Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Stuffed Bell Peppers
Right now I am in the middle of the 5 minutes in my life where I feel completely caught up. A magical moment. The kids' school and extra curricular activities are up to date, all the demands of teachers and coaches met (I think?). Clients lined up to keep me busy at work - which is an amazing thing for a freelancer as you never feel you can relax and not worry about your next gig. I even exercised this morning with a clear conscience and painted my nails a lovely candy color (blueish lilac, if you must know). Life is good. I want to remember this moment.
And what about the food? Ah, of course, food. How about we talk about stuffed peppers? Those are extremely popular in Russia, especially in the summer months, when bell peppers are abundant. It is the smell of my childhood summer weekends: bell peppers being cooked by my mom, then served with sour cream. Bell peppers are different in Russia from what we see here in regular supermarkets: they are longer, more delicate and have thinner skin. They are usually referred to as "sweet peppers" or "Bulgarian peppers."
This is not my mom's recipe. My mom cooked a very simple version: ground meat (beef or pork) and rice stuffed inside peppers and stewed with tomatoes. This version has added cheese to bind the filling together and instead of stewing them we will bake them. Because American bell peppers are so thick-skinned we will have to pre-cook them in water - a trick I learned from a cookbook.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
1 tablespoon salt
4 bell peppers, cored
1/2 cup white rice
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press
~3/4 lb ground beef
1 can (14.5 oz, 450 gr) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/4 cups (140 gr) grated cheese, such as Cheddar and Monterey Jack
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped dill
freshly ground black pepper
In a pot, bring to boil enough water to cover the peppers. Add salt and peppers and cook about 3 minutes, until soft. Remove with slotted spoon and let cool. In the meantime, cook rice in the same water the peppers were cooked in, for about 13 minutes. Drain.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Saute onions in oil until translucent, add garlic and cook another minute. Add ground beef and cook until brown, breaking up lumps. Mix this mixture with rice, tomatoes, cheese, parsley, dill and pepper. Divide this filling between the 4 peppers. Sprinkle more cheese on top if desired. Bake about 25-30 minutes. Serve with sour cream if you desire authentically Russian experience :).