Stuffed bell peppers are a staple of cuisines of several southeast-European countries, including Croatia. This recipe, originally published in Croatian, presents how I make them. The translation will hopefully help this lovely Croatian dish reach a wider audience.
In Croatia we typically use the bell peppers of the “babura” variety, but other kinds of bell peppers will do nicely, as long as they are of reasonable size – at least 2 inches in diameter, and 4 inches or more in height.
STUFFED BELL PEPPERS
preparation time: about 2 hours, largely unattended
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp paprika
1 pound ground meat, mix of beef and pork
1/2 cup rice
10 bell peppers of medium size
2-3 cups tomato purée (passata di pomodoro)
1 cup wine
water as needed
Put the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add onions and cook until soft, about five minutes. When the onions are nearly done, add the garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, and other spices if you like (e.g. ginger, nutmeg, or a dash of cumin). Do not overdo the spices.
While the onions are cooking, wash the bell peppers, cut off the stems, and shake out the seeds. Put the ground meat in a bowl and add the cooked onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste (feel free to try it, a bit of raw meat won’t harm you), add the rice, and mix well.
Stuff the bell peppers with the meat mixture, trying not to pack the meat too tightly. Arrange the peppers in a cooking pot, if possible so that they stand upright holding each other; leave as little room as possible between them. If the peppers do not fit in one layer, cook them in two smaller pots.
Mix the tomato purée and wine and season with salt. Pour the mixture over the peppers in the pot and add water until the peppers are almost fully submerged. If you are using two pots, equally divide the purée and wine between them and then add water. While the peppers are cooking, do not stir them, just occasionally shake the whole pot. Cook for an hour and a half on low heat.
Let the cooked peppers rest for at least an hour. Serve with mashed potatoes and some crusty bread.
Do not throw away the puree in which the peppers were cooking. If some remains uneaten, freeze it and use it as stock for a future dish.
I’m sure a lot of people have always thought, wow, I’d like to record a video of this to have it around! On Linux! Well, with it’s incredibly easy! OK, not really so easy, you’ll have to handle a few hurdles along the way, but it’s nothing terrible. As an example I’ll be using prboom which is an engine to run Doom 1/2 with the original WADs you have obtained legally, paid for fair and square etc. It uses 3D hardware acceleration, no jumping, crouching and shit like that. It’s great to see Doom 1/2 in in high resolution, it looks pretty good, and very true to the original, and makes the game more than playable.
There is a beautiful program called glc. Basically it hooks to the video & audio of the system and dumps a shitload of fastest compressing png files, that is one per frame. Depending on the resolution you use for capturing and the framerate, expect very hardcore output per second to your HDD, somewhere around 50 megabytes per second for a full hd experience, and that’s with the quicklz compression method for glc-capture.
I won’t go into too much detail how to install glc, or prboom. I’m sure it’s simple for your favorite Linux distribution. It was a simple aurget -S on Arch. Now,let’s head on to actually capturing some gameplay. The syntax is very simple glc-capture [options] [program] [programs' arguments]:
This was the tricky part, I had to play around with the options to get it glitch free inside the game. I’ve recorded a video three years ago with glc, can’t remember using some of these options. -j – force-sdl-alsa-drv, got better performance, but maybe unneeded, play around with it -s – so recording starts right away -f – sets the framerate -n – locks FPS, didn’t need this before, but you get a glitch-free recording -z none – no PNG compression, I’ve had better performances without compression The prboom-plus options should be self-explanatory, I’ve used the 1920×1080 resolution so it’s youtube friendly. The -warp is to warp to level 13, and -skill 5 is for nightmare. The file output is named $PROGRAM-$PID-0.glc by default.
OK, the easy part is done, apart from the tricky part. Now you have a huge-ass .glc file on your hard drive that is completely unplayable by any video player known to man. And when I say huge-ass, I mean huge-ass. A 54 second video comes out to 1.79GB, which is 34MB per second in 720p, and for 1080p I had up to 42MB per second! The default png compression used by glc-capture is quicklz. For 1080p I had some better experiences using -z none so it simply dumps the PNGs into the file and that’s it. As you might figure, this will also increase the resulting file size, but it could be well worth the disk space if you don’t have a fast CPU. You’ll get close to a 100 MB/s for a 1080p stream. Use the default compression if in doubt. Experiment.
What do we do with an unplayable, unusable, unuploadable gigantic glc dump on our hard drive? I strongly suggest you encode it somehow. I used to use mencoder for all my encoding needs. Due to the way it’s maintained, or a lack thereof, I switched to ffmpeg which has an active development and used a lot in the backends of various video tube sites around the internet. OK, let’s go, step by step:
Extract the audio track
$ glc-play prboom-plus-12745-0.glc -a 1 -o 1080p.wav
This line dumps the audio track from the glc file, of course it’s a completely uncompressed wave file. -a 1 is for track #1, and -o is for output, naturally.
Pipe the uncompressed video to ffmpeg and encode to a reasonable file format
-o - dumps it to STDOUT, -y 1 is for video track 1. Now we have used the all might unix PIPE. I love pipes. In this case ffmpeg uses two files as input, one is STDIN, that is the hardcore raw video file, no pngs, just raw video. The other input is the audio track we dumped earlier. This could be streamlined with a FIFO, but that’s overcomplicating things. The rest of the ffmpeg options are beyond the scope of this article, but they’re a reasonable default. The final argument of ffmpeg is the output file. The container type is determined by the file extension, so you can use mp4, mkv, or whatever you want. After this, the video is finally playable, uploadable, usable. Congrats, you have just recorded your video the Linux way!
