Monday, March 15, 2010

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Post by: Beth

We've decided to create another new 'section' for the blog, if you will. Since most of our traveling days are behind us for now, our foci (yes, it's a real word!) have shifted a bit. These days it's less about trying to understand foreign languages, seeking out expat friends, and generally bumbling about lost, but excited, in new lands. Our days now are much more routine, with most of our time spent working to achieve that balance between our work lives and home lives. One hobby that I picked up overseas has stuck with us, and goes a long way towards achieving that elusive balance... learning to cook! We've spent about a year now learning the basics, trying new recipes, and figuring out what we like. Since so much of our time after work and on weekends is spent in the kitchen, we thought it'd be fun to share some of the recipes we like. Some will be old favorites of ours by now, others will be brand new... and the hope is that one or two of these will appeal to a reader every now and then and you'll find something you want to try, too.

First up.. a new one for us: Stuffed Bell Peppers! We gave this a shot last night, with the inspiration coming from an Emeril Lagasse recipe. He stuffed the peppers with beef and pork, but we went for lean turkey for a tiny bit healthier option.

7 green bell peppers
1 yellow onion
1 bunch parsley leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 cup uncooked rice (white, brown, whole grain.. all ok options)
1 lb lean ground turkey
8 oz tomato sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 pinch red pepper (or red chili) flakes
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Here's how we did it:

First, we took 6 bell peppers, cut off the tops, and removed the seeds.

Next, we went ahead and put on a big pot of water on high heat to get it to start boiling. Don't add the peppers in yet.. Just turn on the heat and let it go.

We also started the rice, since we'll be needing that pretty quickly in this recipe. (I do it the same way every time: I just put 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water, and about a tsp of kosher salt in a medium saucepan. I stir the rice quickly once, set it on the stove covered on high heat, give it a few minutes to start boiling, then drop the heat to low immediately after the boiling starts. I set the timer for 16 minutes, leave it covered, don't check it, and let it simmer for those full 16 minutes. Then I take it off the heat and let it rest for a couple of minutes, then fluff with a fork. Works every time.)

While you're at it, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You'll be needing that before too long, too!

We continued on with the prep work after this, so we wouldn't be scrambling around trying to chop, measure, and cook all at the same time.

We chopped up 1 yellow onion, 1 bell pepper, 3 cloves of garlic, and 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves.

See? Just chop, chop, chop with a chef's knife. Raja loves chopping stuff -- It's my least favorite part so it works out perfectly. :)

By the time we were done chop, chopping, our big pot of water had started to boil. The recipe calls for the 6 topless peppers to be 'parboiled,' which apparently just means to boil it to the 'halfway done' point. We dropped our peppers in and let them do their fancy-schmancy 'parboiling' for 2 or 3 minutes, until they were just the tiniest bit tender.

Then we fished them out with a slotted spoon and laid them on some folded paper towels to dry.

Next, it was time for Raja's third love: the cast iron skillet. (It goes #1 - me, #2 - UNC basketball, and #3 - his cast iron skillet. I indignantly maintain my stance as #1, no matter how many of you are thinking that I'm, at best, running a close 2nd to the Tarheels. ;) )

This is where we're going to cook up the yummy stuffing for those fancy parboiled peppers. Splash 2 tbsp vegetable oil in there and set it over medium-high heat. Let it heat up, then toss in your chopped onions and bell peppers.

Cook those over the same medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until soft (about 3 minutes).

Next up, we added in 1 lb lean ground turkey, our chopped garlic and parsley leaves from earlier, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Chop the meat up with your spatula (we use a wooden one to avoid scratching the cast iron skillet), stir around to break up any lumps, and keep stirring and shifting it about until the turkey is browned... It took about 7 minutes for us.

Once the meat is browned, add your cooked rice to the skillet. (I'm hoping that 1 cup uncooked rice yielded about 2 cups cooked rice, since that's what the recipe called for... It was a haphazard guess, but it seemed to work out pretty well in terms of ratio.) Dump in an 8oz can of tomato sauce and stir well.

After it's all mixed together well and heated through, remove from the heat, and taste it... I had to add in a lot more salt to make it taste right.

(I know how unappetizing that concoction above looks.. Bear with me -- It gets prettier!)

For your last step, take a baking dish (any size, shape, etc. will work okay as long as the peppers all fit in comfortably) and pour in just enough water to barely cover the bottom. (This is to avoid drying out the peppers, or worse, burning the bottoms.) Stuff those 6 bell peppers (There they are!- Still sitting pretty on the paper towels you laid them on to dry earlier.) with this less-than-beautiful rice/turkey/spice mixture and place them all in the baking dish.

Pop them into the pre-heated oven, and in about 25-30 minutes, they'll be very tender and the filling will be heated through! Remove them, set them on your oven or trivet, and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Plate them up, and you're ready to eat!

They were so yummy! There are a couple of things I'll probably do differently next time: for one, I'll probably use 1/2 lb turkey and 1/2 lb sausage to give it a little more spice. I also made JUST these as our entire dinner since it's pretty well-rounded between the turkey, rice, and vegetables. I think next time, I'll put together a side salad of fresh cucumbers, onion slices, and tomatoes with lemon juice as a light dressing. Overall though, we really liked this recipe and it will definitely make another showing at our dinner table within the next few weeks. And since there's only 2 of us and we made 6 peppers, we have leftovers!

If anyone has a similar recipe or any suggestion, or if you try this recipe out for yourself, leave us a comment and let us know! Happy Eating! :)


The Freeman Family said...

Welcome back to the world of blogging!

I made this recipe in 8th grade HOmeEc. I half the peppers since they are kinda pricey and the filling I use makes a lot. I fill with ground beef (not cooked), rice (not instant) and that is it. I put it in a big pot and boil it in Tomato sauce. The peppers are really more for being a container and flavor by the time it is finished cooking. The leftover stuffing is made into meatballs. This recipe is Hungarian (that was our country in HomeEc) and actually calls for a roux but I do not have time for such things and omit that part.

Yours looks good. Might have to try it without the onions and peppers. =)

Mimi said...

glad your back at blogging. . . love the idea you have come up with. Maybe you can teach me how to cook! Love you!

Beth + Raja Gupta said...

Haha.. Glad to know I'm just now on the level of 8th grade home economics students everywhere! ;) Your version sounds pretty good, Lee.. may have to give those a try! I'm also now glad to know the recipe may fall under 'Hungarian' foods - I couldn't figure out which category to place it under in my recipe binder since it was a printout!

Mimi, you should obviously consult Lee for cooking lessons over me -- She was doing this in 8th grade! ;)

Rhonda Walker said...

I like the pics. I want to see more pictures with that spiffy new camera. Glad you are posting again though. Love you

Beth + Raja Gupta said...

Thanks, Mom!
I'll definitely taking more pictures soon -- Next weekend is our Boston trip, so there will be LOTS of pictures from that. :)

Anonymous said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

Anonymous said...

Cooking now, hun? I look away for a few months and you go all housewife on me! What gives??
hahahaa, seriously though, I've missed you like crazy!! I have zero time now, but I'll be back (she says with a scary undertone in her voice and menacing look in her eyes)...

Oh, and I'm seriously considering restarting my blog. Changes changes all around, so... Will email you shortly!


Beth + Raja Gupta said...

raja and i were just talking about you the other day! i'm so glad to see your note. :)
haha.. yes.. look what happens when you disappear from my life: i resort to cooking recipes from scratch. and blogging about them. come back! ;)
i was wondering where your blog went. email me when you can! xoxo