Neither of us had ever been much for sweet peppers (or capsicums, depending where you’re from), as our experience with them had been limited to green peppers, which we find to be aggressively, unpleasantly bitter. But the colored ones were so pretty, and smelled so damn good every time we walked past them at the store, that we finally caved and got one to try. And lo and behold they didn’t all taste like the green ones; in general, the lighter the pepper, the sweeter the taste, ranging from purple (as bitter as green) up through white (which go soft so fast we don’t even bother buying them).
Once we’d made this discovery we started experimenting, and tried a variation of the stuffed peppers that he’d had as a kid. I stumbled across a Romanian variation on ehow.com (sadly, the recipe is no longer there; shout out to Audrey Brown for posting it), and we’ve gradually modified it to our tastes.
Like any ground-meat dish, this one is infinitely variable, limited only by your creativity and whatever you have on hand. Our most recent batch had a quarter cup of lime juice and a quarter cup of chopped fresh cilantro, and was fabulous.
Like a lot of stuffed pepper recipes, the original called for blanching your peppers once you’d removed the tops and cored. Though it’s not necessary to remove bitterness when using the lighter-colored peppers, it does make the pepper softer, which can make it easier to cut up once it’s done. If you use them raw, though, they’re a little sturdier for the stuffing process. We tend to buy our peppers ten or eleven at a time on sale, remove the tops and cores, and them freeze them; once thawed, they’re soft as if they’d been blanched. (It does use a lot of freezer space, though.)
- 5 or 6 sweet peppers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 pound ground meat
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 cups white rice, cooked
- Shredded cheese to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Remove the tops and cores from your peppers; blanch them if you want them softer. Fit them in a greased casserole dish, trimming the bottoms if necessary to make them stand more or less upright.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Sauté the onions until they start to soften; add the garlic and saute just until it starts to turn golden and release its aroma. Add the ground meat and the herbs and spices of your choice; cook until the meat is no longer pink.
- Pour in the tomato sauce; mix well. Add the cooked rice and stir to combine thoroughly, heating it if necessary.
- Stuff the peppers firmly with the meat mixture; if you have more meat than peppers, pack it around the peppers. Tent with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil, top with cheese, and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.