Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers – “Aha!”

French Fridays with Dorie

Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers-

Cooking just under 300 recipes from a single cookbook as full as Around My French Table is no small task. Yet that is exactly what dozens of home cooks pledged to do in 2010 signing up for the online cooking group, “French Friday’s with Dorie.” I don’t think any of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into, or how our blogs (and our lives) would change as a result. Now as we wind down this not-really-all-that-final chapter, each in our own ways, we have been asked to be reflective and share our final thoughts for just a few more posts. Bear with me as this week, specifically, we have been asked to share our “aha! moment” as defined as “your favorite, loved the most, best recipe.” To make this impossible chore only a tiny bit easier, we are encouraged to share our five top recipes from the book itself. 

Not surprisingly, this was not a welcome task for most of us. How do you choose? And having to choose only underscores the finality of this long term project.

I sat with the book for nearly an hour making list after list, reviewing techniques and ingredient, before I suddenly realized that my “aha moment” wasn’t any of these things at all.  It was an event.

In the late summer of 2013 one clever Dorista discovered that Dorie Greenspan had been slated for keynote speaker at Seattle’s annual International Food Blogger Conference. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to see how many of fellow Doristas could make the trek across country to see our maestro in the flesh?  And many did! Of course it was a very exciting lure to get to meet Dorie in person but even more so, it would be the very first time that many of us would meet the friends we had already spent several years getting to know through our posts.

It was something quite astounding.

We showed up to “meet” each other already knowing all about each other’s husbands, children, and grandchildren. We knew each other’s favorite vacation spots, food aversions, health issues, our proudest work accomplishments, and even our individual senses of humor. (Right Cher?) Upon first sight we gibby-gabbed like long lost childhood friends.

Once Dorie had acknowledged us from her speaker’s podium we sat like royalty together in the conference sessions . It was while sitting at that huge round table across these bloggers, these friends, that I had my aha moment. I realized that this group we had cobbled together through weekly posts was very much a real thing and not just a blog thing. Even those members I had not yet met (or never would) became just as real as those who were sitting in front of me.  If I had ever been entertaining thoughts of taking a more relaxed approach to my participation, they immediately vaporized. French Fridays was now very much permanent and for better or for worse, I was now as much committed to them, as I was to finishing the book itself.

We were like a family. Aha!

As it so often is with family, things would not always be perfect. We would squabble. We would get jealous. We could be critical. Some would form tighter bonds with some than with others. Some would decide to go their our own way to find themselves and would always be welcomed back at our French tables. Like families, French Friday’s was certainly now something much bigger than the sum of its parts — and everyone felt it.

I’m sure it changed as well for the many more members who weren’t there that weekend. Inspired by our meeting so many more members throughout the world (for we are a global group) started setting out to meet the others. So much so that I can’t even keep track anymore of who has met each other.

I don’t think anyone ever expected this to happen when they set out to make gourgeres that very first week in 2011:

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From Left: Karen Reinsch, Liz Berg, Patty Price, Betsy Pollack, Alice Mizer, Michelle Biehl, Kathy Van Bruinisse, The Last Surviving Male Dorista, Adriana Angelet, and Cher Rockwell.

Dorie Greenspan would speak of many things from the keynote podium that weekend including the many lessons she has learned along her path toward culinary superstardom. One of her utterances would resonate so strongly with me it would provide the other “aha moment” of the weekend. She discussed the importance she placed on “the work” and especially so in in those moments when she doubted what it was she was doing, or in those times when she had anxiety over not having have control over it.

“Just do the work you are going to be proud of and the rest will happen”.

Aha! So simple, right? It is a maxim I have tried (not always successfully) to hold onto since I first heard it. This “Dorie Principle” not only applies to what I try to do here online, but it has pretty much carried over to every other activity in my life.  After all, most of life is uncontrollable, so in truth the only thing we have a choice about is how we feel about our own participation in it.

Just do what makes you proud and the rest will follow.

2013 09 IFBC Doristas--8

“Speak from the heart. Focus on the work. Say yes and follow your dreams.”

Which brings me (finally) to this recipe for Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers.

These Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers were due to be posted by the group on Friday, September 20th, 2013. It was the very day I arrived in Seattle and met a whole gaggle of Doristas in person.  I had made them more than two weeks prior but was suffering an intense writers block perhaps brought on by the anxiety of the trip. When I returned from Seattle it didn’t get any easier.  The pressure to post event obligation to post links and reviews for event sponsors took its toll on my writing psyche and I just sort of shut down. That just isn’t the kind of blogging I just was proud of I guess.

