Biking home from work yesterday I hit the curb, tumbled over the handlebars and face-planted on concrete. The damage wasn’t serious: a couple of chipped teeth and a banged up mouth. I know there are many worse cases and I’m grateful not to be one of them. But after getting patched back together today I had to face facts. If I eat whole apples or corn on the cob again, I risk knocking off joint compound, and that means snaggly front teeth. I could be done for good with subs from Salumi, which are made with hometown charcuterie and pepperocini and clad in heavy ciabatta rolls.
My chef friend Evan tried to console. “Your incisors,” he said, sighing. “This is serious. You shouldn’t think about corn on the cob right now. But the pork in your freezer? Don’t feel you need to braise all of it.”
He threw in some dental advice too. “All you really need are the molars,” he said.
Most of the day I sat around icing my face and wondering why my arms felt so achy. I also had time to cook, a good thing since I can’t exactly chow down yet yearn for tasty things as much as ever. The rice casserole I opted for wasn’t really local, except for the ground pork and oregano from the yard. But it was hot, flavorful, and easy on a sore mouth, and promises to become seasonal later in the summer. A salad with garden lettuces, radishes, and a few lovely first peas kept the food mileage down tonight.
Recipe: Rice, Chili Pepper, and Pork Casserole
4 large poblano or anaheim chilies or 2 canned chipotle chilies, chopped / 1 cup rice / 1 onion, sliced thinly / 2 cloves garlic, minced / 2 tsp dried oregano / 1 cup fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped / ½ lb ground pork / 1 cup shredded melty cheese
If using fresh peppers, char these under a high broiler, steam under a bowl, peel, remove stem and seeds, and chop. Boil 1 quart of water plus ½ tsp salt in a medium-sized pot. Add rice and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the rice is barely hard in the center, then drain. While rice cooks, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, swirl in vegetable oil, and cook onions until browned and slightly charred, about eight minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and chilies and cook another minute or so, then add tomatoes and cook down for another few minutes until slightly thickened. At the same time, heat a small skillet and cook ground pork on high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Season peppers and pork with salt and pepper to taste.
Turn on oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy baking dish layer on half of rice, half of peppers, half of cheese, pork, then remainder of rice, then peppers, then cheese. Bake thirty minutes or until cheese is bubbling and browned. Garnish with cilantro and additional cheese, if you wish. Feeds 4. Adapted from Rick Bayless.