Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm So Stuffed Peppers!

I'm So Stuffed Peppers!
Servings: 1-3

6 Large Bell Peppers*
1 Sweet Onion
Fresh Mushrooms (12-16 ounces)
2 Cups of Basmati Rice (Dry)**
4 Cups of Water***
2 Vegetable Bullion Cubes***
¼ Cup Red Wine (Cab. Sav. or Merlot)
3 LBS Fresh Tomatoes (or 2-28oz Cans of Diced Tomatoes)****
Olive Oil
2 TBS Minced Garlic
1 tsp Cumin
Fresh Ground Pepper
Parsley (if dry put with the uncooked rice, mix fresh with rice after cooked)

*If you want your bell peppers to stand up after they are cooked (this looks better for presentation) you should select a large pepper at the market and find yourself a flat surface to stand it up on, if it will not stand on it’s own, it will fall over on your plate.
**You can substitute jasmine rice if you would like, but I do not use white because it does not taste as good and brown is a pain in the ass to cook.
***If you have some disposable income use Vegetable stock or broth instead of water and omit the bullion cubes. I prefer water and the fake chicken bullion myself, but I am on welfare.
****Sometimes I use half fresh and half canned tomatoes. If at least half of your tomatoes are fresh it will taste fresh.

Let’s start off by opening the bottle of wine so it can breathe. Now that that’s done be sure that before you start tasting the wine that you save enough for the recipe. If you are not sure that you can do that, make sure you have more wine first or consider buying your wine by the case. Pour your glass and put on some sexy music because we’re going to make magic here.

Clean your peppers by cutting the top off as you would if you were carving a pumpkin. You could probably carve them like pumpkins if you wanted to, but they might fall apart if you get carried away so I would not recommend it. If you selected large peppers like I suggested earlier, then you will be able to get your fat fingers in them with a paring knife to remove the membrane and seedlings. Rinse with water inside and out and clean with a veggie washing product if you are worried about e-coli. When I cut them I keep the stem attached, like a pumpkin, so I have something to hold onto and so it will look intact when it is put back together. When you clean each pepper, place the corresponding top back on it so that it will match up correctly. Presentation is important with this dish because it can get sloppy if you are not careful. Set the 6 cleaned and reassembled peppers onto a 9X16 baking pan and set them aside.

I like to do my rice in a rice cooker. It is easier and it gives you more time to set everything else up. A rice cooker is not expensive, as I am on welfare and I have one. If you do not want to invest in one, you can also cook your rice on the stove but I will not tell you how to do that. Pour a little olive oil into the bottom of the rice cooker and use a piece of plastic wrap to spread it around the reservoir (to ensure the rice does not stick to bad). Add the water, rice, cubes of bullion, cumin, fresh ground pepper and parsley if you’re using dry. Stir and place the lid on, then switch it to “Cook” mode (or follow the directions with your cooker if there is no “Cook” mode. You may notice that I have included more water in this option than some Basmati rice packages call for; what can I say, I’m a maverick.

Now that your rice is cooking and you’re probably going on that 2nd glass of wine, finish it up and start cutting up your onion and mushrooms. Dice the onions finely, but leave the mushrooms in chunks about the size of a marble. If they are too small they seem to disappear. If you are using fresh parsley cut that up at this time along with your fresh garlic. Divide your onions, mushrooms, garlic and fresh parsley (if applicable) into two segments. Set one aside and get the other one ready for the next step. Dice your tomatoes and have them ready as well.

Heat a large and deep skillet over medium-high heat (if you do not have one a large pot will work). Cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil (about 6 tsp). Add your onions, mushrooms and garlic. Sauté until it is sizzling and steaming before adding your red wine. Occasionally stir and sauté until the onions become soft then add your diced tomatoes. Reduce to medium-low heat and cook another 15 minutes. Your tomato sauce will probably cook after your rice is done, this is okay, just turn the rice cooker off and leave the lid on. The rice is hot enough, when it is done cooking, to melt though a safe anyway.

While your tomato sauce is finishing up, add any reserved fresh herbs and the remaining onions, mushrooms and garlic. Mix well.

When the tomato sauce has cooked down a little, turn off the heat. Add the cooked seasoned rice to the seasoned vegetable mixture. Mix well then heat your oven to 350.

Use a tablespoon to scoop the rice mixture into the peppers. Fill them to the top but do not pack them down until each pepper is full. Restore the top to each pepper before moving to the next to ensure they match up and seal correctly. If you have remaining rice, use the spoon to pack the rice of each pepper down and add more. If there is still additional rice set it aside for a snack. Use a ladle to add the tomato sauce over each pepper and between them. Fill the pan leaving about 2 inches from the top and cover the pan with foil (if you have additional tomato sauce set it aside). Place the peppers into the oven and bake for at least an hour. If you had remaining rice, add some remaining tomato sauce for a snack while you wait on the peppers to bake. Any remaining tomato sauce can be placed into a gravy boat and put in the microwave until the peppers are done. Turn the microwave on for a minute or two and you will have additional tomato sauce for the table. Finish up any wine at this time, then open some more to share with your guests. Set the table and take a cigarette break. The peppers are done when you can easily tear them apart with a fork, the tomato sauce begins to thicken, the house smells really good and your friends are salivating. For an added touch place each pepper on a plate and garnish with some additional tomato sauce and some fresh parsley or basil. You can add a cheese substitute after they are done and return them to the oven for a few minutes to melt before removing and garnishing with the fresh herbs (just be sure you’re using a soy cheese that is actually vegan and actually tastes good!)

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