by Lucinda Hutson
Photography by John Pozdro
It’s warm and steamy in my kitchen—a glorious reminder that I’ve survived another summer in Central Texas. Autumn has arrived, bringing with it my reclamation of kitchen and hearth. Mysterious and alluring aromas permeate the room: a charred scent mingles with the sweet perfume of peppers roasting close to the flame.
I’m making one of my favorite recipes: roasted then marinated tricolor pepper strips (red, yellow and orange bell peppers) with a few green poblanos for added piquancy and color. They’re fragrant with garlic and garden fresh snippets of marjoram and basil, bathed in Mediterranean (or Texas) olive oil and splashed with sherry and balsamic vinegars for a slight sweetness and depth of flavor.
Perhaps I’ll lightly pound and season a butterflied pork tenderloin, top it with tangy peppers and some long sprigs of sweet marjoram, roll it up and rub it with olive oil and a generous dusting of paprika before roasting. Cut into medallions to showcase the colorful centers, they’ll taste delicious served hot or cold. Maybe I’ll tuck the peppers inside a golden omelet made with farmers market eggs, or add a lovin’ spoonful to soups and stews, or toss them with pasta, dabs of chèvre and freshly grated Parmesan, or stuff them into mushroom caps with chopped green onions and soft cheese and broil. And there’s always the chance I’ll just simply puree the pepper strips with toasted walnuts and bread crumbs to make a thick and hearty spread.
While shopping for the ingredients to make this versatile base dish of marinated peppers, I had another inspiration. Upon seeing the plump and colorful bell peppers, I decided to cut off their stem tops, remove the seeds and veins and fill them with my Mo’ Better than Pimento Cheese spread (recipe follows). These pepper “bowls” look so beautiful on the fall table interspersed among baby pumpkins and ornamental squash, whole poblanos and Hatch chiles, long stems of aromatic rosemary, whole garlic heads and other seasonal produce arranged as a runner or centerpiece.
Guests can also spread the pimento cheese on crostini or stuff it into celery stalks or bell pepper wedges. Set the remaining dish of marinated pepper strips on the table for additional garnishing. Chunks of rustic bread or small cornbread muffins served in a basket alongside bowls of the cheese spread accompany hearty autumn soups and stews, Texas chili or frijoles. Are y’all hungry, yet?
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