If you do want to customize the final video quality, take a look at the the ffmpeg documentation at what these mean. The only thing of interest is the -preset and the -crf. The crf is the “quality” of the video. I was astounded that 2-pass encoding is a thing of the past, and it’s all about the crf now. It goes from 0 to 51. And only a small part of that integer range is actually usable. I simply cannot relay the beautiful wording from the docs, so I’ll just paste it here:
The range of the quantizer scale is 0-51: where 0 is lossless, 23 is default, and 51 is worst possible. A lower value is a higher quality and a subjectively sane range is 18-28. Consider 18 to be visually lossless or nearly so: it should look the same or nearly the same as the input but it isn’t technically lossless.
Details like these can really brighten a person’s day. 18 is visually lossless (and no doubt uses a billion bits per second), but technically only 0 is lossless. So you have a full range from 0 to 18 that is basically useless. Of course, it goes the other way around. After -crf 29 the quality really goes downhill.
The resulting video can be found here or you can see it on YouTube. Excuse my cheating and my dying so fast, this is for demonstration purposes.
I realize there are probably better ways of accomplishing this, you can google around for better solutions. Glc-capture supposedly works with wine too, with some tweaks. I haven’t really tried it, but feel free to leave a comment if someone had any experience with it. This is a simple way to make a recording, you can edit it later once you encode the file to something normal. Glc also supports recording multiple audio tracks so you could also record your voice with a microphone and mash it all together. Good luck with that. :)
Some years ago my sister-in-law asked me to write an essay she had for her Croatian homework. I said, I suck at writing essays, but if it’s an interesting topic, why the heck not. After all, I’m sometimes known for my ability to be a smartass which can come in handy. The topic of the essay was “The universe and my place within it”. Wow, now that’s something I can do. I wrote it all down, and her teacher was genuinely impressed with it, so much that she had pinned it in the school lobby as the best essay written. Supposedly the essay is still pinned there, 4 years later, but that’s speculation on her part.
However, we were caught. Our genius plan has been foiled by her teacher. She immediately knew she didn’t actually write a word of it, and had asked her a simple question; what exactly is a galaxy? The sister-in-law, then 15, replied with a blank stare. The teacher made a proposition: “Would you like a passing grade, or write your own?” She chose the barely passing grade. Anyway, looking back at the piece I wrote, it’s kinda cute and decided to share it here, translated to English. Since this is somewhat lost in the translation, the protagonist is the sister-in-law and is set from her point of view after returning home from school.
During a windy and cold, starry winter night while coming home from school I saw the Milky Way in the sky. This wasn’t the first time I had laid my eyes on it, but it was the first time I appreciated the implications of such a sight. It’s a view to the center of our galaxy, in which we are nothing but an insignificant planet in our galactic neighborhood, just one of many. I felt how I was standing on one of those tiny rocks, the gravitational pull of the entire planet pulling me down to the center of the rock that is enormous to us, but a speck of dust compared to other astronomical bodies. The seemingly infinite number of stars only in our galaxy, all with their planets moving of their own accord can leave a person breathless.
You can ask yourself a lot of questions. The first question that pops into one’s mind is “are we alone in the universe?” The answer is, of course we’re not alone in the universe! Out of all the countless planets that are woven throughout the universe, it’s impossible that the Earth is the only one blessed with the prerequisites for life. Where are the little green men, then? No one said they were anywhere close. Life, at least the way we know it could be extremely rare. It’s possible that a planet like Earth is only present in one out of a billion galaxies. Even taking into account such a grim approximation it would mean there are at least 200 to 300 alien civilizations in the visible universe that are asking themselves the very same questions I’m asking while gazing into the beautiful night sky.
The added problem of our alien brethren is the time and the vast distances involved. An alien civilization could have been at arms reach a mere 3 billion years ago, long dead by now with their sun dying a violent death which can now be seen as the remains of a long-gone alien solar system through telescopes and pretty pictures on the internet. The roles could be reversed, in 10 billion years we’ll be the lovely false color pictures. The distances and times involved are so colossal that it begs the question can technology within one system, our universe, ever be outside the bounds of said system so we could conceivably call our galactic neighbors to lunch.
You can’t rule out the possibility of a consciousness and intelligence so alien to us that even with our most intense efforts we can never hope to detect them, so different that it’s not even possible in a sense. They might not be living on a planet somewhere and asking themselves dumb questions like us. Those kind of analogies could be applied here, to Earth. You’re going somewhere, minding your own business, when you encounter a “lower” life-form, a worm or something similar. Can we help it in some way, step on it by accident or with intent? We can even simply not perceive it in any way, shape or form and go about your merry way. Can a worm discern us in a sensible kind of way, inside its own limited perception of the real world, whatever that may be? It could very likely be that we’re the worm in a scenario where a “higher” life-form is asking similar questions about us. Is this what they call a deity?
The Milky Way is abruptly replaced by concrete and shingles of my own home. Oh, I’ve arrived. The level of inspiration gathered by a simple gaze at the center of our galaxy is unbeatable, albeit it almost completely vanishes as soon as you go through the doorstep. Watching other Suns, other worlds, even if it is through your mind is now replaced by other simpler and in a way harder questions and problems. In any case, I can’t wait for my next walk through the cosmos!