Tag Archives: bell peppers

Grilled Shrimp and Spring Orzo

Nothing says spring like fresh local asparagus. The season is about done here and the grocery store stock later on will not be as tender, probably because it’s picked too early wherever it comes from. Our local asparagus, even when the stalks look too thick, is always tender and the taste is incomparable. I wanted something grand to pair with the asparagus and the large Louisiana shrimp at Wegman’s was just the right item.

Everything but the orzo was grilled, then it was all combined at the last minute. Cooking the orzo in chicken stock created it’s own sauce, so it was really easy. I added one diced canned San Marzano tomato, some fresh garlic, and parsley to the stock as it was simmering to round out the flavors.

Grilled Shrimp and Spring Orzo

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: requires grilling skills
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MARINATE THE SHRIMP
  • 1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grated or roasted garlic
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Mix all marinade ingredients and add to the shrimp in a large resealable bag. Toss to coat and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Just before grilling the shrimp, thread onto skewers. I don’t add salt until the shrimp are on the skewers ready to grill.

GRILL EVERYTHING

Set up your grill for about 350°-400°; I used 60 charcoal briquettes, turning them out of the chimney into the center of the grill.

  • 2 large orange, red, or yellow bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 medium onions, cut in thick slices
  • 1 lb or more asparagus stalks, trimming if necessary. I only added the 3″ tips to my dish, saving the grilled ends for other uses during the week.
  • extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on vegetables
  • salt & pepper
  1. Grill all the vegetables in stages, or as they fit on your grill. Set each aside until all are finished. I peeled my peppers when they were done.
  2. Asparagus tips: Place crosswise on the grill grate over direct heat, turning as needed to get some char on all sides, but not so much that they are burnt. then move them to the outer sides of the grill to continue cooking over indirect heat until done. I came this close to not dropping any through the grate until I was taking them off:
  3. Prepare the orzo before you grill the shrimp. Grill the shrimp at the last minute and place over the top of the pasta. Grill over direct heat just until done, only a few minutes on each side until all the shrimp are pink.
PREPARE THE ORZO
  • 8 oz whole wheat orzo
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • 1 chopped canned plum tomato
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated or roasted garlic

Bring all the ingredients to a low boil, stirring often so the orzo doesn’t stick to the pan, then simmer for about ten minutes or until the orzo is tender. Stir in the chopped grilled vegetables, then top with the grilled shrimp.

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Quick Pork and Pepper Ragout

Quick, because I’m using pork tenderloins instead of a cut that benefits from long cooking, like a pork shoulder. In fact, after browning the tenderloin cubes, You only add them to the sauce at the last minute before serving.

One of my freezer packs of tomato sauce was marked “tomato-pepper” because one day I had a bunch of bell peppers harvested on the same day as some tomatoes. So, instead of roasting the tomatoes with carrots and onion and garlic, I roasted them with the peppers and it all went into the blender. I’ve been waiting for the right recipe to use them. You will have a chunkier sauce if you are using fresh chopped peppers in your sauce. I’m also going to add two chopped red poblanos which may add a little zing (who ever really knows about poblanos?), and I’m marinating the pork cubes in smoked paprika for a smoky pepper taste. Our ripened poblanos turned a dark purplish-red; maybe you can pick those out  in the image of roasted peppers from one of my roasting days:

Quick Pork and Pepper Ragout

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut in half inch cubes
  • Marinade:
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 3-4 slices thick-sliced bacon, browned and crumbled, fat reserved (I cook mine in the oven)
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • about 2 cups combination of peppers of your choice: I had about 4 bell peppers in my sauce (blended) and added 2 chopped roasted red poblanos
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced, grated, or pressed
  • 2- 3 cups tomato sauce or mixture of tomato paste and stock or fresh tomatoes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound penne pasta, cooked according to package directions.
Preparation
  1. Coat pork cubes in marinade and refrigerate for at least a half hour or longer. Mine sat for about 4 hours. I did not add the garlic to the marinade, because I didn’t want it to burn in the browning of the meat.
  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add two tablespoons reserved bacon fat and bring to sizzling. Add marinated pork and brown on all sides. You will probably need to cook the meat in 2-3 batches so the cubes don’t touch and create a gray, watery mess. Set browned pork aside.
  3. Add onion, carrots, peppers and garlic to hot pan. Stir until beginning to wilt, then add your tomato sauce. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Stir in pork cubes and heat for just a few minutes.
  5. Serve over pasta; top with crumbled bacon.

If my husband weren’t lactose intolerant, I would stir in 1/4 cup sour cream at the end. Instead, I’m serving it on the side.

Ratatouille

My husband is eating out all week with job candidates, so I’m taking the opportunity to eat eggplant.

The first ratatouille, or more specifically “Ratatouille Provençale,” I ever made was from my Joy of Cooking (1967, p. 278). When I was young, I didn’t know anything about eggplant, and was surprised to see so many recipes for it in this book. The only eggplant recipes I had seen on TV were the breaded and fried sliced variety, usually smothered in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. That did not look appetizing to me, but more like the cooks were trying to cover up something that was either tasteless or bad-tasting. When I finally decided to try this casserole, I did feel like the flavors were exotic and rich, even spicy.

