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Blog

bella terra: stuffed

Andrea

Hello hello! Goodness, there were a few days there that I felt like I was never going to get back to Bella Eats. Life has been busy, my friends, but in a very good way. The kind of way that makes you feel really good about what you’re doing, and very thankful for the support of your understanding husband who winds up single-handedly taking on the domestic tasks of keeping us both fed and in clean clothes, while simultaneously helping me make invitation design decisions and proofreading documents for presentations.

He’s a keeper, that one, as are all of you for your very sweet comments on my last post. I apologize for not being as present in comment response as I should be, but wanted you all to know how much each and every one means to me. If you asked a question, and I think there were only a couple, I answered it in the last day or so at the bottom of the comments. And please, if you ever have a question for me that requires a timely response, feel free to send me an email - I’m usually better with those.

Stuffed

There has been a lot of stuffing happening around our house these last few weeks, and I don’t just mean boxes full of wedding invitations for a friend or images into a presentation for a big board meeting. I mean stuffed peppers. And squash. It all started with a dinner party thrown by our dear friend Amy, who hosts fabulous gatherings at which everybody cooks a dish based on a theme for the evening. Sometimes the theme is a specific ingredient such as almonds or chocolate, and other times it is based on a method of cooking or assembly. A month or so ago the theme was “stuffed!”, and we enjoyed the food so much that Brian and I have been replicating recipes ever since.

Stuffed-5

The timing worked out perfectly, as we had just traded extra bell peppers from our garden for a friend’s over-abundance of homegrown pattypan squash. If you’ve ever grown squash, you know that two people can’t possibly consume all of the bounty from one little squash plant. Its unreal. We planted summer squash two years ago and were so over it by the end of the season that we haven’t planted any since. The same goes for eggplant. Next year we’re planning to coordinate with our friends and plan more regular produce swaps, to take advantage of the space we each have and be sure that nothing will go to waste. Our own mini version of a CSA.

Stuffed-2

Peppers are a different story. I never get tired of them, and the only reason for sharing is when I know that we can’t possibly finish them before they start to get soft. I haven’t always felt that way as growing up, I only knew of one type of bell pepper - green. They made appearances in the stir fries, fajitas and supreme pizzas of my childhood, their distinct earthy flavor permeating whatever dish they graced. I wouldn’t have called myself a fan, but I didn’t mind them either. Like milk with breakfast and  brushing my teeth before bed, the emerald bells were just an ever-present part of my life that I didn’t bother to question.

Stuffed-6

Sometime in college I discovered that bell peppers came in colors other than green, and the rainbow beauties started making their way into my cart each week at the market. I found the sunset-hued varieties to be much more versatile than the green, and added them to my usual pepper-laden dishes as well as pastas, quiches and salads. They aren’t inexpensive, so when I found out we could grow them in Virginia I was quite excited.

Our garden has seen them all. The first summer we were a little over-zealous with our pepper patch, planting green, purple, red, yellow and orange bells, along with one lone (although incredibly productive) banana pepper plant. Our kitchen saw much pepper experimentation that season, as we learned that we really weren’t fans of green bells anymore, that the beautiful eggplant color fades from the purple bells when they are cooked (leaving you, essentially, with a green bell) and that we couldn’t possibly keep up with the harvest from one banana pepper plant (although, now that we know how to pickle, I think we’ll try again next year).

Stuffed-7

As summer winds down we are cherishing the last red and yellow bell peppers coming out of the garden.  Smaller than those we were getting a couple of weeks ago, but every bit as tasty, they’ve added a mild sweetness and lovely color to frittatas, stir fry, fajitas, homemade pizzas and summer salads. Our favorite use lately has been to sauté thinly sliced red peppers with strips of onion, minced garlic and fresh kale, then to pile the whole mixture on top of grilled spicy Italian sausage drizzled with dijon mustard and encased in a crusty bun. So delicious, so summer.

