Thursday, October 16, 2014

Garden Gifts and Feta Stuffed Peppers

A bushel of peppers
Having a vegetable/herb garden is all about the joy. It is pretty amazing to watch seedlings grow into lush, green, dinner-producing plants.  Don't get me wrong - there is a lot of frustration involved as well. We've had beautiful squash plants that with the onset of a few bugs are dead within days. Then again, we also have these amazing lemon peppers that grow without any help from us, and the herbs and tomatoes are plentiful. However, anything to excess is still too much.

One of the loveliest things about people who garden is their willingness to share. Realistically it is "I can't eat one more of these ________ (insert bumper crop item here), let's see if ________(name of friend or relative here) wants them."

I worked in the medical industry for 17 years and can tell you that people with an excess in their garden are angels who share with those they love ... AND their doctor's offices! Which is a great way to tell which doctors have the best bedside manner and the nicest staff -- they are the ones with a break room full of home grown vegetables and homemade cakes and pies.

Having lunch with a physician's office one day, I witnessed the greatest act of kindness I think I've probably ever seen. An elderly couple walked in with a giant pot of "stew" and a loaf of bread. They did not speak very much english, but the husband spoke for the wife and said that she had not felt well enough to cook for a long time, and that she was so happy to be in better health that she had made this pot of "stew" specifically for the doctor to say "thank you."

Now ... words are one thing, but facial expressions are another. One of the nurses opened the pot lid, and said "Wow, that smells delicious!"

I am certain that what she said was genuine.

It did smell delicious. But the surprised look on her face when peering under the pot lid was a giveaway that there was more to the story. The physician was completely gracious and thanked the elderly couple for the soup and bread, and explained that he was a vegetarian and did not eat meat, but that it was incredibly kind of them to share it. As was their intention, the couple left the soup and bread, and it did smell very good, but a peek under the lid revealed hot dogs and hardboiled eggs in a ketchup base. I am sure that doctor is one of the kindest people on this earth. I am also just as sure that he was grateful for being a vegetarian that day!

My sister-in-law just happened to have a great excess of peppers this year. I gave her and her husband some of the lemon pepper jam, so they immediately thought of me when they realized how many extra peppers they had. So ... we were gifted a bushel of banana peppers and red and green chiles. I haven't gotten to the chiles yet, but did a little research on the banana peppers and found out that it is not uncommon to have an excess of these bright yellow beauties.

Confession...I've only had them pickled. I like pickles, but there's only so many you can eat.  Apparently you can even fry the pickled ones and dip them in marinara sauce or ranch dressing. Yum.   Looking for a healthier alternative to go with some broiled grouper, I came up with these, and they were so flavorful and simple, I can't wait to make them again!


Banana Peppers
Olive Oil
Feta Cheese
Greek Seasoning (Optional)

Preheat oven to 350
Cut the tops off of peppers and make a slit down the side, cleaning out the inside of seeds and ribs.
Place them into a zip lock bag and drizzle a bit of olive oil into the bag and "massage" them around until they are coated lightly with the oil.  
Place peppers on an aluminum-foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

The peppers after baking for 8 minutes, just topped with the feta and sprinkled with greek seasoning. 

Remove from oven and top with Feta Cheese. I like the "block" feta and it works nicely to just place some slices onto the peppers. Crumbled works just as well because the peppers will have a bit of a -scoop-shaped form.  
Sprinkle with Greek seasoning and place back into the oven just until cheese is softened or even a little browned.
The finished roasted peppers...with a bay leaf from our garden.

I've promised to always tell you about the lessons I've learned by trial and error with each post - here is what I learned from this one:
1 - You could wrap these in bacon and fill them with a mixture of cream cheese and feta, but the simplicity of the feta and greek seasoning was tasty and much healthier.
2 - Banana peppers are not tremendously hot, but have a slow burn that tends to build. When you clean the peppers, treat them just like any other hot pepper. Wash your hands immediately after handling, and don't touch your face or eyes. It turns out that about an hour after handling the peppers, there can still be enough natural oil on your hands to burn.  

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