I have since learned that recipes vary, and while tonight’s is very close to that first one, I’m adding some mushrooms and bacon, but skipping the zucchini, and the peppers and onions were roasted on the grill last night, which should add a nice twist to the dish. Next time, I’ll try grilling all the ingredients and then doing a quick combine and simmer at the end. Parmesan cheese and olive oil will round out the flavors, but I will miss the parsley I lost in my recent freezer disaster. Some dried marjoram will fill in for the herb.

Ratatouille

  • Servings: 4 as main dish; 8 as a side
  • Difficulty: easy
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Basically a stew, but all the ingredients should be cooked until just done and not mushy. I cook each ingredient separately, and then combine at a simmer for just about 5 minutes, to keep the flavors distinctive. I would not use the 45 minute simmer mentioned in the recipe pictured above.

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced

4 slices thick bacon, cooked to chewy doneness and roughly chopped

1 medium eggplant, cut in half inch dice, about 2 1/2-3 cups

1-2 small onions, roughly chopped

1-2 bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, grated or minced or roasted

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

13 oz good quality crushed tomatoes, drained with liquid reserved (I used Cirio crushed tomatoes)

olive oil for sautéing

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated for garnish

salt and pepper to taste (I like to season each layer lightly)

As mentioned, my onions and peppers had been roasted on the grill, then the peppers were peeled and both were chopped; otherwise, I would cook them using the following process:

  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and allow to heat for a minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and let sauté until brown without stirring. Stir for another minute or two, then remove to dish. I like to cook mushrooms first in a clean pan for most dishes, so they are allowed to brown and develop flavors without absorbing those of the other ingredients.
  2. Add the bacon slices to the same pan and cook over medium heat to desired doneness. I like chewy bacon, not crisp. remove to cutting board and chop.
  3. To pan with bacon drippings that is still over medium heat, add about 1 tablespoon more olive oil, then the diced eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes. The eggplant will absorb all the fat and begin to appear translucent. Remove to a large bowl.
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons more olive oil over medium heat, then the onions, peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes, or until done to your liking.
  5. Add back the eggplant and mushrooms. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the drained tomatoes and marjoram, adding any of the reserved tomato juice as needed for a moist but not soupy consistency. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes until heated through.
  6. Remove to serving dish and add cooked bacon and grated cheese.

Save some for topping your scrambled eggs in the morning.

Kielbasi Casserole Deconstructed for the Grill

It sounds fancier than it is. I’m simply cooking all the meat and vegetables on the grill instead of roasting or stir-frying, and then tossing them together with a little sauce of chicken stock, herbs, and a tiny splash of rice vinegar (not too much or it turns into a hot salad). Kielbasi (or kielbasa if you prefer), potatoes, peppers, and onions. Yes it could be more complicated, but simple just plain works on the grill, because that smoky grill char is the real star of the meal.

I thought I got a pic of the dish with the sauce, but it all came together just as American Pharoah was about to win the Triple Crown and I was distracted, pleasantly. At least I got the pic of it all cut up and in the bowl!

Kielbasi Casserole Deconstructed for the Grill

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Heat up the grill for direct heat, with the coals spread out so you can use the whole cooking surface.

Meanwhile, cut all the vegetables and meat into pieces large enough to handle on the grill without them slipping through the grate.

1 lb kielbasi

15-20 baby red potatoes

3-4 bell peppers of any color (my husband won’t eat the green ones)

2-3 medium-large onions, sliced thick (about 1/2-3/4 inch)

  • I cut peppers into quarters so there is kind of a flat surface
  • I have pretty good luck cutting onions into thick slices, with maybe one coming apart on turning, but still staying on the cooking grate
  • If you use baby red potatoes, they can simply be skewered whole, with no precooking
  • I cut the kielbasi into 8 pieces for cooking, and then into smaller rounds for eating

I cook the vegetables first, adding the meat to the grill after turning once. It might surprise you how quickly the potatoes cook, especially if you close the lid for a few minutes. I’m not concerned about char on the vegetables, and I don’t remove any of it for eating, but you could certainly take the charred skin off the peppers and cook the potatoes to the side for less char.

When all is cooked (the vegetables will be a little crisp-tender, but the potatoes will be soft), remove and cut everything in edible-sized chunks. Toss together in a large bowl with the sauce:

Light Sauce for Vegetables/Meat

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup chicken stock or bouillon (I used Better Then Bouillon®, which is a little salty)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4-1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

  1. Over low-to medium heat, melt butter in olive oil, then add garlic and heat until fragrant.
  2. Add thyme and heat for another minute.
  3. Mix cornstarch with chicken stock, then stir in mixture and continue stirring until glossy and thickened.
  4. Stir in splash of rice vinegar for just a little brightness to the sauce.
  5. Cover and keep warm until the meat and vegetables are ready.