And then, of course, there is the Stuffed! pepper option.  Always a winner in my book, I finally convinced Brian of their merit a few years ago when I made them using red and yellow bells instead of green.  We tried the same stuffing recipe with pattypan squash, with much success.  Pattypan has such a mild flavor that it lends itself well to a full-flavored filling.

Stuffed-8

I came up with this recipe on a whim, adding ingredients to the stuffing until it looked and tasted the way I thought it should.  The result was quite tasty but I encourage you to tweak to suit your own tastes.

Stuffed Peppers or Squash

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 bell peppers (preferably red or yellow), 4 medium patty pan squash

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice

  • 1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

  • 1/2 cup raw red onion

  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper (from the tops that you'll cut off)

  • 3 roma tomatoes, seeds removed, diced

  • 1 can black beans, drained

  • 1/4 tsp cumin

  • 1/4 tsp ancho chile pepper, OR 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle on top


Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400*.

  2. For Peppers:  Cut the tops off of the peppers.  Cut out the interior ribs and remove all seeds.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and drop the peppers in so that they fill with water.  Boil for 1-2 minutes, until the peppers are starting to soften and turn a brighter shade of yellow/red/green.  Remove from water, drain and set aside.

  3. For Squash:  Cut tops off of squash as you would a pumpkin.  Scrape out interior seeds and strings, discard.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and drop the squash in.  Boil for 5-8 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender.  Remove and drain, set aside.

  4. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cooked rice, corn, red onion, diced bell pepper, and roma tomatoes.  Drain the beans and press or squish with your palms before adding to the rice mixture (some beans will remain whole, but most should be squished).  Add cumin, chile pepper, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add 1/2 cup cheese and set aside.

  5. Line a baking dish with foil and set peppers or squash in dish.  Fill with rice mixture until full, and sprinkle top with cheddar cheese.

  6. Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.  Turn on broiler for last minute or two if you want to brown the cheese a bit.  Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving on a bed of rice.


Stuffed-9

Chiles Rellenos

serves 4

This recipe is nearly identical to the one above.  But, there are a couple of ingredient changes and the method for preparing the peppers is a little different.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 medium-size poblano peppers

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice

  • 1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

  • 1/2 cup raw yellow onion

  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper

  • 3 roma tomatoes, seeds removed, diced

  • 1 can black beans, drained

  • 1/4 tsp cumin

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle on top


Method:

  1. Move rack to top of oven.  Turn broiler on hi.

  2. Place peppers in a baking dish.  Place under broiler and broil until all sides are charred, turning accordingly, for 3-5 minutes.  (See photo on left below for peppers just after charring).  Remove and turn off oven.

  3. Put hot peppers in a gallon-size ziplock and seal.  Let "sweat" for 30 minutes in bag.

  4. After 30 minutes, remove peppers from bag.  Skin should be easy to peel from peppers - remove it all.  Cut a slice in one side of each pepper and remove all ribs and seeds from interior.  IMPORTANT - If you are sensitive to heat, make sure to remove ALL of the ribs as this is where the heat lies.  Also WASH YOUR HANDS many many many times with soap and water before touching your eyes, nose, mouth etc.

  5. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cooked rice, corn, onion, diced bell pepper, and roma tomatoes.  Drain the beans and press or squish with your palms before adding to the rice mixture (some beans will remain whole, but most should be squished).  Add cumin, salt and pepper, mix well.  Add 1/2 cup cheese and set aside.

  6. Line a baking dish with foil and set peppers or squash in dish.  Fill with rice mixture until full, and sprinkle top with cheddar cheese.

  7. Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.  Turn on broiler for last minute or two if you want to brown the cheese a bit.  Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving on a bed of rice.


Stuffed Merge 2

This weekend, Brian and I are off to Brooklyn for a childhood friend's (mine) wedding.  We are so excited, even though we'll only be in the city for about 48 hours.  As with all of our vacations, we are planning this one entirely around food (except for the wedding of course, but the lovely bride has Baked! catering the desserts!!!).  If you have any suggestions for your favorite foodie havens in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn...send them on!  And expect a full photographic review of our trip next week...!