Wednesday, October 28, 2015

365 True Things: 213/Cooking

When I cook dinner—which I don't do with any regularity—I've learned that listening to a podcast can be fun, informative, and time-erasing. For a while I listened to the NPR series Serial, which I found quite riveting. But then several weeks went by that I did not cook a meal, or if I did, I did so with David, and when I cook with David, we generally listen to music. In the process, I pretty much forgot all the details in the case being investigated, so when I picked it up again, I was lost. Maybe come winter, with earlier nightfall, I'll cook more and start over again.

The other day, though, my friend Kim mentioned the revived Rumpus Dear Sugar "advice column," now presented as a series of podcasts featuring the originators, writers Steve Almond (Against Football) and Cheryl Strayed (Wild). I recently had the distinct pleasure of being trapped in a car (my car) with Steve for a couple of hours. What a nice, smart, generous, funny, exuberant guy! I certainly won't turn down spending more time with him, even if it is only via radio.


So today while I cooked stuffed peppers, I listened to episode #15, "How do I stop lying?" Cheryl and Steve had (as is their practice) a guest commentator, Leslie Jamison, author of the essay collection The Empathy Exams. The three of them discussed the motivations for lying—not to cover something up, but to make oneself seem bigger, better, maybe more "normal" to others—and how to turn the behavior around. Self-compassion is key, as is understanding that lying is a cry for help. It was interesting. I will definitely listen to more episodes.

As for Cheryl Strayed's reign as Sugar, treat yourself to this classic installment, #48: Write Like a Motherfucker. (The comments are worth reading also.)

And here, because I know you want to make yummy stuffed peppers, is the recipe I prepared:

prep time: 20 minutes
cooking time: 30 minutes
total time: 50 minutes
  • 4 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers (preferably round in shape)
  • 3 Tb cooking fat (I used olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 kale leaves, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground meat (beef, lamb, bison)
  • 2 Tb tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped peeled winter squash (butternut, acorn, etc.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a deep baking dish with parchment paper.

With a paring knife, slice around the top of each bell pepper and gently pull up on the stem. Discard the seeded core. Place the peppers in the prepared dish. Bake for 10 minutes, until softened. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the cooking fat in a large skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat the bottom. When the fat is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the kale and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the ground meat and cook, breaking up the meat and stirring it into the vegetables, for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cook until the meat is mostly browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in the squash and cook until the squash is slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Divide the meat and squash mixture evenly among the softened bell peppers. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the peppers look wrinkly and the meat is slightly browned on top.

[Any vegetables will do. You can add more veggies, but in that case, you might need more than four peppers. I went with a little more onion, kale, and squash and filled five peppers.]


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