Monday, July 23, 2012

Scald-A-Miss Makes Stuffed Banana Peppers

Tonight I did something I've never done before. I'll give you three clue-words, and you can try to solve the riddle:

1. Hot

2. Wet

3. Banana

What did I do? What did I do?

Oh, you devil, you. You guessed it. I spent an hour in a tanning salon and seared my skin down to the reticular dermis. This is the embarrassing part: I slathered myself in so much Banana Boat tanning oil that on my way into the neon Parthenon I slipped and fell down on my ass into a pool of piƱa colada. I couldn't see a thing because when I landed my knee impaled the Super Sunnies into my eye sockets. I swear it was Rome on Speed with all the neon columns. I was tripping until I looked in front of me and saw an alien. A Roman Goddess Alien. She was suspended in the air in the lotus position, and she was naked. But she didn't have any sexual characteristics. No nipples, no breasts, no pubis. She had six rows of ant eyes. And stared at me with all of them. Didn't move an inch. I couldn't move either. Face to face. Freaky deaky.

Now don't you go assuming it was the injury that caused me to spend five hours in the sizzler. Don't be jealous of my natural glow, I'm sure there's a tanning salon right around the corner from where you live. No, the burn was not AT ALL from the long hot summer in the salon; it was from Scaldemis (that is what SHE told me her name was - NOT making this up...). It was Scaldemis, the Roman Goddess Alien in the tanning booth -with that freaky patch of orangutan hair on her pin head, who set up all the circumstances so that I would fall on my ass. She had something to tell me, and she seared it into my skin. What she had to tell me was not nice at all. I cannot tell you, though. I wish I could. It's just that I've learned my lesson well enough already. Once in the hot seat is once enough for me! To think what she could do to me if I messed up again. Nope. I'll never go in a tanning booth again, and I'll never doubt The Unknown again, and I'll never, ever, go within sixty yards of a bottle of Banana Boat. The stuff could have freed Prometheus.

The story is completely plausible - it's what you guessed from the clues I gave you, right? Well-put, well-put. I'm afraid it's off-put, too, though. Because tonight I did something far less likely to be long-lastingly superstition-inducing. Prometheus is still bound, while -ontheotherhand- I made something edible.

Yes, I made something of the edible variety. And we ate it. And it didn't poison us or elicit a case of irritable bowel syndrome or cause us to hallucinate about alien goddesses. We ate it and said...yummmm. THE SHOCK!

(As Willy Wonka would say, "Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you.")

In real life, tonight I made Sue Mason's Stuffed Banana Peppers. Susie's 'Nana Peppers. Well, not exactly Sue's.

Let me try again: In real life tonight, I made Scaldemis' Stuffed Banana Peppers. Scaldemis is the daughter of Susie Q and the housemate of Sandra Lee. It ain't easy for a girl (amiss, ascald, a miss). No it ain't easy bein' Scaldemis. SanLee and SueQ give a girl a lot to live up to. In the kitchen, if ya know what I mean. And Scaldemis just ain't cut out for that kind of lay-bore. Though her intentions are warm and her skills are almost medium rare and her efforts at cooking are in good-faith (and in slow-motion), Scaldemis often scalds the ones she loves.

The love of Scaldemis has been known to burn the kitchen, everything in it - sink and all, right off the house. Scaldemis knows her...power, and she tries to keep it in check by minimizing her time in the kitchen. But now Scaldemis cannot do this (Avoidance Dance) any longer, she must face her destructive nature and try to make something productive out of the scald-'n'-mess.

Scaldemis knows how she wanders around the kitchen during the day, not knowing how to use what's in it. She opens the cupboards and the freezer, and looks inside. Then she closes them, and goes to the fruit drawer in the refrigerator to find something she can do that does not involve the mixing of ingredients or the use of special gadgets and equipment or the ... heating devices. She peels apples, cuts them into slices, and sprinkles cinnamon on top. Round of applause, please, for the girl does what she can. No one asks her to do what she loves best to do: light the candles. Scaldemis has never had a kitchen of her own, THANK GOD/DESS. She's always been in one of two kitchens, SanLee's or SueQ's, opening cupboards and looking for candles that she cannot afford to light (even if they weren't locked away from her for the time being).

Alright, Scaldemis aside for a moment: let's get SEAR-ious.

Tonight I tried to make my mom's recipe for stuffed banana peppers. I tried, and I suck-seeded. I even added my own scaldtastic, tunarific spin on it. My mom, Sue, is a natural in the kitchen. And Sandy is a pro. (As in: a proficiently trained cook.) It flows out of Sue. And Sandy lays it out methodically. Both are naturals, really. As for me, I'm a natural ... picky eater. Both Sue and Sandy accommodate my narrow dietary regimen. It's not a regimen, though I like using that word because it makes me feel like my Great Grandma Walsh, who followed a daily bathing/dressing regimen and spent two hours in the bathroom following it (she was ninety, who can blame her?). It's actually more like this: I don't feel like eating most things, but there are some things (including almost ALL vegetables, legumes and grains - and FISH) that I love. Some things are on Scaldemis', I mean my, No-no List. On the island of No-no, Scaldajessy eats alone. Sue and Sandy love cilantro, for instance, whereas I cannot stand the stuff. If I even so much as get a whiff of it I feel nauseous and make boisterous wails of disgust.

(What? No transition?)

