Stuffed peppers is one of those things Mom used to make when I was a kid that I never thought I would make as an adult. I didn't NOT like them, but they certainly weren't something I'd request for my birthday meal. It seemed contrived to stuff those beautiful, crunchy vegetables with a meat mixture that didn't quite pass for meatloaf and then to bake all the freshness out of them.
However … I was web-surfing recently (sorry I can't link back to the site since I don't remember where it is!) and came across a recipe for stuffed peppers that sounded delicious. It had Greek flavors and all of the sudden, my childhood snobbery towards stuffed peppers flew out of the window.
Then again, give me "Greek Anything" and I'll probably love it!
When I was in Portland, Cindy and I agreed to cook the recipe together one evening for dinner. We changed it up a little to make it fit us (making our own tomato sauce, not using Arborio rice, reducing the amounts of ingredients), but it's generally the same.
I decided to use red bell peppers because they are so beautiful and hold their color better than green ones when they are cooked. Besides, if you held a knife to my throat wanting to know what my favorite color is, I'd probably have to blurt out, "RED!" just to save my own life. I love so many colors in so many different ways, but if I had to pick only one, it would probably be red.
I mean, really! Just look at that color! Simply gorgeous.
Start out by cooking the rice so that it is ready for mixing later. The recipe specifically called for Arborio rice, but we used Japanese rice (that's what was in the pantry!) and it was delicious.
Then go to work on the peppers. Cut the tops off, and hollow them, but keep the tops to cap them off for serving presentation.
Use fresh herbs: dill, Italian parsley, and fresh mint. I think this combination of herbs makes all the difference in the world! I can imagine that a little fresh oregano would be a fine addition as well.
The only onion we had on hand was purple, but it didn't seem to harm the taste at all!
I made a simple pomodoro sauce by quickly sautéing a little onion in olive oil, then adding a large can of whole tomatoes that I first pureed. What isn't used for this recipe can be used to top a quick pasta dinner or as pizza sauce at another time, or you could simply put it in the freezer for later use. After simmering onion and garlic, add the herbs and the pomodoro sauce, let it cook down so that most of the liquid is gone.
Then add the meat and the cooked rice …
… and mix it all together.
Use a large spoon to put the meat mixture into the peppers, pour a cup of water around them, then bake them at 375°F for an hour.
Pull them out, admire the browned meat on the tops of them and the fact that they are still beautifully brilliant red!
Then cap them off with the stemmed end of the peppers that you saved from trimming earlier.
Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve with a side of feta cheese. A large green salad and crunchy bread rounds out the meal, creating something I didn't quite recognize from my prejudiced childhood memories! I dare ya to try it!!