Peppers are a great way to add color, flavor and nutrition to a wide variety of foods, says Sheree Taylor, human sciences regional extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
“They are low in calories and burst in flavor,” she says. “Peppers can be crisp, sweet or spicy.” Not to mention they come in green, red, orange or yellow colors and sometimes a bit of all four.
All colors of peppers have nutritional benefits, Taylor says, but red peppers actually have higher antioxidant and phytonutrient levels, because they are riper. They also supply more potassium, vitamin C and folate.
But all peppers are nutritious and easy to add to any meal. “People can slice them, eat them raw, grilled, sautéed or roasted. When preparing foods with peppers, be mindful that boiling or cooking them may cause a loss of 50% of the nutrients,” Taylor advises. Instead of boiling or steaming, she recommends dry heat methods such as stir-frying or roasting.
“Peppers can bring not only color to our plate, but flavor,” Taylor says. “They are packed with nutrients and can be incorporated in ways that can fit the desires of anyone’s taste buds.”
Like many of us, Louis Toth remembers watching his mother and grandmother cook meals when he was growing up. “They never wrote anything down,” he says, so, using his engineering background, he recreated those favorite childhood dishes and tweaked them to his liking and those of his son’s family in Arab, where Toth moved after retiring from his job in New Jersey. His grandparents emigrated from Hungary, where dishes like stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage rolls were staples in their diet. His Stuffed Peppers recipe calls for ground pork, which results in a sweeter flavor than the traditional ground beef. He also cooks his peppers on the stove, not in the oven. “I enjoy the pork,” he says, and so do his granddaughters, who enjoy helping their granddad in the kitchen. “I also like to make meatballs with a mixture of ground beef and pork. It makes a difference in the taste.”
Place rice into a strainer and rinse with cold water. Bring a large pot of water (sufficient to completely cover the raw rice and allow for its expansion during cooking) to boiling. Add rinsed rice, return to boil, then reduce heat to gently parboil the rice for 10 minutes; strain rice, rinse with cold water and let cool. Cut tops off of the peppers and carefully scoop out the seeds and membranes. In a large bowl whisk together the tomato sauce, milk and water. In another large bowl gently mix the pork, cooled rice, paprika, salt and ½ cup of the blended sauce together. Stuff the peppers with the meat mixture, ¾ full (mixture will expand slightly when cooked). Place stuffed peppers standing up in a tall stock pot or 5½-quart Dutch oven. Gently pour the remaining sauce mixture over the peppers to cover. (If you have any leftover filling, you can form it into meatballs and add to the pot.) Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes. To serve: Place a pepper in a serving bowl and ladle some sauce over the pepper. Serve with white or rye bread on the side.
Cook rice according to package instructions. Brown beef in skillet until cooked. Drain and set aside. Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about five minutes. Add bell pepper and cook until almost soft, about seven minutes. Add mushrooms, tomatoes, cooked beef, broth (or water), black beans if using and seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes, adding more broth if it begins to run dry. Remove from heat. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Serve immediately over rice. Note: Depending on temperature of pan or other factors, you may need more or less broth.
Cut the jalapeños in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds and ribs from the pepper. Combine raspberry preserves and softened cream cheese. Fill each pepper boat with cream cheese and raspberry preserves. Wrap each pepper with bacon and place on a baking pan. Preheat grill to 350 degrees and place peppers on the indirect side of grill for 30 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the cheese bubbly.
Cook meat and drain, then sauté chopped vegetables for 10-15 minutes. Add in one tablespoon oil, add meat back in with seasoning and cook for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken on one end of a sheet pan (parchment paper optional). Dice and prep vegetables and place in a large bowl. Drizzle chicken and vegetables with a bit of olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Arrange vegetables next to chicken on the sheet pan, making sure they are in a single layer.
Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, checking often to stir vegetables or turn chicken. Chicken is done when it reaches internal temperature of 160-165 degrees. Allow to rest before serving.
While chicken and vegetables are baking, assemble ingredients for dressing. In a medium bowl, combine minced garlic, lemon juice, oregano and olive oil. Whisk together well. When protein and vegetables are done, arrange as desired on a serving platter. Drizzle dressing over chicken and vegetables right before serving and garnish with feta cheese.
Brooke Burks, The Buttered Home
This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.