Cooking things up (figuratively and literally)
Well, I finished my outline for the new Star Trek novel today and turned it in. I sought out the opinions of a couple of my colleagues, since I’m undertaking something new and I wanted to make sure it worked, and they seem to think it works pretty well. Hopefully I’ll get to talk about it soon, though with the way things work these days, the news is likely to break when some online catalog gets updated.
What I can talk about is what I did afterward. Recently, I’ve begun buying fresh green bell peppers from the store instead of settling for the diced frozen ones in bags (although I still do freeze most of each new pepper for later use, since I’m only one person). And now that I’ve gotten used to buying whole peppers, I became oddly possessed with the desire to take the next step and stuff one of the things. To my surprise, though, none of my (three, count ‘em) cookbooks had a recipe for stuffed bell peppers, even though at least two of them are supposed to be about essential guidelines for cooking anything. So I searched online, and found a surprising lack of consistency in the available recipes. By the time I sorted out enough of the essential principles to formulate a plan (yesterday), the pepper I had in the fridge had been sitting too long, so I chopped it up and froze most of it, and then went grocery shopping with the intent to buy another one (along with other groceries). But the local supermarket didn’t have any decently fresh ones (or a couple of other things I was looking for), and since I found that out at the start of my shopping, I decided to drive to a more distant supermarket to do my shopping.
So this afternoon, after turning in my outline, I went to work, making sure I had plenty of time to prepare the meal. I scooped out the pepper, I parboiled it for 5 minutes, I sauteed some onions, garlic, and veggie crumble, I poured in some diced tomatoes and instant rice, then I stuffed that mix and some grated cheddar inside the pepper and put it in a baking dish (meat loaf pan, actually — all I have) with spaghetti sauce coating the bottom and more poured over the pepper (I guess to moisten it so it didn’t burn?), then covered the pan in aluminum foil and baked at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. I had some trouble figuring out how to get the pepper out of the boiling water and splashed some on my hand, though it didn’t hurt as much or do as much damage as I would’ve thought (Leidenfrost effect, maybe?). Otherwise it went pretty smoothly, except the pepper I got was a bit lopsided on the bottom and I had to prop it up along an edge of the pan so stuff wouldn’t spill. And then when I took it out and put it on the plate, it tipped over and split open anyway. Although it was all still on the plate, so it was just a messy presentation. I had a knife and fork ready to eat it with per online instructions, but when I saw how it looked, I got a soup spoon and ended up eating it with that. The pepper was tender enough that the spoon cut it easily.
So how was it? Pretty good, I guess. Interesting, though not hugely different from the kind of stuff I occasionally make using roughly the same ingredients but with the pepper diced up and mixed in. It was a nice experiment and a reasonably satisfying meal, but I derived more satisfaction from having cooked it than I did from eating it. Ultimately I don’t think it was worth all the trouble I went to in order to make it — plus all the dishes I have to wash later. I don’t think I’ve ever expended so much time and so many cooking vessels and utensils for just a single food item. I’m not sure it would be worth repeating the experiment, at least not until I move to a place with a dishwasher. But at least now I can say I’ve done it.