Cilantro

Cilantro

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

STUFFED PEPPERS IN TOMATO SAUCE




Every year in midsummer I look forward to one of my favorite dishes: stuffed peppers in tomato sauce. My mother made it several times during the summer season and she insisted using fresh, local peppers from the farmers’ market. I do the same. I am fortunate to have a large, not too distant farm-stand filled with seasonal produce.

Over the years they became too successful as a result of their fabulous corn know all over the region so they extended their display to bring in non-seasonal produce (like bananas and lime) and add other farmers’ crop on consignment—crops they don’t grown themselves. I disregard those and restrict my pick to whatever they grow. I don’t know how they do it but most of their crops have no equal in freshness, in their wholesome appearance and flavor.

To me, three items are exceptional on their stands: corn, bell peppers and cantaloupes. I take advantage of all three. Their bell peppers are huge: close to half a pound each and full of flavor. I select the ones that started to develop reddish streaks indicating they are beginning to ripen and now they have especially great flavor. I disregard the red peppers displayed next to the greens that are grown for color in salads—they don’t have the flavor of the green bells.

For stuffing the peppers I stop at the local butcher. He has mixture of ground pork, beef and veal in frozen one-pound packages. They are reasonably low in fat and found them to be by far the best in flavor unless I am willing to grind my own ground meat mix.

For the tomato sauce I have two choices: using fresh tomatoes whenever I can get good flavorful ripe ones or canned tomatoes and tomato paste whenever I cannot. Here is my stuffed pepper recipe, basically the same as that my mother made but slightly updated. Here I am using canned tomato paste (very convenient). Note the use of plenty of paprika; that attests to this dish's Hungarian heritage.

Stuffed Peppers
6 bell peppers, top cut off and seeds and membranes removed
Sauce
4½ cups tomato sauce (11 oz paste + 24 oz water)
¾ tsp salt
4 tsp sugar
medium roux made with 4 Tbsp flour and 4 Tbsp vegetable oil

Stuffing
½ lb ground beef
½ lb ground pork
(or lb each of pork, beef and veal)
1½ oz bacon, chopped and fried crisp
4 oz onion, lightly browned in bacon drippings
1 egg
½ cup uncooked white long-grain rice
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp paprika
½ tsp ground chili
4 Tbsp parsley, chopped

To make sauce, prepare roux by browning 4 Tbsp flour on 4 Tbsp vegetable oil, stirring constantly on low heat until beginning to turn color, about 4 minutes. Stir a few spoonfuls of sauce into the roux, and add it to the rest of the sauce to thicken.

To make stuffing, combine all stuffing ingredients. Spoon mixture into the peppers but don’t pack too tight. Place them into sauce, bring it to a slow simmer and continue to simmer for an hour on low heat, stirring often.

Serve with coarsely mashed plain potatoes with plenty of sauce. You may serve extra sauce on the side.

Serves six.

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