Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Peppers are ready to get stuffed

Red, yellow, green or orange: bell peppers are a perfect summer food and filling them up makes them even more tasty

Long gone are the days when I would scoop out the fillings of a stuffed pepper, avoiding the outside entirely if I could get away with it. Perhaps for children (and some adults), stuffed peppers are an acquired taste, or maybe it was the manner in which they were prepared and presented to me as a youngster that I so disliked.

However, I wasn’t the only one in our bunch of eight kids who left a mass of green on the plate. Today a stuffed pepper is one of my favourite dishes in late summer, and it is me, instead of my mother, who gladly takes the pepper shells some don’t want. Yum! We have fresh peppers of all varieties being harvested right now as well as fresh corn on the cob, something I truly love to eat with stuffed peppers so it’s a good time to head to the local markets and pick up a supply for the weekend.

Today I have one non-traditional stuffed pepper and one recipe that’s probably been around for centuries. Enjoy.

Stuffed Red, Orange, Yellow Peppers

4 – 6 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow or green)

1 or 2 baked and cubed chicken breasts

10 oz. container light Alfredo sauce

1 – 2 cups penne pasta (whole wheat OK)

6 – 8 garlic cloves (or to taste)

1 cup mushrooms or to taste)

Olive oil for frying

Fresh tomatoes (will depend on number of  bell peppers — see below)

1 to 1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bring a large pot of water to a full boil. While waiting for water to boil, wash bell peppers. Slice off stem tops, saving as much of the pepper to fill as possible. Once water is boiling, put all the bell peppers in the pot, fully submerged. Allow to boil for 10 minutes, or until tender. You don’t want to over boil or the bell peppers will be too weak to hold stuffing mixture.

While the bell peppers are boiling, chop up half a bulb of peeled garlic or six to eight cloves (or according to your tastes). Alternatively, a garlic press may be used.

Wash and coarsely chop mushrooms. Sauté garlic and mushrooms in olive oil.

Boil pasta. Heat Alfredo sauce in a small sauté pan or in the microwave. Once the bell peppers are tender, drain and transfer to an oven-safe dish. The number of tomatoes needed depends upon the number of bell peppers you have chosen to prepare.

Place a slice of tomato in the bottom of the bell pepper and on the sides if you like, depending on what fits. Mix the chicken, sauteéd garlic, mushrooms, pasta and Alfredo sauce together in a bowl. Spoon as much of the mixture that will fit into the bell peppers. Top with a tomato slice and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Place in the oven for as long as it takes the cheese to melt.

This might sound like it will take a long time, but truly it will be in the oven in about 20-25 minutes and then another 10 in the oven so this is almost a 30-minute meal.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

8 large firm bell peppers (green or red) red are sweeter, but I like green

1/2 lb. ground bacon

1/2 lb. ground lean beef

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 large onion, finely chopped or grated

2 cups raw rice

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups puréed fresh tomatoes (fresh tastes best)

Wash and cut tops off peppers, clean seeds out, saving tops.

In a large frying pan, cook ground meats with garlic and onion until cooked through. Remove from heat and place in a large mixing bowl; add rice, salt, pepper and puréed tomatoes. Mix well.

Fill the peppers with the mixture to about half an inch from the top; add pepper top to each pepper. Place filled peppers in a deep casserole dish with a lid. Bake, covered, in preheated 350 F oven for about an hour, or until the rice is cooked. Wonderful served with fresh corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.