Recipe Spotlight: A good bell pepper deserves a great stuffing

NOW IS THE TIME to get stuffing. Not turkeys, that’s months away, but sweet peppers. Florida peppers are here to about the end of May. A little work now will yield quick, tasty meals from the freezer for months.

Green peppers are the most popular, with brightly colored versions coming next. Have you seen purple peppers? They lose some color when they cook but are still novel.

The way and time to cook the peppers depends on the stuffing. Cooked stuffings need just a short time in the oven so the peppers should be blanched or baked a bit before being filled. Stuffings with meat take a longer time to cook so the peppers are filled raw.

Cut the tops off the peppers and cut out the ribs. One large pepper makes a serving. For smaller appetites, cut the peppers in half lengthwise, removing the stem.

Let’s start with a shrimp stuffing from Louisiana. Crawfish works if you have it, but shrimp is easier to find and more reasonable. The stuffing also works in merliton (chayote) and zucchini.

In a processor, chop together two large onions, five garlic cloves, two celery stalks, one green pepper, and one jalapeño. Heat two tablespoons margarine or oil in a large skillet. Fry the onion mixture about 10 minutes. Add a can of cream of mushroom soup, 1/4 cup tomato sauce, one pound ground shrimp or crawfish, a handful of green onion tops, and chopped parsley. Cook gently for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Mix in a good handful of stale bread that has been soaked in milk and drained or bread crumbs, and one beaten egg. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stuff this into green or colored peppers. Top with bread crumbs and bake at 350˚ F for 40 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Home-style stuffed peppers from Hungary use a complicated tomato sauce base. Few of us have time for that, so a jar of marinara sauce will work. Add a pinch of sugar and a pinch of paprika. Fry a chopped onion in a little oil or butter. Let it cool.

In a bowl, mix 1/2 pound ground veal (beef can be substituted for veal), 1/2 pound ground pork, two eggs, 1/4 cup raw rice, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and 1/4 cup cold water. Mix in the cooled cooked onion.

Stuff six large green peppers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace for expansion. Put the peppers in a heavy casserole and pour the tomato sauce over. You might need more than one jar, depending on the peppers. There must be enough sauce to cook the rice. Cover and bake at 350˚ F about one hour. Stuffed peppers are super for vegetarian dishes and lentils are super for you too. This easy recipe from Self magazine has, per serving, 260 calories, 6g fat (3.5g saturated fat), 33g carbs, 11g fiber, and 17g protein.

For each serving you need one large bell pepper, one cup canned or cooked lentils, 1/2 cup salsa, and two tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese.

Cut the pepper in half lengthwise and remove ribs and seeds. Microwave on high for two minutes to soften. Mix lentils and salsa and stuff mixture evenly into each bell pepper half. Microwave another two minutes or until warmed through. Sprinkle each half with cheese and microwave another 30 seconds or so until the cheese melts.

A slow cooker is just the thing for stuffed peppers. They simmer along merrily while you run errands or pick up the kids or whatever … and you come back to dinner. Add a salad and you’re set.

For four people, you need four medium bell peppers, 1/2 pound ground pork, 3/4 cup barbecue sauce, divided, one cup uncooked instant white rice, one cup frozen peas, 1/4 pound (four ounces) Velveeta, cubed, and 1/2 cup water. The Velveeta means the recipe is from Kraft.

Cut the tops off the peppers and remove ribs and seeds. Mix the pork and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, rice, and peas. Spoon into shells and top with Velveeta. Pour the rest of the barbecue sauce and 1/2 cup water into a slow cooker. Stand the peppers in the cooker. Cover and cook 5 to 7 hours, until peppers are tender.


article by TRENT ROWE

Trent Rowe is the food editor of Central Florida Ag News.

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