Monday, October 19, 2009

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are really fun vegetables to cook with, offering many tasty combinations and possibilities. Their color keeps beautifully when cooked, and their shape allows for some really creative and fun serving options. Below are some of my favorite bell pepper recipe. They are delicious and each use peppers in a completely different way. Happy cooking!

Creole Stuffed Peppers
courtesy of Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

4 large bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 jalapeƱos, cut in half, seeded, and finely sliced
1 cup carrots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons paprika
3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 15-oz. cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9x13-inch casserole dish with a little olive oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise through the stem end. For aesthetic purposes, try to leave the stem intact on one side; if you can't manage it, no love lost. Remove the seeds and membranes. Submerge the peppers in the boiling water and cover. Let them boil for 5 minutes, then drain them immediately and rinse with cold water to cool them down a bit.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, jalapeƱos, and carrots for about 10 minutes. You want the veggies to brown, especially the carrots. If it looks like they are steaming rather than browning, then raise the heat a bit. Add the garlic about 5 minutes into the cooking process.

Add the bay leaves, the other herbs and spices, and the salt; saute for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes and peas, stir and cover, and cook for 10 minutes. If it seems too liquidy then remove the cover and cook long enough to reduce some of the liquid. Mix in the parsley.

Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. The mixture will be hot, so we find it's easier to just remove the herbs while filling the peppers; just be on the lookout for them.

Spoon a little less than 1/2 cup of the veggie mixture into each pepper half. Again, the filling will be hot, so be careful while you are handling it. Place the pepper halves in the casserole dish and bake for about 25 minutes.

Lemon-Garlic Chick Pea Dip with Bell Peppers
courtesy of Rachael Ray

1 15-oz. can chick peas, drained
1 clove garlic, cracked from its skin
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, stripped from stems
coarse salt and pepper
a few drops hot sauce, to taste
1/4 or so of olive oil

Directions: combine all ingredients except olive oil into a food processor. While processing, stream in olive oil. Transfer to a dish, and serve with slices of raw bell pepper (and any other veggies you have on hand)!

Homemade Bell Pepper Pasta Sauce

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 bell peppers of assorted colors, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning, coarsely pureed by hand (just mash with a fork)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
fresh or dried basil, tarragon, parsley

Directions: Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add diced onion and saute until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, cooking until the garlic is fragrant, about another minute. While this is cooking, take the mashed diced tomatoes and add to it the tomato paste, herbs, pepper flakes, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pour this mixture into the onions, and simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the diced bell peppers, and continue to cook until the peppers are tender. Serve over pasta of your choice.

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