Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I almost made it one whole week without posting a recipe. That's right, I'm not counting the one post about food between this one and the streusel cake. That post was more about my family than it was about food, methinks.

This post has an actual recipe, with real measurements and whatnot. I didn't riff off another recipe or even do a search on epicurious.com to find any sort of guidelines. I went to the store, saw some lovely red bell peppers, and decided that I was going to wing it. In the spirit of winging it, my measurements are from memory, not from fastidious measuring while cooking.

Turned out quite well, actually (pats self on back), but would have been better with a hearty green, like kale or mustard greens, perhaps even collard greens. Next time, definitely adding in something green. Even if it is just frozen peas. Yum.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 4

4 bell peppers (any color)
Oil spray or a bit of oil for greasing, preferably vegetable or canola
Glug of oil, vegetable or olive
3/4 pound ground turkey
1 onion, diced
1 can (14.5 ounces, I think?) diced tomatoes
3/4 cup cooked or par-cooked rice (햇반)
1/3 cup or so shredded hard cheese (Parmesan and Romano for me)

Very easy, this dish, so easy that I never remember how to make it. Every single time I think, 'stuffed peppers would be nice,' I make them a different way. This time, I made them because I really wanted something comforting and warm and filling. Like pasta, but not pasta. If that makes sense.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with some sort of cooking spray or grease with oil (NOT butter).

Wash and trim the bell peppers, removing the seeds. I cut the peppers into three rings, the last ring being more of a cup, since it was the bottom of the pepper. I don't feel the need to slice in half and keep all the pieces looking like a cup unless it's a very runny filling, which this is certainly not- the cheese and turkey keep the filling and pepper very much together. Place the bell pepper rings on the prepared baking dish.

Heat oil in a skillet that's large enough for all the ingredients except the peppers. I used nonstick because I love nonstick. Cook the turkey. Note that I write "cook," not "brown." Turkey has no fat in it (or maybe it's 2% fat?) so it doesn't really brown the way beef does. It chars. And I don't like burnt turkey, it's just not appetizing. Add some salt and pepper.

Once the turkey is about halfway cooked, add the onions and stir. I like very well-cooked onions- I don't eat raw onions at all, not even in salads or sandwiches, and I usually cook my onions to mush. If you like raw onions, just cook the turkey by itself and add the onion in later (though I think the onion juices help the turkey). Season with salt and pepper (I used some Lawry's seasoning salt here).

(If I was going to add kale, I would do it just after the onions have released some of their juices.)

Saute away until everything's cooked. Turn off the heat and add the can of tomatoes, juices and all. Stir to combine. Sneak a taste and see if it needs anything. Stir in the rice. Let this cool a bit, if you have the time- it's not necessary, though, just helps because the cheese won't melt, which helps in getting the filling into the peppers. Stir in the cheese, reserving a bit for the topping.

Spoon the mixture into the bell peppers, top with the remaining cheese. Loosely cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Take off the foil and bake for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and brown and the peppers are yielding.

I like slightly firm peppers, and 30 minutes in the oven gives me the texture I want. I know some people like raw peppers, so as long as the filling's completely cooked, it can stay in the oven just long enough for the peppers to heat and the cheese to melt, probably ten minutes. On the other hand, for people that like very mushy peppers, leave the foil on and bake for a longer period of time, then take the foil off just for the last 10 minutes.

Easy and delicious. And the potatoes, little baby Yukon golds, were a total cheat. I love potatoes but I hate how long they take to cook. This is my cheat, which I've been using for years: wash the potatoes very well. While they're still a bit wet, wrap them in plastic wrap. Take a sharp paring knife and stab the potato a few times. Put the plastic-wrapped potato in the microwave and nuke it.

I find that a medium Russet takes about 5 minutes until cooked through but not fall-apart-mush. These baby Yukons were microwaved for three minutes (individually wrapped but cooked at the same time) and they were a little too squishy for me. Still delicious, but I like my veggies with a little bite (terrible picture- the lights in my house are very dim).

As for the peppers- I only bought two peppers. The filling pictured in the first photo is what was leftover. I find that these taste better if the peppers are baked right before eating. Peppers that get baked and then refrigerated and then re-heated are kind of gross.

Perhaps I should explain about that 햇반 (pronounced 'heht-bahn' or something like that) up there in the list of ingredients. These are individually packaged pre-cooked containers of rice for the lazy person or the person that doesn't have a rice cooker. I used one package, which I think is 3/4 cup or so, but it might be 1 cup.

The lid is peeled back a little bit (there is a line printed on it to tell you when to stop) and then the contraption goes into the microwave for two minutes. I didn't microwave for this recipe, I just opened and scooped. I figured that it would be in the oven for half an hour, it didn't need to precook in the microwave- and I was right!

If I had been at my mother's house, the land of always-available-fresh-rice-cooker rice, I would have used that. But alas, I was in my own house of laziness and convenience. So microwaveable packages of rice it is!

On a completely unrelated note, Christmas shopping has been a beast this year. I don't leave work until after stores are closed, so I've been using Amazon quite heavily. It's very annoying, though, and I get charged like crazy for shipping (really, every single vendor is going to charge me how much??) and it's just generally making me want to skip the entire present-giving ritual this year.

Makes me want to skip most Christmas rituals- the thought of Christmas baking leaves me quite cold. I'm sure I'll enjoy it once I get to it ... but that's only if I ever get to it. I can't believe it's already December, much less December 8. Christmas is only two and a half weeks away!


Diana E. December 8, 2009 at 4:49 PM  

"But alas, I was in my own house of laziness and convenience. So microwaveable packages of rice it is!"

Hahaha! My entire first year and a half of rice in Korea.

jeanny December 9, 2009 at 9:41 AM  

I feel guilty when I use them. First of all, they're so expensive compared to 20-pound bags of rice!

And second of all, it's TOO EASY. It scares me that it's so instantaneous!