So I already admitted to you that I am not a big meat eater, which means that I don't make and post many "main dishes" here on The Cilantropist. And while I know that main dishes can certainly be meatless, they still seem to be lacking. Is this just because I love soups and salads so much? Or is it something else?
Because I don't really think this idea is as simple as "I don't eat much meat." I think it means something different: I think it means that I don't yet have a family to feed, and that there are no little hungry mouths that are depending on me to provide them with a well-balanced meal. And sure, I have a boyfriend (with a big hungry mouth to feed), but even he is not depending on me since he is currently more than 6,000 miles away. When it comes down to it, I can really eat whatever tickles my fancy, because at this exact point in my life, the only person that I am responsible for is me.
Is this is a luxury? Many would say yes, and both my brain and my tastebuds would probably agree (who doesn't want cookies for dinner?). I am sure more than a few of my readers would tell me to enjoy these carefree days while they last. But I am just as sure that other readers would say that they throughly enjoy feeding their families and spouses, and although it is a responsibility, it is one they would never trade for anything. And so while I do appreciate the luxury of languishing over a batch of ladyfingers or spending hours with my friend The Kitchen, I don't know that I actually want that luxury anymore; feeding people is really what I love the most about cooking, and my heart tells me that I want something more.
And so it is this type of thinking that makes this blog what it is: a smattering of all types of recipes from The Carefree Cilantropist that include crepes and pickles and more cookies plus recipes from The Responsible Cilantropist like roast chicken and these classic stuffed peppers. Because whenever I do have a family, they will definitely love my cookies, but I will still have to feed them dinner.
And these stuffed peppers really are the perfect meal for a family or a crowd. Think about it: they have vegetable, meat, and starch all wrapped up in a perfect little pepper package. The ingredients are not exotic and are relatively inexpensive, the recipe doesn't require any special techniques or exotic gadgets, and once they are prepared they hold up to refrigeration and freezing well.
Now you might tell me that you have never been a huge fan of stuffed peppers. You might say that you don't really know why, but for whatever reason you don't count them among your favorite foods. I absolutely feel the same way. But recently, I have seen several recipes for variations on classic stuffed peppers that use orzo and feta or quinoa. Seeing these yummy dishes made me think that I should revisit stuffed peppers and give them a second chance, but I figured I should master the basic recipe before I started doing anything crazy. And you know what? These stuffed peppers were fantastic, in the way that only a simple meal with simple ingredients can be. So I would urge you to give these a try yourself. You might just as surprised as I was, and you can feel good knowing you are eating a well-balanced meal.
Classic Stuffed Peppers
4 yellow, orange or red peppers
3/4 lbs lean ground beef
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups or more diced sweet onions (about 1/2 of one large onion)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp fresh parsley, diced
1 8-oz. can of tomato sauce
1 14.-oz. can of stewed Italian tomatoes, Italian recipe (with basil, garlic, and oregano)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, then start by preparing the peppers. Slice off the top of each pepper, and reserve the tops. Then remove the seeds and the ribs from the inside of the pepper, and boil the whole peppers in a pot of salted water for 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of your peppers. Drain the water and allow the peppers to dry and cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, dice up the peppers from the reserved tops; for mine this was about 1 1/2 cups diced peppers. Then combine with diced sweet onions to make a total of 3 cups of diced vegetables; set aside. (If your pepper tops give less than 1 1/2 cups of dice, just increase the amount of diced onion.)
Next, add a splash of olive oil to a large skillet, and quickly saute minced garlic over medium heat for a minute or two. Then add ground beef, a few pinches of salt and pepper, and cook until beef is just browned, breaking up any large clumps. Transfer browned beef to a plate lined with a paper towel; leave the remaining fat or oil in the pan, and add reserved diced vegetables. Saute vegetables over medium heat until onions are just translucent. Then add oregano, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet, saute for one additional minute, and transfer the seasoned vegetable mixture to a large bowl. To make the filling for the stuffed peppers, add the cooked brown rice and the browned beef to the same bowl and mix well; then taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Finally, make a quick sauce by combining tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and tomato paste in a food processor. Pulse until smooth, taste and add salt or pepper as needed.
To fill peppers, place each cooled pepper upright in a square baking dish or casserole dish. Spoon filling equally into each pepper, then spoon tomato sauce over the filled peppers. Bake stuffed peppers at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired, and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.