CONCORD, N.H. - Last night I went on a bit of a bender.
Sometimes I can't help myself; I blame my family. We've always been a bit excessive when it comes to food. When we find something we like - a particular ice cream, dolmades, sushi, whatever - we tend to go a bit nuts.
That's how I've been lately with Peppadews, funky little peppers that taste and look like a cross between jalapeno peppers, red bell peppers and a cherry tomato. They are small, bright red and taste tangy and crisp, sharp and sweet. They are wonderful.
Last night I ate half a pound of them.
Peppadews - a trademarked name - come ready for stuffing, cored, seeded and marinated in a sweet vinegar brine.
According to a slew of Web sites, Peppadews were discovered by a man in South Africa, who devised a brine that would tame their intense heat and highlight their natural sweetness. Now they are produced there and shipped worldwide.
And I am so glad they are. When I gorged myself on them last night, I started eating them plain. But they are so perfectly shaped for stuffing, I couldn't resist. First I tried a bit of smoked tofu. Not bad.
Then I moved on to goat cheese. Oh... This is what goat cheese was meant for. Next were green olives stuffed with garlic. That's right, I stuffed a stuffed olive in a pepper. Quite nice.
That was followed by cream cheese, blue cheese, grapes and dried apricots. I never found a stuffing option I didn't like. At one point I even considered peanut butter, but decided that might taint my winning streak.
Online, I found dozens of additional suggestions, including feta cheese, hummus, avocado and brie. Other recipes suggested thinly slicing the peppers and sprinkling them over warm pasta or adding them to frittatas.
I also liked the idea of adding them to a grilled veggie wrap; their bite would be a perfect accompaniment to sauteed onions, green peppers, button mushrooms and provolone cheese.
And pizza. These would be delicious on pizza.
I considered all of these as I thought about dinner tonight. I have to have more Peppadews. Good thing I've got another pound of them waiting for me at home. But what to do with them.
Though it was tempting to think of simply stuffing them with various cheeses and gobbling them one at a time, this didn't strike me as a particularly balanced dinner. I ultimately decided on a skillet-grilled polenta, topped with goat cheese and diced Peppadews.
I liked this preparation because the goat cheese and polenta offer soft textures and flavors, wonderful complements to the more assertive crunch of the Peppadews. I also liked the contrast between warm polenta and cheese and cool peppers.
And remember, it's just a vegetable. So more really can be better.
(Start to finish 10 minutes)
Olive oil cooking spray
1-pound package prepared polenta (sold with refrigerated foods)
4-ounce log goat cheese, cut into 8 rounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 Peppadew peppers, cut into thin slivers
Lightly coat a large skillet with cooking spray, then heat the pan over a medium heat.
Cut the polenta into 8 thick rounds. When the skillet is hot, add them to the pan and cook until the bottoms are lightly browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Gently shake the pan during cooking to keep the polenta from sticking. Use a spatula to gently flip the polenta and cook another 4 minutes.
Place one round of goat cheese in the center of each piece of polenta. Cover the skillet and cook another two minutes, or until the cheese is soft and the bottoms of the polenta have browned.
Season the polenta and goat cheese with salt and pepper, then use a spatula to carefully place the rounds on a platter or individual serving plates. Top each with a small mound of slivered Peppadews. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 polenta rounds.