Oh 2020 … you definitely know how to throw a punch or two — or 50!
But there are glimmers of hope and happy surprises too. One of those simple ones is the abundant supply of beautiful green bell peppers which have emerged from our garden. They’re as big as a softball, perfect in shape and tasty to eat.
I know that we’re not the only ones this year with a bumper pepper crop as I’ve heard from many other gardeners. They too have a plethora of gorgeous green peppers.
Here’s a way to enjoy the peppers: stuff them. Since I was a little kid, stuffed peppers have always been one of my favorite meals. The traditional recipe with tomato sauce, rice and ground beef stuffed into peppers has been my go-to meal to make for decades now. Since we have so many peppers, I’ve expanded my stuffed pepper recipes and tried some new ones. Here’s a few that will tantalize your taste buds and use up some of those delicious peppers.
I’m a huge fan of Greek food. The spices, the flavors, it’s all so good. When I came across these Greek stuffed peppers, I knew I had to give it a try and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The chickpeas really give the dish some extra umph. Opa!
Greek Stuffed Peppers
Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground beef
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup white rice, soaked in water for 20 to 30 minutes, then drained
3/4 teaspoon hot or sweet paprika
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2-1/4 cup water
6 bell peppers, any colors, tops removed and cored
3/4 cup chicken broth (or water)
Cook the meat and chickpeas. In a medium heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin oil. Sauté the chopped onions until golden. Now add the meat and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned. Season with salt, pepper, allspice and minced garlic (or garlic powder). Stir in the chickpeas and cook briefly. Add rice etc. and cook. To the same pot, now add the parsley, rice (which had been soaked in water and drained), paprika and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Add the water and bring to a high simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Then turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and no longer hard nor too chewy. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. While the rice is cooking, heat a grill or indoor griddle or skillet over medium-high. Grill the bell peppers for 10-15 minutes, covered, and turning over as needed so that the peppers will soften and gain some color. Remove from heat and set aside to cool briefly. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Assemble the bell peppers open side up in a baking dish filled with 3/4 cup broth or water. Fill each of the bell peppers with the cooked stuffing mixture of meat, rice and chickpeas. Cover the baking dish with foil (making sure the foil does not touch the stuffed peppers) and place the dish on the middle rack of your heated oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with parsley, if you like, and serve. To serve stuffed peppers as a main dish Greek style, add Tzatziki and Greek salad for sides.
If we’re trying Greek stuffed peppers, then we should try it’s neighbor — the Italian stuffed peppers. The tangy marinara, the cheeses, the beef all combine for a classic Italian dish stuffed in a pepper.
Italian Stuffed Peppers
4 bell peppers
1 pound ground beef
1 onion (yellow or red)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 quart marinara sauce
1 cup cooked long-grain rice (or use brown rice or quinoa)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8 fresh basil leaves
Fill a 6-quart pot 2/3 full with hot water. Place over high heat on the stove and cover. Rinse your peppers and pat them dry. Cut out the stems and slice each pepper in half. Scrape out the seeds and membranes and discard them. When your water is boiling, carefully place the pepper halves in the pot. Boil the peppers for three minutes. Carefully drain the peppers in a colander in the sink. Use tongs to turn the peppers so the cut sides face down, allowing the water to drain out of them. Let them sit in the colander as you make your meat filling. Peel your onion and chop it. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grate your Pecorino and shred your mozzarella, if needed. Add your ground beef to a 12-inch skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon. After a minute, stir in the chopped onions, red pepper flakes and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is browned, and the onions are tender. If you have lots of liquid, drain most of it. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce to the meat mixture. Stir in the rice. Add the Pecorino Romano and stir to combine. Cook the mixture for a couple minutes, or until it's heated through. Prepare a half sheet pan or a 10x15 baking pan for the peppers. If using a sheet pan, line it with foil and grease it with cooking spray. If using a 10x15 pan, just grease it with spray. Add your drained pepper halves to your baking pan, cut side up. Scoop about three tablespoons of the meat filling into each pepper half. Add more meat as needed, until each pepper half is filled to the surface. Scatter any extra meat filling around the peppers in your pan. Sprinkle each pepper half with two tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Gently pat the cheese onto the peppers. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Then, broil the peppers for two minutes to brown the cheese, if desired. While the peppers are baking, gently rinse your basil leaves and pat them dry. Stack a few leaves, roll them up and slice them into ribbons. When the stuffed peppers are done, sprinkle the basil on top and serve with extra marinara sauce. Refrigerate leftovers for up to four days.
Shrimp in peppers? Yes, please. This is effortless to prepare and tastes amazing.
Shrimp Stuffed Peppers
4 green bell peppers
2 cups cooked white rice
8 ounces cooked shrimp, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup salsa
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 cup green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a shallow baking dish, about 9x9 inches. Cut the tops off the bell peppers and reserve. Wash peppers and clean out the seeds and membranes. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and add the bell peppers. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove and drain. Combine rice thru salt. Gently stuff the mixture into the peppers, then stand them in the baking dish. Put the tops back on the peppers. Bake for 40 minutes until tender.
No matter how you stuff them, peppers are the perfect way to jazz up your dinner. Grab some peppers from the garden and give these recipes a try tonight!
Kristin Kveno scours the internet, pours over old family recipes and searches everywhere in between to find interesting food ideas for feeding your crew. Do you have a recipe you want to share? You can reach Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org.