Singing the praises of the green pepper

We've all heard the Frenchman's advice to the cook, ``First take an onion ....'' That simple beginning has doubtless done more for good cooking than many an elaborate volume. Now I would like to place beside that aphorism a new one, ``First, take a green pepper ...'' Is there any other vegetable so generous in its largess of flavor, color, piquancy, and distinctive texture? Is there any other with which you can do so much with so little? Just a trace of its sweet-tempered crispness can lift a humdrum dish into a delight.

For example, think of finely diced green pepper sprinkled through a mound of fluffy Sunday night supper scrambled eggs. Or chopped green pepper blended with browned meat and barbecue sauce for bun-fuls of hearty (and comfortingly economical) eating. Or how about long, narrow parentheses or scalloped rings of raw green pepper with the carrot sticks, radishes, onions, celery on your relish tray?

And even at a wintertime high of about 98 cents a pound, a smooth-skinned, plumply molded green pepper is a wise investment. At the height of the season, when these succulent morsels weigh out of the produce department at 19 and 20 cents per pound, it would be folly not to add their aromatic grace to your enlightened table.

Here are just a few ways to make the most of the bell pepper. Everybody knows this first dish - the trick here is a variation in seasoning that blends perfectly with the wonderful pepper flavor itself. Stuffed Peppers 1 pound ground beef 1/3 cup minced onion 1 1/2 cups cooked rice 1 No. 21/2 can tomatoes (29 ounces) 1 cup tomato juice 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 6 green peppers

Clean and carve green peppers. Invert and steam in rice last few minutes of cooking. In same pan in which you cooked rice, mix meat, onion, and rice, seasoning thoroughly. Add tomato juice, mix again. Stuff peppers, packing mixture in firmly. Stand in pan or casserole, pour can of tomatoes (or 4 cups raw, fresh tomatoes) over all, cover and cook over low flame 1 hour, or bake in oven at 325 degrees F. for 1 hour.

(Some cooks prefer to brown ground beef and onions first; we have found the above easier, quicker method equally tasty, and a real timesaver. Prepare these early in the morning ready for cooking and you're freed for the day, as a simple salad and hot crusty bread, with a fruit dessert, make this a satisfying meal.) Spanish Rice 2 cups cooked rice 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/3 cup chopped green pepper 1/2 can tomato paste plus 2 cans water

Brown onion in a little shortening in skillet. Add green pepper, rice, and tomato paste plus water. Cook slowly, covered, 10 minutes, just long enough for that wonderful flavor to permeate every grain of rice.

Note: Here is a flavor bonus for this and any other dish using tomatoes. Pour 1/4 cup water in nearly-empty ketchup bottle, shake briskly, and pour.

For that ``different'' late snack when you've all been watching TV or are just home from a long, long day in the open and want a quick supper dish, add this to your repertoire. Pepper Franks 1/2 cup diced green pepper 1/2 cup chopped onion 8 frankfurters, split lengthwise, cut in inch-long pieces 3 strips bacon, scissored into short lengths 1 No. 2 can tomatoes (optional)

Brown bacon to crisp doneness, add onion, green pepper, and franks and cook uncovered over medium flame for five minutes. Add tomatoes if desired at this point. Cover skillet and cook five minutes more over low heat.

We cook this in a shiny black iron skillet, and bring it to the table this way, for a help-yourself meal, with brown-and-serve rolls, potato salad, cantaloupe, and ice cream for dessert. Quick Russian Dressing 1/2 cup salad dressing 1/3 cup ketchup 1 tablespoon minced onion 1 tablespoon minced green pepper 1 hard-cooked egg, diced Salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients thoroughly, and chill before serving.

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