So these fantastic peppers never got their due. Which is ok, because this happened:

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Dorie Greenspan and I were dressed by the same stylist so we would be just this color coordinated for photos.

and this:

Dorista Collage IFBC

Doristas with yours truly, clockwise from upper left: Mary Hirsch, Cher Rockwell, Patty Price, Dorista for the weekend Garret McCord, Dorie Greenspan, Adriana Angelet, Susan Lester, Liz Berg, Michele Biehl, Betsy Pollack, Liz again, and Kathy Van Bruinsse. (Not pictured here: Guyla Mayo, Alice Mizer, Karen Reincsh, Tricia Stormer and Nana Di Domenico. (Yes Nana, that is what I call you now.)

 

 Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Tuna Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Find the recipe here.

Dorista Collage IFBC 2

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My top 5 recipes from Around My French Table

The only way I could tackle this impossible task is to break it down by book chapter:

Nibbles and Hors d’Oeuvres

Cheesy+Crackers-1

Cheez-it-sh Crackers – If you cook to get attention then these are the pre-dinner nibbles for you. Until I had made these I had not really understood the imperative to make crackers at home. I boxed these up nicely to take to a dinner party and the hostess took one bite and put them away so she could enjoy them all by herself!

(Appetizer Honorable Mention goes to Mustard Batons because when you have a package of puff pastry in your freezer, the world can be yours.)

Soups

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Chestnut Pear Soup – Having never roasted them over an open fire, chestnuts were a revelation for me. Using them in a soup was something I had never once heard of.  Now it this soup is a regular holiday dinner preparation.

(Honorable Mention goes to Cheating On Winter Pea Soup because I loved the memories it brought and because my photograph of it remains one of my favorites.)

Salads, Starters, and Small Plates

mushroom+eggs+toast-2

Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs – Its no secret how much I love stuff-on-toast. This dish is the ultimate and never fails to impress when you whip this up as a spur-of-the-moment weekend brunch or lunch treat.

(Of course I have to give an Honorable Mention here to Gerard’s Mustard Tart. So colorful, so easy, so elegant. Even though I unfamiliar with it, the dish flooded me with memories so strong my post won a local award. It was also the first post that Dorie dropped by and left me a comment. You always remember your first.)

Chicken and Duck

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Chicken B’stilla – In truth, there were not many dishes in Around My French Table that I did not have any experience with whatsoever. This was one of them and it was so SO very good. This dish had a hand in igniting my friendship with Trix, a lapsed Dorista from way back.  I will never forgive it.

(Honorable Mention goes to Chicken Breasts Diable by sheer force of my mother-in-law’s considerable will. It is her number one request for when I cook for her.  I’m a bit of a mustard freak myself so she never has to twist my arm that hard.)

Beef, Veal, Pork and Lamb

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Hachis Parmentier – When you are a member of a family where “only the close family” means 12 or more can show up for dinner with only a few hours notice, you are always on the lookout for dishes like this one. (This picture serves to remind me just how far I have come as a food photographer during this adventure!)

(Boeuf a la ficelle is a beef dinner in its simplest, purest form. It should get honorable mention for no other reason than that. If you are lucky enough to have any leftovers, the fact that you can make a pretty killer beef salad with them the next day is a plus.)

Fish and Shellfish

Chorizo+Mussels-9

Mussels and Chorizo with or without Pasta – On of my favorite dishes to order while on vacations to far away lands, it never EVER occurred to me to make them at home.  Now they are a favorite.  Usually I had always been a ‘purist’ and ordered them mariniere but after experiencing these moules I am much more adventurous.

(Honorable mention to Salmon and Tomatoes en Papillote for no other reason than I think this is the dish I have made more often than any other. In fact, I KNOW it is as I make this nearly every other week for dinner.)

Vegetables and Grain

Cardamom Rice Pilaf – The fact that this is a Dorista favorite is undeniable and it is so for a very good reason. It is fantastic.

(Give it up for Go With Everything Celery Root Puree as it gets honorable mention because it really does go with everything. Your company will marvel and ask for the recipe. )

Desserts

Paris Brest-1-4

Obviously it is going to be hard to choose a favorite but the Paris-Brest pastry wins out because until I made this I never knew I could. Cream filled pastries are the kinds of things I just always assumed you HAD to go out to buy. At least I did. I think this was one of my most proud Dorista moments.

