I dated this guy in Tampa who was quite the connoisseur. He’d tell you all about the wine he liked. He often reviewed restaurants for a Tampa newspaper. He liked to cook.

But only “sophisticated” food.

He had me over for dinner one night. I think I arrived at 6. He served dinner at 9. It was the first time I’d ever sipped a “never-ending” glass of wine, so I have absolutely no memory of what we ate except that he kept stirring and sniffing and making food-love to his tasting spoon.

I invited him to dinner a couple of weeks later. I made one of the old-style recipes that I’d grown up on in the Midwest. It called for canned mushrooms and Velveeta cheese. When I put it on the kitchen table, he grunted.


I share this with you because this guy — who I didn’t go out with very long … I think the acquaintanceship ended the day I hosted a Sunday brunch and he sniffed at my jalapeno-sausage quiche —  kept coming to mind as I made tonight’s dinner. It was a riff on an old-style recipe, and I couldn’t help thinking about how he’d probably wrinkle up his little nose. (And maybe grunt.)

But food doesn’t have to be fancy. Sometimes, the yummiest dinners are the simplest.

Tonight I made stuffed peppers. My mom used to make stuffed peppers when I was growing up … green bells packed tight with ground beef and braised on the stove.

I did it a little differently. I used red and yellow peppers; loosely packed them with ground turkey and spices, then roasted them in a porcini-tomato sauce until the meat was cooked and the peppers practically melted under a spoon.

We ate them with sprinklings of Parmesan cheese (although Velveeta would have been yummy).

And no one grunted.

Turkey-Stuffed Peppers in Porcini Sauce

Here’s the thing … “porcini” sounds high-falutin,’ but dried porcini mushrooms are available in the produce section of most supermarkets. Besides, this — as all my recipes — is a mere suggestion. Use a nice bottled marinara, and your peppers will be just as delicious.

– Pour 1 cup hot water over 1/2- to 1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms. Let sit about 30 minutes to soften.

– While the mushrooms are relaxing, saute 1 chopped onion in olive oil. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary. (Or use 1/2-1 teaspoon dried. It works just as well.)

– Stir in 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, the mushrooms and their soaking liquid. Season with salt and pepper and about 1/2 cup red wine if you have a bottle open.

– Simmer sauce. In the meantime, combine 1 pound ground turkey with 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, 1 minced garlic clove and 2 tablespoons fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried). Add 1 egg and 1/3-1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs — just enough to loosen the meat mixture. Season with salt and pepper, and mix lightly with a fork.

– Cut 4 red or yellow bell peppers in half lengthwise. Scoop out the cores. If you’re feeling ambitious, take out the white ribs, too.

– Coat a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon some sauce to coat the bottom. Lightly fill each pepper half with a serving spoon-size of turkey, then set in dish. If you have any leftover turkey, roll it into loose meatballs and place them in any crevices between the peppers.

– Pour the sauce over the peppers to cover them.

– Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. (Be sure to check that the turkey is cooked through before removing the dish from the oven. If not, bake it a bit longer, without foil.)

– Let rest 10-15 minutes, then serve over pasta. Sprinkle with your favorite cheese … food snobs be damned!