Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Recipe From Aunt Lee's Cucina...Always a Challenge!

Betty's Peppers stuffed with bread!
Sometimes the best journeys begin with bridge fare! At least it does for me each time I travel into downtown Philadelphia. Or Philly, as it is known around here. And I do this as often as I can. Whether going to the Reading Terminal Farmers Market, or the 9th Street Italian Market, this town is my go to place when I need to escape into the past. And that is exactly what I did this past weekend. With my sister in tow, we headed to the Italian market and didn't leave until our hands were full!

The produce prices are amazing! Red, green, or yellow peppers were $1 for four! $1! They are $2.89 a pound in my local grocery store! And the red peppers go for over $3 a pound! A quart of raspberries? $1.50. A quart of blackberries? $2. Lettuce? Two heads for $1! You get my point. It is worth the bridge fare to go over there. And even if you don't need produce, go for the butcher, cheese and bakery shops...all still Italian owned! (Sarcone's bread is worth an extra blocks walk!)

Anyway, as we strolled along the wooden tables, the wafting of burning pallets in iron barrels, stoked by vendors to keep warm, smelled and felt so good in temperatures below 20 degrees. I was amazed that in late February, there were containers of deep red cherries and (my personal summer favorite) nectarines in abundance.

But what stopped me cold (pardon the pun) was the size of the sweet frying peppers. They were huge! Perfect for one of my sister Betty's favorite recipes - peppers stuffed with bread crumbs and cheese! "Bet, look at these, they would be perfect for Aunt Lee's pepper recipe you make!"

I wish you could have seen the expression on her face. But to appreciate it, you need to know that my Aunt was a good cook (although I think my Grandmother was better), who would always leave an ingredient or two out of any recipe she gave out. That way, her dishes were always the best. We called her on this several times. She denied it. "You either know how to cook or you don't" she would say. That was the case when Betty tried so hard to get this pepper recipe right.

  1. Ingredients:
  2. 3 or 4 (depending on size) sweet frying peppers, cleaned and de-seeded
  3. 2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese {Please, please use Locatelli brand. It will make a difference}
  4. 1 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
  5. 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  6. 3 T garlic minced
  7. 1 freshly chopped large tomato 
  8. 1 small finely chopped onion
  9. A pinch of parsley
  10. 1 T Crushed red pepper (optional - not really)
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
  12. Provolone or Mozzarella cheese (this is optional - Aunt Lee didn't use this...or did she?)
Directions: Mix all of the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl. Mixture should feel slightly wet. Pour a little of the olive oil in a frying pan, add the stuffing mix and saute slightly. Brush the outside of the peppers with olive oil.When cooled,stuff the peppers with the bread mixture. Top with cheese (again, optional) and bake at 450 degrees until the cheese is lightly browned, NOT burned. Ovens vary so just be sure to watch but it roughly takes around 20 minutes. Once removed from oven let stand for a few minutes.

Note: This recipe is easily adaptable. If you want to add olives or cooked, ground and drained Italian Sausage it would work well. Get inspired!

The first time, Betty tried to make the stuffed peppers, she called my aunt to complain that the stuffing mix was dry: It went something like this on the:

First attempt:
Aunt Lee - "Well, how much olive oil did you put in the mixture?"
Betty - "Olive oil? You didn't tell me to add any olive oil."
Aunt Lee - "Really? I don't know how I would have forgotten that." ( I do.)
Second attempt:
Betty - "Better, but the peppers still didn't cook completely right."
Aunt Lee - "Well did you use some of the oil olive to brush the outside of the peppers before you baked them?"
Betty - "No, you didn't tell me to do that."
Aunt Lee - "Really?"

So you get the picture. It took my persistent sister several attempts to get this recipe they way she remembered my Grandmother making them when we were kids. With ingredients bought at the Italian Market I'm sure. And they are just as delicious!

The 9th Street Italian Market makes you want to go home and cook! It brings out all of your culinary desires, all within just a few blocks! Take a stroll through the pictures below, and then plan a menu and hit the street...9th Street that is. You will not regret the bridge toll!

Photos by Jo Ann Phelps, Betty Shepard, ImageGoggle


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