No list of my favorites from this book would be complete, however, without the inclusion of Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake. This recipe is worth the price of the entire book alone if for no other reason than once you memorize it you will never be at a loss for the most perfect dessert for any occasion. Ever. I implore you to memorize it as it is most fun to cook in other people’s kitchen while they watch.   (I have a particular affection for this dessert as it also forced me to learn the foreign language keystrokes on my computer.)

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I have a few more recipes yet to share in the coming weeks so don’t go away!

If you like that, try these:

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. Love your list. I so hope that I’m able to meet some Doristas in real life one of these days!

  2. Trevor, you can call me Nana anytime. That is a beautiful post, so well written and such true feelings I think we
    all have. All of your choices are great, and I agree, the Paris-Brest dessert was truly a favorite of mine simply because I never thought I could accomplish anything like that. Have a great weekend.

  3. I love your recap – you should be very proud of the work you share with us. Meeting Doristas beyond the computer screen was definitely a game changer a scant two years go.

    (My heart swells a bit
    Knowing there’s still room for me
    At the French table)

  4. Trevor I am envious of the time and thought you put into this post. I really need to slow down and digest this group… literally! I thought about putting the tuna stuffed piquillo peppers on my list.. they were genuinely outstanding, and I can still remember my first bit of the Paris Brest… you are so right amazing, but I can’t let my daughter make it again, never… I would eat the whole thing. Even with the posts coming to an end you are right… this is a REAL group of people who genuinely enjoy each others company and I hope, with a little effort we will stay connected. It’s been real, thanks.

    • Thank you Diane. Its funny how a post I have been trying to get up for two years only took two minutes yesterday to finally write. I do adore these peppers and will have them again for lunch. They are a staple around here. If I had a daughter who baked Paris Brests I would be fat indeed! How can you say no?

  5. What a beautiful post! We share same favourites and after seeing your photo, I’m seriously considering running out to the fishmonger’s and deli so that I can have the mussels tonight – so delicious! I agree that the biggest aha has been that a community could emerge from an online cooking group (though I think my role is, sadly, the annoying cousin who manages to miss all the family reunions).

  6. Trevor, you are so right – this group is not just a virtual connection, it is real! I am sad that I could not have also attended Seattle and met up with the group and Dorie there, but even all the way Down Under, I have felt a very real connection with the people in this group. I have also recently had the wonderful experience of meeting some Doristas in person. I like that you chose a favourite recipe from each category – I just sat down and went through my posts, wrote down all the ones that I seemed most excited about, then chose the most likely contenders from that list. I had way more than five!

  7. So many of your recipes made my short list (and might make an appearance over the next few weeks). Love those peppers, and they look beautiful. Lovely post.

  8. I LOVE this post. Trevor you have hit the nail on the head – the “Aha” moment came for me a few months in when I realised that “this” was bigger than just a weekly post on my blog. Actually, I could barely tear myself away from simply choosing the gougères as my #1 recipe because they are STILL one of my favourites . We share a few choices here 🙂 And hopefully one day *I* will get to meet you in person. Because even though “this” is done for some of us, the community will last much longer than the blog posts…

    • I think we’ll meet Mardi. And I hope it is in Paris because I’m so itching to get there again and it would be lovely to set Around a French Table with you.

  9. Wonderful trip down memory lane and all those photos. An unexpected perk of this group has been the warm welcome. I enjoyed your list and have made a fair number of them. I am now compiling my to cook next list and those crackers and the apple cake will be on the top. I won’t go away and look forward to the rest of your posts.

    • I still have a few oddballs to do (caviar aspic anyone) so they will probably take some months to complete lest we have a dinnertime revolution in this house. I wish I had the apple cake to do over and over!

  10. Love your post … as always. You are thoughtful and careful and I respect that immensely. I met Dorie just as the FFwD group was beginning and that meeting has motivated me since. She has a sincere, warm spirit that welcomes everyone and excludes no one. I reunited with her last year and … nothing about her has changed. She’s just lovely and the glue that binds us all. I will always regret missing that IFBC when you all were here! And I LIVE here!!

  11. What a great journey. I can’t wait till Fall to make that apple cake. I wonder what would happen if I did it with peaches and bourbon!

