My first experience with stuffed peppers was an amazing concoction of black beans, corn, rice, chicken, and all kinds of tasty morsels crammed into a mountain of poblano peppers, courtesy of my dear husband. Maybe someday I'll tell you all about it. For now, though, you'll have to satisfy yourself with stuffed bell peppers, which aren't so bad either. I found a pair of giant orange ones on clearance at Meijer, but the green ones that are usually at the co-op will work too.
This is another dish that can be modified to suit your tastes (or refrigerator leftovers). My version uses Italian sausage, which already has lots of tasty seasonings in it, but you could substitute ground beef and use whatever herbs and spices you want. You could also use cooked diced potato in place of the rice. The fresh parsley ($.79 at Meijer) adds a nice flavor—the dried stuff can't compete, even though I'm just as guilty as anyone of having a giant shaker of it in my pantry. Oops. Be sure to pull the leaves off the stems before chopping them. The leftover parsley can probably be frozen, if you're not going to use it right away. I haven't tried freezing it yet, though, so don't quote me on that.
Some recipes call for a tomato-based sauce, but I've had some bad experiences lately with using tomato where it shouldn't be (I was just following the recipes, I promise!), so I just put some diced tomato in the filling. Feel free to use some warm pasta sauce if you want a little something extra.
Time: 1 hour
1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
1/2 onion, diced
2 large bell peppers (any color)
3/4 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (I used curly parsley)
1 small tomato, diced (about 1/3 cup)
pinch red pepper flakes
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Fill a large pot with water (deep enough to cover the peppers) and bring to a boil. Also, cook the rice if you haven't done so already.
2. Prepare the peppers: Cut off the top of each pepper, leaving about an inch around the stem for a “lid” (sort of like a mini Jack-o-lantern). Shake out the seeds and pull out the membranes. If the peppers wobble when placed on a flat surface, remove a thin slice from the bottom; dice for use in the filling.
3. Cook the Italian sausage and onion in a large skillet until sausage is browned and onions are tender, stirring frequently to break up any large pieces. Remove from heat. Add rice, parsley, tomato, red pepper flakes, and any diced pepper pieces from step 2.
4. Carefully add peppers and tops to the pot of boiling water; parboil until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pack each pepper with filling and replace tops. Place peppers in a baking dish; add just enough water to cover the bottom, about 1/8 inch deep. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until peppers are tender and filling is heated through.