Summertime cuisine benefits from the plentiful array of fruits and vegetables. As the farmers markets overflow with bright and colorful produce, you start to run out of ideas for cooking it. Simply baking, grilling, boiling and frying vegetables gets old after a while, but what about stuffing them with cheese, rice, meat or a combination of all three?
One of my favorite vegetables to stuff comes in four colors: red, orange, yellow and green. Yes, I am talking about bell peppers. When I stuff bell peppers, I prefer using the red ones because their sweetness contributes to and enhances the flavors of each ingredient used in the stuffing.
A Greek-style stuffing balances well with the sweetness of red bell peppers.
For this recipe, begin the stuffing by sauteing a medium yellow onion, then add ground beef, pork, turkey or whatever ground meat you prefer -- I chose ground beef.
As the meat and onions cook in a large skillet, prepare the red bell peppers to be stuffed by slicing the tops of each one off and coring the inside so you have an open shell to stuff with your rice, meat and cheese mixture. Use a pairing knife to make small incisions within the pepper and use your hands to pull out whatever is left.
Once the peppers are cleaned and cored, drop them into a large pot of warm water for roughly five to six minutes. This will soften the peppers so the texture of the stuffing and pepper do not contrast as much.
After the meat and onions are fully cooked, deglaze the pan with white wine and add one can of tomato puree. I love the smell of white wine as it hits the pan and soaks into the onions and ground beef. For this mixture, in particular, the white wine aroma stays with the stuffing the entire time it cooks.
Now, it's time to add the rest of the ingredients to make this Greek-flavored stuffing. Feta cheese, raisins, rice, pine nuts and parsley bring this stuffing to a close. The various textures, colors and flavors added to the mixture make each bite exciting and new -- soft chunks of pungent feta, buttery and smooth pine nuts, sweet and chewy raisins and savory ground beef.
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Stir all the ingredients together, season with salt and pepper, if needed, then stuff away. Fill each pepper to the top, then cover with aluminum foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, then uncover and cook for ten more, or until the tops are golden brown.
The next time you want to cook with bell peppers, consider stuffing them, instead.