Last week, towards the end of my food detox program, I decided to make some stuffed bell peppers. I had never made them before, and was used to eating them cooked with ground meat, rice, tomatoes, and so on, in a green pepper, Hungarian style. These are delicious, but my wife and I were trying to avoid using any red meat so I decided to experiment with flavors that I enjoyed when traveling through Spain and Morocco. We chose to make them vegetarian, but they turned out fantastically and I would happily serve them to all carnivores.
The stuffing was a mix of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, and spices, cooked in a homemade veggie stock I had in the freezer.
Spices are a simple and cheap way to make food taste great, unfortunately many don’t really know how to get the most out of them. What I’ve found is that it is absolutely necessary to heat your spices in a dry pan or in hot oil when using them in order to properly extract their flavors. The technique I will describe below was taught to me by an Indian vegetarian chef many years ago.
Stuffing: The quantities of vegetables you use are really up to you. I used an approximately equal portion of eggplant, green zucchini, carrots and tomatoes.
I stuffed 4 medium to large sized red bell peppers with 1 med. sized eggplant, 2 zucchinis, two carrots, 3 vine tomatoes, one large yellow onion, and two large garlic cloves.
Roughly cut your veggies into cubes, taking care to cut the carrots and eggplants a bit smaller.
Cut your onion into smaller, even pieces. The smaller the faster to cook, and the more even the pieces, the better the results. Roughly chop garlic, and use a bowl to mix your dry spices, which you’ll add during cooking.
I mixed about a tbls of curry powder(store bought), a tsp of cinnamon, a large tsp or cayenne and one of chili powder, a large tsp of cumin powder, and finally a large tsp of sweet paprika.
Have around a cup of stock, or water handy.
In a few table spoons of extra virgin olive oil at a med-hi heat, add fennel seeds, wait till they turn brown, add the onions, stirring often, until they start to turn golden brown at their edges. Add chopped garlic and cook for about 30 sec. *You want to make sure to have all your ingredients ready at this moment, because you don’t want to burn the spices when you add them. When you add the garlic, you can lower the heat on the burner.* After you’ve let the garlic cook, add your bowl of mixed spices, let them cook in the oil. The smell will be potent. Consider this a good sign, ahah. Let the spices cook for anywhere from 20 sec. to 1 min, depending on how hot your pan is. What you don’t want is for them to burn. When you feel that they’ve flavored and colored the oil, quickly add your tomatoes and stock. I’ve had times when my pan was scorching hot and this process became quite chaotic, with a thick cloud of spicy steam rising from the pan when I added my liquid, worried about the spices. Don’t worry, this process will become easier the more you do it, and occasionally your best dishes come out of a disorganized and uncontrolled mess, aha.
After you’ve added the liquid, you can add the rest of the vegetables, reduce your heat, and let them cook through. You want to let the liquid evaporate as much as possible. You don’t want to end up with a soup in a pepper.
Before starting your stuffing, prep your peppers by making a hole in the top and removing the seeds. Place them with the hole facing down in a roasting pan in your oven at around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. By placing them hole down, you’re making sure the steam from the cooking stays pocketed inside the pepper accelerating the cooking time. I felt that cooking the pepper before adding my stuffing would guarantee an even result.
To finish, add your stuffing your peppers and cook in the oven for 10 to 15 min. This is to have the flavors mix nicely between the stuffing and the pepper.
I used brown rice, to which I added saffron strands to give it color and to add flavor. Don’t add to much, you want to keep it on the light side.
When ready, serve the rice and peppers together, and I recommend adding some fresh cilantro and sprinkling a touch of lemon juice to the dish.
Hope this comes out nicely.