told myself that I would do at least one blog entry per week, and then at the beginning of this year I also decided that I would run in a half marathon, so I adjusted my priorities. Mike took me literally kicking and screaming (at one point, I was laying on the floor saying “Mike, just reLAX”) into the kitchen to pick a recipe to cook on Friday night. After dejectedly flipping through a few of our cookbooks and declaring that there was no way I could find something I wanted to cook, I found a stuffed bell pepper recipe in the Cooking Up A Storm cookbook that sounded delicious. I paired that with learning how to cook a basic fish recipe since I’ve never cooked fish before. I sent Mike off to the store (aka three stores…he got the fish at Whole Foods, the booze at Goody Goody, and everything else at Albertson’s) and tried to go for a quick run before cooking. Massive fail – it took my iPhone over 30 minutes to back up when I was just trying to add a few songs to my repertoire, and then when I got to our apartment’s gym, all the treadmills were taken. I couldn’t run outside since it was raining, so I just dealt with the loss and waited for Mike to come home with the stuff.

So once Mike came back we had all of the ingredients. I was excited to learn how to cook something basic – last week it was chicken, this week was fish – and add something unique into the mix. Mike told me he’d walk me through how to cook the fish, so I’d know for future reference. The stuffed bell peppers had the following ingredients and recipe (I halved it from this original amount since it was just me and Mike):

Cafe Degas’ Stuffed Red Peppers

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup sliced white button mushrooms

1/2 cup diced onions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 bunch kale, chopped

1/2 pound fresh spinach, chopped

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

6 ounces cream cheese

6 ounces goat cheese

2 large eggs

Salt and black pepper

10 fire-roasted red peppers

Olive oil for brushing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until very soft. Add the kale and spinach and cook until no raw taste remains. Add the cooked mushrooms.

In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and toast the bread crumbs in it. In a large bowl, combine the crumbs with the walnuts and cheeses. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Season with the salt and pepper.

Add the walnut and cheese mixture to the spinach mixture. Toss the ingredients together and spoon the mixture into the peppers, packing them lightly.

Line up the peppers in a baking pan and brush them with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush again with olive oil. Serve immediately.

Lots of ingredients but pretty simple. Mike and I had never worked with kale before so we were anxious to see how it tasted. I washed all of the ingredients…

Yup, still in my workout gear.

Like I’ve said before, I take a million years to prep, and this was no exception. The onions and garlic were quick, but washing and prepping the kale and spinach, cooking the mushrooms, and peeling the skin off of the bell peppers took a while. I am serious – it took me over an hour to get everything ready. I took some breaks to enjoy a frothy beverage.

I busted out the Tools and Techniques book to see if it had any words of wisdom for the bell peppers, and of course it did. It recommended to let them cool in a paper bag so they sort of steam themselves, which loosens the skin and makes them easier to peel. The only paper bag we had in the apartment was the one the Maker’s Mark came in (SO ghetto), so I stuffed three peppers in there and let them do their thing. The book was right – the one that didn’t fit in the bag was a lot harder to peel. The finished bell peppers looked like this.

Delish! I also had to toast the walnuts that went in the peppers, but since I halved the recipe it was a comically small amount of walnuts in the pan:

I cooked the mushrooms in butter, then cooked the spinach and kale, then mixed them all together with the onions and garlic. I mixed together the cream cheese, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, toasted bread crumbs, and egg (almost did two eggs before I realized for the 472th time that I halved the recipe), then dumped the spinach, kale and mushrooms in.

I stuck the mixture into the bell peppers and threw them in the oven. Time for the fish! Mike walked me through it. First, I put some flour and Tony’s into a dish to dredge the fish…

then I put some butter and oil into the pan and threw ’em in.

The fish didn’t take too long to cook, so before I knew it we were ready to eat!

Time for a victory dance.

The good thing about this dinner is that a) I cooked the entire thing from start to finish – no bagged veggies, no letting Mike do the gravy, no using leftover rice – and b) I learned how to cook something basic (a fish) and I learned a special skill (the bell peppers). I’m getting better at cooking as we speak. Kitten is pleased.

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