Kitchen Wit and Wisdom: Peppers bring colourful taste

Peppers are in abundance all over the North Okanagan

I walked through a fruit market yesterday and was amazed at the astonishing array of coloured bell peppers so did a little research into them.

Bell peppers are members of the nightshade family of vegetables along with potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. Like chili peppers, bell peppers originated in South America where seeds of a wild variety are believed to date back to 5,000 B.C.  The various coloured bell peppers all come from the same plant, but differ in their level of maturity. Green peppers are harvested before they are fully ripe, one reason they are less expensive than other varieties. Green bell peppers will continue to first turn yellow and then red if they are left on the plant to mature. They have a slightly bitter flavor and will never have the sweet taste of their red, yellow and orange counterparts.  Red peppers are more mature than green, orange or yellow bell peppers. They are rich in carotenoid phytonutrients and contain almost eleven times more beta-carotene than green bell peppers as well as one and a half times more vitamin C.  Red bell peppers have a sweet, almost fruity taste. Pimento and paprika are both prepared from red bell peppers.  Today I have two stuffed pepper recipes you may like to try.

John’s Stuffed Bell Peppers Recipe

For the sauce:

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon olive

1 cup beef broth

2-1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce, or other tomato sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

For the peppers:

1 pound lean ground beef

1/2 pound sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed

2 cups cooked rice

1 cup finely grated “real” Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

4 cloves garlic, minced very fine

1 can 10-oz. diced tomatoes (I use 1-1/2 cups)

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne

4 large bell peppers

Add the olive oil to a saucepan, and lightly brown the onions with a large pinch of salt over medium-high heat. Remove half and reserve for the stuffing. Stir in the rest of the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Pour the sauce into the bottom of a large deep casserole dish.  Add all the filling ingredients to a mixing bowl, along with the reserved onions, and stir with a fork, or your hands, until the mixture is combined. Tip: you can cook a small piece of the filling to test the seasoning.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the stem, seeds and white membrane from each pepper. Place the bell peppers in the casserole dish, and fill each pepper with the stuffing. A little additional cheese can be grated over the top if desired. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes, or until the peppers are very tender. Exact cooking time will depend on size, shape and thickness of the peppers.

Best to let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with the sauce spooned over the top.

vegetarian stuffed

bell peppers

1-1/2 cups uncooked rice

3 cups vegetarian chicken flavour stock

3 bell peppers

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 onion

1 stick celery

1 carrot

1 small zucchini

12 ounces chopped tomatoes (1-1/2 cups)

4 cups pasta sauce

1/4 cup ketchup

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon dry basil

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1 teaspoon dried bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon pesto sauce

2 cups asiago cheese

Start by cooking the rice with the chicken stock, and set that aside.

Slice your bell peppers (you can use red or green) in half vertically and scoop out the insides. Place the six pieces into a baking pan or dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray or oil.

Next start cutting your veggies. Finely chop the 1/2 of onion, celery, carrot, and the whole zuchini. Add to your pan with oil on low heat.  Sauté the veggies till they are at a soft stage. Now add your  tomatoes, 2 cups pasta sauce, and ketchup.

Chop garlic up fine and throw that in there also. Turn heat up to medium and mix everything together really well. Now you can add your basil, oregano, bay leaf, pesto, salt, and pepper.  Keep stirring everything until the veggies and tomatoes are nice and soft.  Add cooked rice to the pan. Mix everything together well.

Now you can grate the cheese and add 1/2 cup to the rice mix, keep stirring till everything’s combined.

Preheat your oven to 375 degree. Spoon the rice mixture into each of the pepper halves, make them nice and full. Pour remaining sauce over all the peppers and sprinkle the remaining cheese allover the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted.

 

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