Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer veggies galore - Making stuffed green peppers

There's more to love about summer than just the great weather. As we pass the mid-point of the season, the harvesting of seasonal vegetables has begun. Here in Michigan, there is great bounty in the late summer and into the fall. Tomatoes, the sweetest corn, melons, blueberries, beans, beets, peaches, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, summer squash, zucchini, greens and all kinds of peppers. It's hard to go by a farmer's market or farm stand and not buy more than you can eat - it all looks so good. And when sweet corn is selling eight for a dollar and peppers are four for a dollar, what is one to do? Peel off a couple of bucks and get to cookin'!

It's funny how I often come back to dishes that my mom made for us growing up. In seeing these big, beautiful green bell peppers for sale, I couldn't help but recall the savory stuffed peppers I enjoyed as a kid. Peppers that were soft and tender, but strong enough to serve double-duty as bowls filled with ground meat, rice and tomato sauce. This is also a great make-ahead dish. Assemble everything and then the next day pop them in the oven. Feel free to make extras, because they are even better the next day.  Serve with a salad and crusty rolls or bread.

Stuffed Peppers

1/3 cup white rice
2/3 cup water
4 large bell peppers (green, red, or yellow), tops, ribs and seeds removed
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 top of green pepper, diced
1 sprig fresh basil (about 8 leaves -easy to have on hand if you grow your own!), chopped
1/2 lb ground chuck
1/2 lb ground pork (could use bulk pork sausage or Italian sausage here)
salt and pepper to taste
1 15 oz can tomato sauce

Rinse rice and put in pot. Add 2/3 cup of water and bring to a boil stir, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until tender - about 20 minutes. When rice is done, remove from heat and set aside.

In the meantime, clean out your peppers. Try to find peppers that will stand up straight, with a good wide bottom. Cut off the tops of the peppers, pull out the seeds and ribs. Reserve the tops - you will chop one of them up and put it in the meat mixture - eat the other ones! Bring a large pot of water to a boil and put in the four peppers. Reduce heat and simmer peppers about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from hot water and set aside to cool.

In a bowl, gently mix ground beef chuck and pork. Then put meat in a skillet and begin to brown. As the beef starts to sizzle, add your chopped vegetables (onion, celery and pepper). Add salt and pepper. Continue browning until meat is cooked and veggies are tender. Check for salt and pepper. Remove meat/veggie mixture from skillet (leave any grease in the pan) and put in a bowl. Add your rice, basil and HALF a can of the tomato sauce and combine. Put peppers in a casserole (that has a cover) or a baking dish (that you can put foil over) and distribute the filling evenly among the four pepper shells. Top shells with remaining tomato sauce. Bake covered at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Enjoy!

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