It’s all about family! Mama Irene’s stuffed peppers

It is all about family. I love being in the kitchen and cooking, but the greatest satisfaction after preparing a meal is having people to share it with. Entertaining and hosting dinners at my house is one of my favorite things to do—perhaps because it reminds me of home and getting together with my family.

I am one of those who believe that nobody cooks better than our mothers. They have the special touch to make food delicious and nourishing. Make no mistake—I may be able to cook refined dishes for selective palates, but I still love and appreciate the value of homey, comforting food.

Last time my mother-in-law, Mama Irene, came to visit California, she prepared her delicious stuffed peppers for us. This was the second time she made this dish at our home; both times it has given me nothing but warm-and-fuzzies. So I decided to ask for her recipe, even though I don’t use them often. Lucky for me there wasn’t a set recipe but general guidelines… “about a cup of… maybe a pinch of….”. That’s my style.

Inspired by Mama Irene’s dish, I’ve come up with a recipe that is simple, fast, and easy to make. It is light and low in calories; however, this one-pot meal is full of flavor and pizzaz!

INGREDIENTS   

  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Coarse sea salt

 Tomato Sauce

  • 4 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth

Peppers

Stuffing

  • 1.5 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup fontina chese, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • ¼ cup shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tsp smoked red pepper (subst. 1 tsp paprika)
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 10 mixed long bell peppers
  • 1 lb babyYukon potatoes, sliced in half
  • ½ onion, thinly sliced

PREPARATION 

Tomato Sauce

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender; season with salt and pepper to taste. Process on high for about 30 seconds or until the sauce is smooth. Strain onto a small sauce pan, cover, and set on stove at medium heat until it boils. Reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Peppers 

Preheat oven at 375º degrees. 

Combine all stuffing ingredients in a large bowl; add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and mix to incorporate. Set aside.

Place potatoes and sliced onions at the bottom of a baking dish*; sprinkle with salt and pepper and add a drizzle of olive oil. Cut tops from peppers and remove seeds. Stuff each pepper with the turkey mixture all the way to the top and cover with pepper-top; place over potatoes. Repeat this for all remaining peppers.

Pour tomato sauce over all peppersCover baking dish and set in the oven for 45 minutes.
Remove dish from oven and let peppers rest, uncovered for at least 4-5 minutes before serving.

* I use a ceramic, deep baking dish that comes with a lid. I use the potatoes to help me hold the peppers in place and somewhat vertical.

 PLATING

 Place 2-3 peppers in the center of a plate or shallow bowl; arrange potatoes on the side and top with sliced onions. Using a slotted spoon, add some of the tomato sauce on top of the peppers.

TIPS

I serve this dish with a cilantro sauce that has crema, fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Everyone’s taste is different!! I suggest you add salt and pepper to taste since I generally cook lower in salt than most. It’s always better to start with little, taste, and adjust. You can always add more salt if it needs it, but you don’t want to ruin a dish by making it too salty.

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