Friday, June 12, 2009

Less Italian Italian Stuffed Peppers.

You know that when peppers are served at lunch places where all the legislators show up on lunch breaks in Boston, they are not quite the same as those you see on your Nonna's table.  But they are pretty good, and not really a far cry from some Greek recipes on my bookshelf.  I use any Marinara or left over sauce from the day before.  Today I used the sauce I made with cubed round steak, cooked forever till the meat fell apart.  That was perhaps overkill as the stuffing has meat in it too and all that nice meaty sauce becomes redundant.  But that is what I had, and I did not have time to make fresh sauce.  It was a sauce that was a little thinner than usual, and that was a good thing, because it lets the rice absorb more moisture.

Bring four cups of water to a boil.  Do not add salt as the rice will absorb what is in the sauce and you want to control the salt when you can. 
Drop in 1 1/2 cups white rice.  Arborio would be excellent, but it would be expensive and you will have to play with the texture and correct doneness...if that is a word.
Boil at a reduced temperature for 10 minutes and drain.

Put one pound of ground beef or lamb in a bowl.  Add salt, Pepper, plenty of finely minced Garlic, 1T oregano, 1T basil, 1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms(or canned if you have nothing else) and one whole, finely minced onion. 
Drain the rice and put it on top of the meat mixture.  Stir and fold this all together till fairly uniformly mixed.
Meanwhile, halve four peppers top to bottom.  Remove the core, seeds and vanes.  Lay them into a lasagna pan and stuff the filling into them.  Mound the stuffing slightly but remember this will expand a bit more in the oven.
Pour sauce over the peppers and into the pan.  If it seems dry, add a bit of water or broth, but not too much as it will make it's own sauce.
Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Check to see if the peppers are tender...I like them almost collapsed...baste the sauce over the peppers half way through. 
When nearly done, baste again, and sprinkle with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs if you like, and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes. 
Serve with crusty bread and a nice red wine!

Try small zucchini, eggplants, onions or big tomatoes instead of peppers.  Hollow out and chop the flesh of the veggie into the stuffing.  Squeeze out the seeds and juice from the tomatoes.  If the zucchini or eggplant are really big, be selective as seeds may have developed, and you do not want that in your stuffing.

Remember that you are trying to bake the moisture from the meat, vegetables and sauce into the half done rice.  If this seems dry at any point, add some sort of liquid to keep the moisture up in the baking pan till the end.

Mom used to do her stuffing as just meatball mixture alone...that is wonderful, but it really requires a starch to go with it.

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