Monday, 2 May 2011

STUFFED PEPPERS with RICE, RAISINS and PINE NUTS

Welcome to the first Monday of this month of May. Today I chose to make stuffed peppers from a recipe to be found on Martha Stewart's website. It's a recipe that was contributed by Mrs Kostyra, who was Martha's mother, and I thought it would be a timely choice since mother's day is so close.

A mixture of rice, raisins and pine nuts may sound strange to some, but it's a popular combination of ingredients in almost all the cuisines of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  I think this recipe makes a nice "ushering of spring" meal. The colourful peppers and vegetables look as good as they taste. The only drawback for me was that I didn't have time to go to my grocer, so I purchased the peppers at my local supermarket. I didn't check the price, but I found out during checkout that they cost $4.70 per pound. I wound up paying close to $19.00 for 6 peppers. Way too much.  Oops! 

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 5 small tomatoes, cored, seeded, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 2 oranges)
  • 6 nice sized yellow bell peppers (or get orange ones if you prefer)
  • 1 medium red pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water, plus another 4 tablespoons broth or water. 
  • 1 cup rice (uncooked)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 scallions, white and soft green parts, chopped
  • 3 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley plus 6 sprigs
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Spread the pine nuts in single layer on a small baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through baking to make sure the pine nuts toast evenly.
  • Line up the tomato slices on the bottom of a baking pan that's going to be just large enough to hold the 6 peppers. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, sprinkle a little olive oil on top, and place a piece of thyme sprig on each slice.
  • Combine the raisins and orange juice in a small bowl. Let stand until the raisins are plumped, about 15 minutes.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut around the stems of the peppers. Core and seed them, reserving the stems. Set aside.
  • In a sauce pan, bring the broth or water to a boil. Add the rice, and simmer, covered, until the rice is just a little undercooked, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions, chopped pepper and shallots, and cook until the shallots are translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

The combination of basil, raisins and orange juice give the stuffing an incredibly delicious flavor.
  • Stir in the chopped tomatoes and the raisins with their orange juice.  Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the thyme leaves, basil, parsley and pine nuts, stirring to combine. Stir in the cooked rice.
  • Fill each pepper with one sixth of the rice mixture. Cap each pepper with the reserved pepper stems.
  • Fit the peppers into the baking dish on top of the tomatoes, and place the parsley sprigs between them. Pour 4 tablespoons of water over the peppers and sprinkle them with the remaining olive oil.
  • Cover with parchment paper-lined aluminum foil, and bake for one hour.
  • Uncover, and continue to bake until the peppers are tender and the rice is heated through, about 30 minutes longer.
  • The peppers will be done when they appear shriveled up; That's when they get really tender: their skin can literally be peeled off. Make sure there's always liquid left in the bottom of the pan. This way the peppers and the rice will stay moist through out the baking process.
 Serve and enjoy!