Stuffed With Peppers

My parents’ generation grew up in harsh conditions.  WWII was not kind to Serbia and many went hungry for years. Their view of food is very much akin to that of the Americans who survived the Great Depression. Meat was a luxury, served at holidays, and occasionally in the winter, through various reincarnations of the venerated pig (there was no part of the hog that was left unused). Wheat bread was reserved for the well-off, and the poor ate corn.  The main dishes were soupy, filled with vegetables and grains, and served with a lot of bread to sop up the juices and fool the belly into feeling satisfied. In some really large poor families,  mothers would frequently add a hefty amount of hot peppers so kids would eat less. It was a cruel, but unfortunately practical world in which children were dispensable, and men working the fields were kept at the top of the food chain.

Just like any other country’s peasant fare, Serbian traditional dishes, even today, contain small amounts of meat, hidden amongst piles of cabbage, carrots, peppers, eggplant, rice, or potatoes. Most of them, you eat with a spoon and several thick pieces of fresh bread. They are satisfying, simple, hearty, non-pretentious dishes. Not something you would seek when dining out, but definitely a first choice when coming home for the weekend from the University or after a camping trip with friends.

We usually spend summers in Serbia, and the peppers are everywhere, in all shapes, colors and sizes, their aroma permeating the market. Mother would carefully cut the stem out of each shiny, rounded, pale yellow pepper, loosely stuff them with onions sauteed with ground beef, salt, pepper, and a handful of nutty short-grained rice.  She would close the opening with a round slice of potato and lay them snuggly in a pot, potato facing up, covered with water and just a little bit of homemade tomato sauce. They would simmer for an hour or so, filling the kitchen with an irresistible  smell that always made me feel safe, comforted, and happy. When the skin became wrinkly and the peppers plump, she would serve them right from the pot; no side dish was necessary, just some good bread and a hungry crowd.

The young Beasties clamored for some stuffed peppers. I made Mother’s version several times this past winter. This time I decided to risk rebellion and take the stuffed peppers on a southeasterly trip.  They still contained the essence of summer, but offered a different approach in spices and seasonings which packed some intense flavors and an interesting mouth-feel.

We have befriended the Mexican butchers who run the meat department in our local Persian store. I practice my rudimentary Spanish with them, and they correct me. Husband tips them unobtrusively every time, so we do not have to worry about the quality of meat that ends up in our basket. I had them grind the lamb, imagining the tasty detour the peppers would make.

The Beasties observed, tasted, looked at each other, and continued eating. They did not stage a rebellion. The only complaint: not enough sauce. Well, I can live with that. I was safe! Sure, it was not Mother’s recipe, but it was unbelievably good. It did not fly me home with the speed of light, but it brought a dose of mystery, a sense of the exotic, the smell of comfort and the unknown at the same time.

The imaginary wrinkled, gray-haired, tired man I thought of while eating these peppers was not of Serbian descent. He was a Berber, somewhere in Maghreb, but his smile was the same. I bet he used a lot of pita to pick up the juices off his plate. And he laughed with his family, satiated and happy with the lingering taste of sweet peppers on his lips.

Blog-checking lines: Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

MOROCCAN STUFFED PEPPERS

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium bell peppers (I used two red, two yellow)
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • 1 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp paprika (hot or sweet )
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup prepared tomato sauce

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Cut the peppers in half and cut off the stem. Heat the oil on medium temperature in a heavy skillet, add ground lamb and spices. Stir until browned 5-6 minutes Add onion and garlic, and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add rice, stir until it becomes transluscent and nutty-flavored, 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and lemon juice, and stir for 2-3 minutes more. Stuff the peppers and lay them on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with prepared tomato sauce.

Moroccan Stuffed Peppers from Bibberche

I would like to send my peppers to Hearth and Soul blog event, hosted by Alex of A Moderate Life.

7 Responses to Stuffed With Peppers

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m always looking for a good stuffed pepper recipe, and wow, never ever thought of a Morroccan spiced filling! Not only does it sound delicious, it looks gorgeous!!

  2. Mairi@Toast says:

    Loving all the spices & as always love your stories.

  3. Krissy says:

    Had not “seen” you for awhile…so I came to look you up. I love your stories. Very lovely post, as usual. Hope you and family are well and happy…I know you are busy. Hope to “see” you soon.

  4. Hmmm I’m loving all the spices you have here.. so is this what I’m making? haha I can’t wait to try it and do our exchange cook-outs…
    I love your stories, it really gives me a glimpse of who you are and where you came from… your stories, are so beautiful and from the heart as always.

    I hope you are having a great weekend…. I raise my glass to proud Moms like us haha!

    CHeers,
    Malou

  5. Mmm.. delicious recipe. I once tried Greek version of stuffed peppers. Endless possibilities in flavors and textures.

  6. Renata says:

    What a gorgeous looking stuffed pepper!! I’m impressed! Great job, and thanks for participating!

  7. Lana says:

    @Lisa, thanks for stopping by! I love my mother’s traditional recipe, but this one intrigued me and I have not regretted it.

    @Mairi, thanks:) The spices have been growing on me for some time, until I became an avid fan:)

    @Kris, you are so thoughtful:) I have not written about Dorie’s recipes, even though I made them. Both the broccoli and mustard batons were no-recipes, sometimes I make all the time, and did not warrant a post. But I am happy you stopped by:)

    @Malou, thanks:) We have to form a support group or a club:) And no, this is not your assignment:) I have to find a real Serbian recipe!

    @Kiran, that’s one very versatile dish – you can treat it in many ways with excellent results.

    @Thanks, Renata:) I was pretty impressed by so many creative approaches to your challenge. It was a good one:)

Leave a reply