How We Cook: A Fabulous One-Plate Meal for the Weekend

June 4, 2011

The gentle late rains have done wonders for my garden. Salad greens are in abundance and more are on the way. Salads grace our table daily, usually dressed in the house vinaigrette. Tonight’s one plate meal consisted of a green salad, roasted bell peppers stuffed with feta and walnuts, and simple bruschetta…sound good?
If so, here is what you’ll need:
For the stuffed peppers:
  • One small to medium bell pepper for each serving. Any color will do, not that they are all the same; red, of course is sweetest. For this meal, I was looking for red, but I couldn’t find two with the right shape, so I used yellow. A small symmetrical, non-convoluted pepper with a pointy bottom will not only be pretty, but easier to roast and peel.
  • Walnuts. Make sure they are fresh.
  • Feta cheese (not pre-crumbled)
  • Salt (only if feta is not very salty)
  • Pinch of dried Oregano
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Italian parsley
For the Salad (and Vinaigrette): 

  • Nice salad greens
  • Kosher salt
  • Garlic Clove
  • Lemon
  • Dijon mustard
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Good Olive oil
For Bruschetta:
  • Nice crusty bread
  • Kosher or coarsely ground salt
  • Good olive oil
  • Garlic clove
Roast the peppers whole. I simply place them on the gas stovetop over a medium-high flame where I can easily see the progress. An effective range hood is probably a good idea for this method. You can use a broiler or gas grill. Rotate the peppers until they are mostly charred and blistered. The peppers should be firm and not collapsed. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Neatly cut a hole around the stem, remove, and reach inside to pull out any seeds or membranes. Peel the peppers. I often use the back of the knife to help scrape off the peel. Peeling may be somewhat difficult, and if you haven’t roasted them enough it will be impossible. If over-roasted they will be too mushy.
Lightly roast a handful of walnuts in a pan on the stovetop, or in the oven; use medium heat and toss often. Promptly remove from heat; be vigilant.
Place a small amount of a pressed garlic clove into a mixing bowl (save the rest for the vinaigrette). If the feta is not very salty, add some salt, and with the back of a tablespoon further smash the garlic. Add the juice of half a lemon (or more if you are using Meyers) and whisk while slowly adding olive oil; the mixture should emulsify a bit. Add crumbled feta and walnuts, a bit of chopped parsley, a grind of black pepper, and a pinch of crumbled, dried oregano (if you have the opportunity to dry your own, it’s worth it!). Toss and taste this mixture and adjust the proportions if needed.
Carefully stuff the peppers with a teaspoon until almost full, then gently close and conceal the opening and flatten to form a nice shape (I have helped red peppers become heart shaped on Valentines day). Garnish with a flattened Italian parsley leaf, a lavender sprig, or some other motif. This is a good fancy picnic food and can be prepared hours ahead. Serve room temperature (or slightly chilled on a hot day).
Salad greens: wash, soak, and spin.
Prepare vinaigrette: press a clove or so, depending on your taste, into a ceramic or glass bowl. Add a teaspoon of kosher salt, mix and smash with the back of a tablespoon until well blended. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a tablespoon or more of balsamic vinegar, the juice of a small lemon, and a teaspoon of sherry vinegar. Mix. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking; mixture should begin to emulsify. Stop to taste and adjust proportions.
Bruschetta: Traditionally, the bread is grilled over coals, but a toaster works. Simply toast the bread, rub briefly (the toast is a very effective garlic grater) with a cut garlic clove, brush on nice olive oil and sprinkle with coarse-ground or kosher salt. This is the basic bruschetta. Of course when tomatoes are in the garden, I’ll be adding a tomato slice and perhaps some curls of basil leaf.
Wine: An off-dry bubbly can work here. Kermit Lynch imports a Moscato d’ Asti by Tintero, which does the job and is modestly priced; it is available at Vino on College.


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