Beyond the same-old-same-old

Beyond the same-old-same-old

How to stuff a sweet Italian pepper — with lots of flavor and without a lot of work

BELLOWS FALLS — A recipe often begins life with a flavor combination found in something totally different.

I found some beautiful, sweet Italian frying peppers at a local farm stand recently, and they were so lovely and so large, I didn't want to just fry them or chop them up and add them to something else. They asked to be the star.

I knew I wanted to stuff them, but I didn't want to use a same-old stuffing, rice, or quinoa or other grain. My sister suggested I use mashed potatoes.

That sounded wonderful to me, and I doubted I had ever stuffed a pepper with mashed potatoes. But I remembered one of my sister's all-time favorite dishes: a little tart that is served as an appetizer at T.J. Buckley's in Brattleboro, among its beautifully prepared, upscale French-inspired dishes using local organic ingredients.

My sister's favorite dish there is a smoked trout and chèvre tartlet with caramelized leek, roast corn, and thyme with crème fraîche and ethically sourced paddlefish roe. That's a lot of flavor - and a lot of work I'll gladly leave to the master chef.

I used a filling of mashed potatoes, which let two predominant ingredients - the trout and the chèvre - shine. I made an additional nod to the original by including fresh thyme from my herb garden.

With some saturated fat restrictions in the family, I left out the crème fraîche. The chèvre has less saturated fat than cow cheeses, and you don't need as much because of its strong flavor, so its place was secure in the lineup. Each stuffed half has less than 2 grams of saturated fat and about 120 calories.

I made my own mashed potatoes from about 2 pounds of Yukon golds. I put the leftovers to work the next morning for breakfast.

We were delighted at how these peppers turned out, and they will definitely be part of our regular rotation. What we all loved was the harmony of the flavors; you could taste every component, and nothing dominated. We were very quiet as we tasted. Yum.

Perfect for a dinner party buffet, they look lovely arranged on a platter.

If you can't find the sweet frying peppers, look for small, red bell peppers. The little sweet mini-peppers would be great here, especially if you want to make a big platter for a gathering.

If you like a little heat, you could use poblano peppers as a great substitute.

Chèvre-and-Smoked-Trout- Stuffed Sweet Italian Frying Peppers

Preheat oven to (1)350 F (180 C).

Scrub and cut in half lengthwise:

¶6 sweet frying peppers.

Clean out the seeds and ribs. (I used my melon baller.) Place them on a rimmed baking sheet, and lightly salt them. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from the oven.

In a large bowl, combine:

¶2 cups mashed potatoes

¶2 large scallions, whites and greens, minced

¶4 ounces of goat cheese of choice

¶6 ounces of smoked trout, broken up

Season lightly with salt and pepper. (The trout and cheese are a bit salty, so start slowly; taste, and correct the seasoning.)

Using a teaspoon, divide the mixture among the 12 halves. Sprinkle the tops with:

¶2 more ounces of goat cheese

¶Olive oil

Return the tray to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes.

Arrange on a platter, and dive in!

Vegan version: Substitute vegan feta for the chèvre and smoked, baked tofu for the smoked trout.

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