My mom's kitchen has been, historically, a lively place. I love my mom's kitchen. It's comforting to be there. It's lively because it mirrors her: SHE is lively. Her food is lively. Though she throws a lot away, one of the things I love about her is that she makes massive amounts of food to SHARE. Her kitchen is WELCOMING. She is welcoming. Her kitchen is INCLUSIVE. She is inclusive. I love being in her kitchen because, for the most part, I can be myself. She takes a fast and effective but easy-going approach with food. Generous portions are a must. Excess is a must. Fat-content is a must. Yum-content is a given. She doesn't measure much and she cannot tell you precisely how she makes things - she just FEELS it, and it works. She is a talented cook, and I sometimes wonder why she doesn't make money doing what she seems to enjoy and is so good at!

(Transition, fo' real.)

I, on the other hand, am a far cry from my mother when it comes to being in the kitchen. I do have an improvisational tendency (I won't call it a technique- Bwaaahaaa), but I don't have the confidence or the talent or even the interest to do it regularly. Tonight, however, I did venture to make one of my mother's recipes (the banana peppers I used were from her garden in Buffalo, after all). Here is what I found - I found that I really am capable of enjoying the cooking process and am capable of making something (other than ham rolled up on a toothpick) that is edible and perhaps even (Scaldemis, strike me down in bales alight for saying so!) yummy. All of the forces were aligned for this to work, it seemed. The girls were playing (a cooking game...on our bed), I was in a calm mood and not feeling a pressing urge to do anything else, Sandy was working on class preparations on the computer, and my mother was very encouraging over the cellophone when she reviewed how she makes them. These are the exact notes I took (in the exact order they came) while holding the phone to my ear, listening to her describe how she makes them and trying to get her to be more specific:

"Mash cream. Drizzle olive oil into mixture with breadcrumbs. 1/2 block & 1/2 crumbs. 1/2 Parm. Evoo 'til moist. Take seeds out. Garlic and onion powder. Cook peppers 'til soft."

I had to ask for just a couple more details. You know, to avoid burning down the how-se.

I got: "45 min. 375. Broil for 5-10 min."

That was it. My mom and I said our goodbyes, and it was just the BPs and me. Eight of them (and they were small) and me. Scalding company?

What did I do with my BPeeps?

The first thing I did was soften and mash up 1/2 cup of cream cheese in a bowl. I added a tablespoon of parsley, a teaspoon of onion powder, and teaspoon of garlic powder. Then I added 1/3 cup of bread crumbs (Italian seasoned) and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. I whipped that up, and while I was whipping I had an idea. What could make this better? Why tuna, of course. So I drained a can of tuna and added the "meat" to the filling. It was dry and hard to mix, so that was when I pulled the Extra Virgin off the shelf (a new lass, too) and poured two tablespoons of her into the mi(n)x. My fork was bothering me, and I had an epiphany. Some voice in my head said, "Use your hands. Like when you used to help Grandma Mel and Grandpa Adam make their raisin meatballs. Use your yous-less hands. Work it like a meatball."

Work it? The hand business got me all excited and over-confident. I started thinking about how Juuuuuulia Child would have commended me for realizing that it's important to be fully present in the cooking experience - and that feeling the food, testing it with my hands, shaping it with my own hands (as opposed to the hands of the fork?), was a wise decision. It felt so good making the ball of tuna cheese. Then I washed my hands and approached the BananaPs. I remembered how my mom told me NOT to touch my eyes while I was de-seeding. Then I, again, recalled the time that Sandy touched her nose while she was cutting up some scotch bonnets. THAT was traumatic. Poor Sandy. It was incredible, as well. Her nose burned like hell, she couldn't breathe. She was in so much pain, I think she cried. Some kind of red boil formed on the end of her nose, too (unless I am making that up - but her nose was definitely red and her eyes were definitely watering and she was definitely crying out in pain). (Gotta be careful with them there peppers, yuh just never know.)

I sliced the peppers in half and brushed out the seeds with a grapefruit spoon. Then I laid them out and filled them (you-sing MY FINGERS) with the tuna filling. I sprinkled more Parmesan (as The Mother Cook ordered) onto the peppers - with my fingers. And I filled a spoon with some more EVOO (like evil if you speak with a cockney accent) and kind of flicked it (with my...fingers, I didn't blow it out) from the spoon over the peppers. I know this is a little late to mention this, but I did preheat the oven early on before I started slicing the peppers. That was it. I covered them in foil and baked them. The temp and time my mom gave me didn't work very well, a couple of them were black and crispy on the bottom (but still consumable and "yum-able"). I recommend 350 and checking them around 40 min. There was no point in broiling them, they were done enough. I had to laugh when I took them out.

They were so unattractive. Hideous, even. It looked like some non-human animal's soft stool served up on a urine-leaf platter. Sandy even told the kids we were eating poop. We offered them some, but -shockingly- they declined. I had to take a photo, despite the ridiculousness of the act. I don't feel so ashamed, though, after looking at Google images of stuffed banana peppers. Go ahead and check them out. Does that (do any of them) look like something you would want to eat? Hell no! The smell in the house told a different story, though, fortunately. My memory of my mom's banana peppers, matched with the familiar smell in the house, told a very different story. I couldn't wait to pop one of those soft stools into my mouth. (You guessed it: I eat poop!) It was goooood, too. So good. And, best part, I made them (and no one was hurt in the process, and no kitchen was destroyed). Even Scaldemis was proud.

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