This summer, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. If you haven’t read it: it’s a true story about a year the Kingsolvers spent in southwest Virginia eating only the food they produced themselves or could buy at the local farmers’ market. This is something Scott and I could never do because if we are left for too long without Cheetos and diet coke, respectively, we will squirm around, throw things at each other, and eventually die. But Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a perspective-changing book. Since I read it, I’ve made a real effort to buy produce at farmers’ markets from real people, instead of from the grocery store, where the produce has been engineered to travel vast distances and dyed to look pretty. So far, I’ve been a responsible buyer without getting weird on all my friends and family, and if Scott disagrees, he can leave his cry for help in the comments section.
Yesterday, Scott was left unsupervised at the farmers’ market where he bought only potatoes before getting distracted by free samples of pepper jellies, cinnamon rolls and goat cheese. Even Thunder seemed to know something was wrong with only potatoes.
(Note that Thunder’s disapproving face looks a lot like her “oh man I want to eat that c’mon let’s eat it whoohoo this is going to be freaking delicious” face, but you learn to draw distinctions.)
We had some small local green peppers lying around, as well as an oddly comprehensive selection of dairy products (sour cream, cream cheese, cream) so I decided to stuff the peppers with mashed potatoes instead of rice. I really wanted to wrap the peppers in bacon but we didn’t have any around, probably because if we kept bacon on hand, Scott would be all “oh man I want to eat bacon c’mon let’s eat bacon whoohoo this bacon is going to be freaking delicious,” like, every five minutes. But we had dried cherries that we plumped up and threw into the mash, and that made a nice counterpoint to the garlic.
Green Peppers Stuffed with Garlic-Cherry Mashed Potatoes
Note that this recipe is really forgiving and the proportions are best done to taste: Some people like creamier mashed potatoes and others like their foods a little lighter. Just take however many potatoes you have, boil them, and have fun adding the dairy as you see fit. You really can’t mess this up.
2 lbs. potatoes (We used 15 small potatoes, like yukon gold, bintje, yellow finn or red potatoes. But a larger potato, like russet, would work too.)
8 small green peppers (or 4 large ones)
20 dried cherries
10 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp. melted butter (less works, too)
1/2 to 3/4 c. cream cheese or sour cream (or any combination of the two)
5 tbsp. cream or half and half
1 tsp. salt, plus salt & pepper to taste
4 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. warm water
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash potatoes and place in a pot with enough water to cover them, and toss in 1 tsp. salt. Boil potatoes until a fork slides easily into them, at least 30 minutes. We left ours in there for about 40.
In the meantime, rinse the peppers and cut the tops off, preserving tops on the side. Take the seeds out of the peppers and place peppers and their tops (separately) on a pan oiled with 2 tbsp. olive oil. (Line pan with foil or use a pan with sides to prevent oil from sliding off and smoking up your oven.) Salt the peppers and roast them for about 30 minutes or until they change color from bright to muted green and brown up in places. (Cooking them shorter or longer is not going to ruin the recipe–they will just be more or less shapely. They are easier to stuff if their skins retain some elasticity.)
While potatoes and peppers are cooking, take care of the garlic and the cherries:
Brown 10 cloves of garlic in 2 tbsp. olive oil on the stove top, taking care not to burn them. When browned, remove garlic from heat, preserving oil. Mash garlic with the back of a fork. Place garlic and its oil in a mixing bowl large enough to hold the potatoes.
Place dried cherries in a half cup of hot water for a few minutes so they plump up. Drain and chop roughly by hand or in a food processor. Add cherries to the mixing bowl containing the garlic.
When potatoes are done (i.e., a fork slides easily into them), drain and remove the skins. This is easiest if you hold potatoes under running water while you do it. Add potatoes to the mixing bowl containing the garlic and the cherries.
Mix potatoes, cherries and garlic for several minutes, adding the melted butter, the sour cream/cream cheese and the cream/half and half. Adjust the dairy to suit and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the mashed potatoes into the green peppers and serve with their lids on top (contrary to the picture above– I forgot.) If the mashed potatoes have gotten cold or the remainder of the meal is not ready, you can keep stuffed peppers warm in a 250 degree oven.