  12. Beautiful. Not only the food, but the story as well. And what an epiphany to have, my friend.

  13. Mary Hirsch says:

    A wonderful recap, Trevor. And, you are right, that was the true beginning of our group bonding together. Susan Lester mentioned that Dorie was speaking at the Seattle IFBC and it wasn’t hard to gather Doristas to attend the conference to support Dorie. Susan and I thought we’d do our breakfast meet and greet with Dorie and then everyone would go their separate way. Not so. For the entire conference we were a “merry little French Fridays band of Doristas”. And, we have been ever since that fabulous long weekend.

  14. I love this post Trevor!! You have a wonderful gift for writing, and putting into words how so many of us feel! Thoughtful and reflective! Seattle was marvelous! This is the perfect Aha moment!! You know I never posted those peppers either…I think it’s time!
    Great choices…so many that were on my long list! Especially the Paris Brest and Marie Helenes’ Apple cake! And because of Dorie I am now a fan of mussels…who knew?
    Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  15. I utterly adore this post. You really touched me with your recollections and you captured the emotions many of us have felt. I also personally love the fact that my Mom is referred to as Nana by so many people. Badge of honor and all that. My sons think it is pretty cool too 🙂 Fun choices and I especially loved your shout out to your Mother in Law a la Chicken Diable. That one is one of my favorites indeed. The apple cake is the first recipe my Mom and I did for FFWD so it will always hold a special place in our hearts. 🙂

  16. oh man, the B’Stilla was the death of me! That thing I worked so hard on it and I didnt like it at all! 🙁

    Love your list and I have to agree – IFBC was such a high point for our group! Really amazing! I think we all felt like royalty that entire weekend!

  17. Oh, Trevor! I am so happy to have made this journey with you! And even happier to know that we have more in common than FFWD so that we can continue our friendship. This is a wonderful post full of happy memories for us all!

    xoxoxo

  18. It’s posts like this that confirms what a special man you are. I love your cooking, that’s a given but it’s the person behind the spoon that’s really touched my heart.

  19. Lovely words, Trevor. As one of the late joiners who then needed to step away, I enjoyed the weekly group cooking w/the Doristas tremendously and carry many of you in my heart. Perhaps we will meet, perhaps not, but surely what we shared is real. Bissous! And bon Appetit! Amy

  20. Trevor, your post is a lovely tribute to Dorie, Around My French Table, Doristas, andblogging groups everywhere! Plus, you’ve compiled an excellent list:) Your photos are always beautiful and interesting!

  21. Trevor, this is a beautiful post! I love your AHA moments about the friendships with all of the Doristas. Even those of us that are lapsed. 😉 You created a fantastic list to go along with your stunning photos! 🙂

  22. Another Dorista post that’s making me teary this week. I’m glad to be family with you. How is that there’s just one remaining male Dorista in the group? Why did the other ones bail? Picking my category made a hard task easier. Lots of overlap in my top 5 and honorable mentions with yours. I know this won’t be the end of our merry band of Doristas.

  23. I can’t help but be reminded of a commencement speech (a delicious commencement speech). So I’ll just say ‘congratulations graduate’. XOGREG

  24. Wow, this was an amazing post! I love how everyone has come up with their own way to “cheat” on the top 5 list. There really was no way to limit it to just 5. If I could go back to 2013, I would have tried harder to fit the IFBC into my schedule; it would have been so lovely to meet Dorie and of course the Doristas.

  25. You said it perfectly.

  26. I still smell cinnamon…and never be the last one to leave the party (leave them wanting more).
    It truly has been about the people. I can’t imagine any other group that would compel me to travel 3,000 miles to hang out with a group of people I only knew from on-line. If either of my daughters tried to do that, I would lock them in a room. (I wonder how many of us need to be locked in a room just as a matter of principle…)

    Please tell me that your last post will be a haiku post. (Don’t make me beg, though; it’s not becoming.)

  27. Oh, this may be your best post ever! You are so spot on by the Doristas being family–and the bond we had instantaneously when we all met up in Seattle. Your photos are making me want to go back and remake some of those earlier recipes—how I wouldn’t love a bowl of Cheez-It-ish crackers right now. I’m SO glad you’re the last surviving male Dorista. xoxo

  28. ooooh creamy mushroom and eggs….. swoon! 🙂 great list! Looks like we feel the same way about IFBC – so glad you decided to go! 🙂

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