I can still see the brown spattered Pyrex loaf pan on top of her old round aluminum and cork trivet, bubbling tomato sauce and a half dozen plump shiny peppers, all in a row.
Farmers Market was bursting with peppers this week, and I started thinking about Grandmother. My farmer friend Cora had a terrific variety of peppers, so I bought a mix of them, plus a half dozen bell peppers.
Cora's bell peppers are vastly different than the supermarket peppers my grandmother bought. Twisted and knobby like emerald colored fists, Cora's peppers are about as irregular as they come. Of course, I am remembering bell peppers from the 1970's, when super markets had the general public convinced that uniformly sized, shaped and colored veggies were the what every family should aspire to eat. My grandmother's stuffed peppers looked like Frankenstein heads; brutish, thickly walled green monsters, with an intruding, bitter flavor. I can't say I liked them much. But, I was fond of my grandmother, and treasure her memory. I guess I wanted to recreate this dish, not so much to eat bell peppers, but to relive sitting at the table with her.
McAllen Ranch ground beef had been on my mind (aka Mouth Brain), as I had been discussing promotional beef information with my brother all week. Luckily, there was one package left after we finished selling our beef this week during Farmer's Market. I had also picked up a single glorious pork chop (with a gorgeous rind of fat), and a pair of pig's feet from South Texas Heritage pork, but alas, I drove off and left them in the office freezer. On the way back to the ranch, the memory flash of my abandoned pork chop startled me so much, my car lurched onto the shoulder of the highway. Can't say I ever reacted that way when forgetting to pick up the kids.
Once Cora's peppers cooked, it was evident why we, as a nation, must embrace farmer's markets. The peppers were sweet, with crisp delicately thin skins. The flavor didn't compete with the extra beefy flavor of the grass fed ground beef stuffing. The chunks of diced new potato were creamy and luscious, a nice contrast to the faintly piquant pepper sauce. The dish tasted of freshness, of summer garden and hot rain. Dazzled, I ate two.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
- 2 tbls corn oil
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 1 small new potato, diced (no need to peel)
- 1 lb ground beef
- salt and pepper
- 6 medium green bell peppers
For the Sauce:
- 1 tbls corn oil
- 8 oz mixed peppers, stems removed, and chopped (Hungarian wax, cayenne, fresh jalapeño, red bell pepper)
- 1 lb Roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded
In a 9" skillet, heat the corn oil. Add the diced onion, and sauté until translucent. Add the diced potato, and continue to sauté until the potato is translucent in spots, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef, and brown until all is completely cooked. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Wash the bell peppers, and cut off the tops right below the stem. Scoop out any seeds or membranes. Fill with ground meat mixture, dividing it equally among all of the peppers. Place the peppers in an oven proof baking dish, preferably one with a lid.
Heat oven to 350°
In a separate saucepan, add the 1 tbls of corn oil and the chopped peppers. Allow to pan roast for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and continue to cook until the tomatoes are starting to turn saucy. Using a food processor or an immersion blender, process the peppers and tomatoes briefly so that they are converted into a chunky, well textured sauce. Salt to taste. ( Make sure the sauce is not too spicy for children. If so, add more tomatoes.) Pour the sauce over the stuffed peppers, and bake in the heated oven for 30 minutes.
Generously serves 2
Tip: I think this same recipe could work well for vegetarians if you substitute peeled and diced eggplant for the ground meat, although you might need a bit more corn oil, or a little veggie broth.