Monday, April 23, 2012

Middle Eastern Stuffed Bell Peppers

I adapted this recipe from America's Test Kitchen's Perfect Vegetables cookbook. These stuffed peppers are relatively easy to make, yet they have a lot of "I-slaved-all-day-preparing-these" presence sitting on the plate! My husband absolutely loves this recipe and thinks it's a big deal when I serve them! I have to admit, I like all the kudos I get when I make these! Ha! You can easily double the recipe to serve for guests or to make enough for your kids (however, as much as I'd like to say all my kids love these, they don't...only one out of three gives it a thumbs up- I think the flavors are a little too complex for most kids' palates).  Serve with a simple side salad and naan bread if you like!

2 medium red bell peppers (when buying the bell peppers make sure that they have flat bottoms and can "stand" up on their own)
1 Tbl olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
6 ounces lean ground beef (you can also use ground lamb)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbl currants (if you cannot find currants, raisins will do, however, you might want to chop the raisins first because they are about double the size of currants)*
1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes
1 c. COOKED long grain brown or white rice
1/3 c. crumbled Feta cheese
1 - 2 Tbl fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tbl roasted & salted cashews, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F

Cut about 1/2 inch off the tops of the bell peppers. Discard the core and the seeds. You can keep the tops - they look pretty placed on top when serving. Place the bell peppers in an oven safe dish and cook at 350F for 15 minutes. If you notice any liquid at the bottom of the peppers when you remove them from the oven just dump it out. Return peppers to the dish cut side up.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the beef (or lamb), cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, and cayenne pepper. Cook, breaking up the beef into small pieces until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger and currents and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Take pan off heat and add tomatoes, rice, Feta and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste (I use roughly 3/4 tsp salt- but, remember that Feta is salty- and you can always add salt, but, not take it away- so, do this slowly).

Fill each bell pepper with beef mixture. You should be able to use almost all of the beef mixture between the two peppers. Sprinkle with cashews on top.

Cook at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately! Enjoy!

*Whenever I use currants or raisins in a recipe, I always soak them in very hot water for about five minutes to plump them up (drain excess water). This takes them from being hard and sticky to plump and moist.

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