Monday, August 19, 2013

Stuffed Bell Peppers

The local wildfires have ushered everyone into their homes today. Instead of lounging on a couch with a fan blowing directly at my face, I decided to turn on the oven and cook. It was maybe not the soundest idea during this hot summer day, but it was certainly worth it. 

I'm continuing with last week's theme of making a new-to-me recipe. I pulled a stuffed pepper recipe from Nigel Slater's Tender because he appears to be a huge fan of stuffing this particular vegetable (he has about 6 stuffed pepper variations included in the book). This recipe is quite simple, if you are willing to bear a hot oven. I also think it could easily be varied*, substituting anaheim or poblano for the bell pepper and cilantro for the basil. If I try the variation, I'll make a note of the results at the bottom of the post.

The most difficult step in this recipe is parboiling the peppers. This step starts the cooking process for the peppers, which ensures that the filling and peppers are done at the same time. If you do not want to parboil the peppers first, then I recommended wrapping the uncooked, stuffed peppers with foil for the first two-thirds of the cooking time.

Stuffed Bell Peppers
adapted from Tender

makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
12 oz ground pork
1 c breadcrumbs
4 large green or red bell peppers
1/4 c grated parmesan
2 Tbsp fresh, chopped basil, or 3 Tbsp fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Turn down to a low simmer until needed.

In a large frying pan, heat the two tablespoons of oil on medium heat. Add the chopped onion. Sweat the onion until softened, but not brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes begin to collapse and the mixture becomes saucy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Season very well with salt and black pepper. Stir in the pork, breadcrumbs, and fresh basil. Set aside.

Return the water to a rapid boil. Cut each pepper in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds, but keep the stems to maintain a bowl-like shape. Place the peppers halves in the pot. Parboil for 5 to 7 minutes, or until peppers just start to become soft. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and place, skin side down, on a large cookie sheet.

Fill each pepper with the pork filling, making sure to press gently to fill all the pepper crevasses. The pork mixture should completely fill each pepper and create a mound. Drizzle each pepper half with some olive oil and sprinkle evenly with parmesan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until sizzling and the tops are nicely browned. 

*variation: replace bell peppers with anaheim or poblano, but remove the tops instead of halving. Also, replace fresh basil with cilantro.

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