Asian Stuffed Peppers with Orange Vermicelli

sp1Being sick can have its perks. People close to you pay you more attention. They dote on you and supply what you need in order to make you feel better and to make your suffering as light as possible. A few weeks ago it was Bruno’s turn. A pinched nerve in his back forced him to lay still for much longer than first anticipated. I wanted to lift his spirits and so I asked him one afternoon for dinner suggestions. Surprisingly, he said stuffed peppers. This is something I don’t make often. To be honest I only think I’ve made them once or twice. Usually when we crave them we visit Bruno’s parents. His mom makes wonderful stuffed peppers. Since I didn’t want Bruno comparing mine to what he was used to, I decided to come up with something completely different.

A peak in the fridge and I realized no ground beef was to be found. Ground chicken on the other hand we had. An Asian inspired dish came instantly to mind. Now, I was getting excited.  I decided to leave out the rice which is usually mixed with the beef and instead served the peppers on a bed of rice vermicelli noodles tossed in orange juice and green onions. And the chicken? Well, lemongrass, cilantro and good helping of ginger. Loveliness.

sp2

Peppers Filling:

1 stalk lemongrass

1 small zucchini 

7-8 shiitake mushrooms

1 stalk celery

2 tbsp cilantro

1” piece fresh ginger, peeled

2 green onions

1000g ground chicken 

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp soya sauce

2 tbsp maple syrup

2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp horseradish

2 tbsp green curry paste

1 tbsp sambal oelek

Zest of one lime

 

6 yellow or orange bell peppers 

Parmesan cheese

 

Vermicelli:

250g vermicelli rice noodles

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp soya sauce

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. 

 

Stuffing:

Peel the lemongrass and finely dice the soft centre part. Also finely dice the zucchini, mushrooms, celery, cilantro, ginger and onions. 

In a large pan sauté the ground chicken in the olive oil over medium-high heat until just cooked. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Let cook on medium heat for 5-10 min. Add the chicken back into the pot. Stir well. Set aside.

With a small pairing knife, cut around the top of the peppers and lift out the centre. Clean the inside of the peppers from white flesh and seeds. Trim bottom of peppers carefully to make them stand up straight, but make sure not to cut through. They need to stay as a sealed bowl.

Place the peppers on parchment paper on a baking sheet then stuff the peppers with the chicken mixture. Grate parmesan cheese on top, then put in the middle of the oven for 40-45 min. until slightly browned and soft. 

Vermicelli:

In the meantime, cook the vermicelli according to the package. Drain and set aside. 

In a large bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients. Add the vermicelli and stir well. Keep warm.

When serving, place some vermicelli on a plate and place a stuffed pepper on top.

Sprinkle with finely chopped green onions and cilantro.sp3sp4sp5

Spinach Soup with Egg Halves and Carrot Slaw

ss1We all have them. They come and go. Difficult to avoid. I’m talking about the days where you just want to stay in bed. Not move, not care, not anything. The reasons might be all different but the feeling is universal. I recently had one of those days. The weather was cold, grey, rainy and windy. Coffee didn’t even lift my spirit, which is rare. I knew I had to get up and get on with my day and was looking for something to cheer me up. 

This Swedish spinach soup came to mind. Traditionally served with egg halves and hard bread. I recently picked up some local eggs from a nearby farm and the yolk is the brightest orange you’ve ever seen. This in turn inspired me to go crazy with the colour. A refreshing carrot slaw with ginger and orange zest became a great side snack to the soup which offers subtle spinach, onion and a hint of freshly ground nutmeg. The meal did lift my spirit. Thanks to both flavour and colour. Try it. It’s the perfect lunch on a day when feeling a tad blue.

ss4

Soup:

2 tbsp butter

1 large onion, finely diced

2 1/2 tbsp flour

5 cups vegetable broth

500g frozen spinach

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt

white pepper

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 boiled eggs

Carrot Slaw:

4-5 grated carrots

2 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp orange juice

salt 

pepper

In a bowl, mix together the ingredients for the carrot slaw. Set aside to marinate while you make the soup.

In a large pot melt the butter over medium-high heat. When slightly browned add the onion and turn the heat down to medium. Sauté for 2-3 min until slightly translucent. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and mix well. Let cook for another minute. Add about a cup of the broth and stir well. When simmering add the rest of the broth along with the spinach and nutmeg.

Let simmer for 10-15 min. Take of from the heat and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup along with the boiled eggs. The carrot slaw can be served on crackers or hard bread or on its own on a side plate. Serves 4.ss5
ss3ss2

Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Shots

s2You might think this is very much a fall post. That is true. It would be a perfect fall post. Except it’s not. March has finally arrived and spring is just around the corner. The long winter months are over and we can start looking forward to seeing the the earth come to life again. In anticipation of the new season, with all that it will give us, I find celebrating what has kept us alive throughout fall and winter is a nice gesture. In the olden days root cellars were very popular. Before grocery stores became what they are today and before modern refrigeration, this was the way to survive. Everything that needed to stay cool was put down there. Potatoes and carrots, apples and onions, squash and pumpkins were stored along with preserved vegetables and fruits. Perhaps even a few bottles of wine. I really love the traditional Swedish root cellar. They were outside of the house, dug into the ground and covered with dirt so that they resembled a grassy mound with a small door.  I would love to eventually build a one behind the house. I will tell you more about them in another post. So, this will be one of the last ‘winter posts’ for a while. These butternut squash and apple cider shots are a great amuse bouche or hors d’oeuvre for your next dinner party. I am using The Old Third Golden Russet Apple Cider of course.
s12

1 butternut squash

1 medium onion

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

6-8 fresh thyme sprigs

fresh ginger, one 1″ piece

4 cloves of garlic

3 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cup dry apple cider

1/4 tsp nutmeg

salt & pepper

1/2 cup cream

1 package sliced bacon

 

Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1″ pieces, discarding the centre core. Peel and roughly chop the onion and ginger. In a frying pan heat up the butter and olive oil. Sauté the onion and ginger 2-3 minutes, then add the squash and garlic as well as the thyme sprigs. Sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock, apple cider and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then simmer until squash is soft, 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, fry the bacon crisp, either in a heavy skillet, or on a baking sheet in a 450F oven. Let the bacon cool then crumble it together into small pieces. Put aside. 

Remove the soup from heat and let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour into shot glasses just before serving.Decorate with the crumbled bacon. Makes 24-30 shots or 6 appetizer size servings. 

s9s3s5s11