Wednesday, June 16, 2010

NaBloPoMo: Stuffing colorful peppers

If you know me, you know that I find colorful bell peppers irresistible, except for green ones. But red, yellow, orange? Who knew such bright "angry" colors made an OK vegetable exceptional? Well, I've known for a while. And I find that no other recipe honors such exceptional yumminess more than stuffed peppers. Not only is the resulting meal colorful and healthy, you can remake this dish depending on your tastes just by switching out the sauce, spices and (if you're adventurous) the meat. Not in the mood for Mexican? No problem. Go Italian with pasta sauce, oregano and Italian sausage. Or try Moroccan with turmeric, ground lamb and couscous instead of rice. You could even sub feta cheese and add some tzatziki to get a Greek flair. Go crazy with the filling and this recipe will become a tried and true favorite.

Mexican stuffed peppers

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms (optional - I just wanted to use up old mushrooms)
1 cup rice
6 bell peppers
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 8 oz. can of Rotel diced tomatoes with habanero chili peppers, drained (this kicks the spice up a lot, so sub out with something milder if you don't like spicy).
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup plus 1 handful of shredded cheese, separated
5-6 crackers, crushed (can sub 2 tbsp breadcrumbs if you have them)
4 tsp. butter

1. Begin cooking the rice.
2. In a hot saucepan, begin sauteing mushrooms and onions. As those are cooking, cut the top off of your peppers and clean the seeds and white part out of the middle. If you are having trouble getting at the rind, you can opt for pepper boats. The rind can be bitter so be thorough.
3. When the onions and mushrooms are almost done add the beef.
4. Turn the oven on 400 degrees.
5. Drain the meat. Mix the rice, beef, diced tomatoes, salsa and cheese in a bowl.
Season with salt and pepper, chili and garlic powder and cumin. Stuff the peppers with the mixture until almost full. Place the peppers in a pan and cover with tinfoil.
6. Put the peppers into the oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until the pepper has steamed to your preferred crunchiness (I like mine a little crispier because it tastes fresher to me that way). Pull the peppers out and set your oven to broil.
7. Mix the handful of cheese and crackers together. Sprinkle on top of the peppers. Place a tsp of butter on top each pepper (I just cut a pat off a stick and divided it into four). Put peppers back into the oven, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Know your oven! If your broiler cooks quickly, check after 3 minutes. Keep checking until the crumbs have turned a golden brown (the butter aids in getting the right color).
8. Serve with more salsa, sour cream and fresh cilantro.

***As you'll see, I only made four peppers because that's all I had and I am only cooking for two. I ended up with leftover filling so I estimated leftovers would fill about two more peppers. Or you could just make four and make burritos out of the rest. That's what the fiance and I are doing for dinner tomorrow.***

Many traditional stuffed pepper recipes require that you put the meat in raw. That's odd to me for many reasons. One being that the amount of time to cook the meat would likely leave the pepper all but dissolved. Plus, being that it's summer, I really don't want to have the oven on for the 40+ minutes it would take to brown the meat. There's also the added benefit of being able to drain the fat from your meat after browning, again adding to the healthiness of the meal. I recommend cutting the cooking time in half and brown the meat ahead of time. It still comes out super juicy.

1 comment:

  1. while my recent attempt (as in i'm eating them right now) did not come out nearly as pretty as yours because i missed a few steps and made my own stuffing that i will refer to as "that stuff in my fridge that may go bad soon" and dan's rice. the butter part would have been good to remember. and cheese in the pepper, not just on top.

    even still, delicious and worth the effort- thanks for the inspiration!