So after a bit of a posting hiatus, I’m back… life got busy, mostly with fun stuff, so I haven’t been cooking a lot of new things, but I did find some interesting cooking situations, so here goes.
My girlfriend recently moved into a co-op house with 14 residents in total. While the house doesn’t share all their food, as some co-ops do, huge dinners are prepared to eat communally; every resident signs-up for nights to make dinner for everyone, and this happens nearly every single day!
Whomever is making a dinner also typically invites other guests of their own. So, for this first dinner, we were preparing for 18 people! That’s definitely the biggest sit-down home meal I’ve ever participated in preparing.
At the co-op house, appropriately, a lot of the cooking vessels are king-sized.
And, an advantage is one gets to cook on this huge Viking gas range!
For the stuffed peppers and tomatoes, we prepared a stuffing of the following:
- brown rice (cooked)
- fresh tomato (cores, chopped)
- fresh mushroom (finely chopped)
- fresh garlic (minced)
- fresh italian sausages (removed from casing and browned)
- both fresh and dried oregano
- fennel seed
- cayenne pepper (powder)
- fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- salt and pepper
- parmesan cheese (grated)
This was the first meal we prepared for the co-op; having no idea how long it would take to prepare, we started at about 2pm for a 7pm dinnertime. (As it turns out, that was none too soon for this first effort.)
The peppers (selected for large size, and so they could stand upright) and tomatoes were cored and packed in baking pans (lightly greased with olive oil).
The stuffing ingredients were mixed and lightly cooked with the sausage after browning.
A relatively small amount of sausage was used (5 sausages for 18 total servings), and browned in a large pan.
Once the filling was mixed together with the cooked brown rice and seasoned to taste, the peppers and tomatoes were filled. We also made some vegetarian only filling, substituting some more cheese instead of the sausage, and we were careful to keep track of which were the vegetarian ones.
For a side, we washed and trimmed 3-4 pounds of fresh green beans.
The green beans were steamed while sliced almonds and garlic were sauteed in oil.
Humongous steamers are great for preparing the vegetables, and the range top with so many gas burners allows many things to be going at once.
To finish the beans, they were tossed with the almonds and some tamari (a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce.)
The co-op has a large dining room with a great table, here set for 17 residents and guests! Two kinds of sliced melon were also served with the dinner.
For those residents don’t make it for dinner, the leftovers are packed individually for each of them and left in their respective refrigerators.
So, from this monumental task, here’s what I learned:
- Food prep takes a long time; in total we took over 4 hours to prepare this meal. We’ll get better at using the food processor for chopping.
- Adding spices for very large dishes takes practice… I kept having to add, taste, add, taste, add, add, add!
- Easy summer foods like sweet corn on the cob and watermelons are great side dishes.
- The hollowed-out bell peppers can be blanched and partially cooked in boiling water before stuffing them, so that they cook in much less time, similarly to the time for the tomatoes.
- Some wine before dinner, near the end of the cooking, definitely helps relieve stress. :)
- A large group makes for quite the convivial kitchen and dinnertime.
Alas, this post isn’t a recipe, per se… I’ve lost track of many quantities and there were a lot of adjustments to taste. I trust most of you don’t need measurements to prepare such a meal for 18 people, though. :)
If you’d like a stuffed pepper recipe, here are some places to start: