Bell Peppers Stuffed with Meat and Rice
Because meat was at one time hard to come by on the islands, Greeks have learned to create dishes that give you a taste of meat with equal portions of rice and vegetables. Stuffed vegetables are a perfect example. The Greeks excel at stuffed vegetables, and my dad is the best in the house. He likes to add just a touch of cinnamon to his stuffing for a little extra savoriness.
You have some creative license with this dish. Use green, red, or yellow bell peppers, or even some of the wilder colors now-available-bright purple or orange. A combination of colors makes for a great presentation. My dad fills his peppers with lamb, but you can use just ground beef or a combination of beef and lamb, which I like because it makes this dish a little more robust.
Total Timeunder 2 hours
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Textureherby, meaty, savory
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- 1 pound ground beef or lamb, or a combination of beef and lamb
- One 28-ounce can tomatoes with juice (or one 6-ounce can tomato paste mixed with ¾ cup water)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint (optional)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
- 6 medium sweet bell peppers
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook until the onion is soft and clear, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground meat and brown lightly. Skim the excess fat. Dice the tomatoes and add both the tomatoes and their juice (or tomato paste and water) to the meat. Add the herbs, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the rice and simmer until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
While the rice and meat mixture is simmering, slice off enough of the stem end of each bell pepper to expose the whole cavity. Reserve the tops. Remove the seeds and ribs from the pepper cavities and rinse with water. Use a spoon to fill each pepper loosely with the meat mixture, leaving room for the filling to expand. Replace the tops. Place the stuffed peppers in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and pour in water to a depth of about ½ inch. Bake, basting every 15 minutes, until the rice in the filling is tender, about 1 hour. (Add more water if the dish becomes dry, and cover the peppers with aluminum foil if they begin to turn brown.) Serve immediately.
2004 Catherine Cora