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First of all, I just have to say that the smell of sautéeing onions is the best smell in the WORLD. Fight me!
Back in the day, when I was growing up on Natalie avenue (yes, I grew up on a street with the same name as me), my Mom would sometimes make elaborate dinners. One of which was stuffed peppers. I’m not sure exactly where her recipe came from, but if I had to guess, it would be of the Polish variety. Where she grew up in North Braddock, PA, there was a melting pot of Germans, Italians, and Poles.
I never liked eating my Mom’s stuffed peppers, even though I was still fond of them. She always made them with green peppers, which I absolutely did not like as a child. It probably drove her nuts that I would only eat the filling of the pepper (which I did think was delicious), while leaving the roasty green pepper behind. I remember helping her in the kitchen by handling the mixing of the Campbell’s Tomato Soup concentrate with water, and spooning it around the peppers, preparing it for the bake. Those food memories are so strong growing up!
Stuffed Peppers Modern Day
Now that I’m older, I definitely have more of an affinity for green peppers, but I still prefer the red, orange, and yellow over them. They’re sweeter, which I think is why I like them more. Web MD states that they have 11 times more beta-carotene than the green variety, and 1.5 times more vitamin C. I’m sooo down with that.
Even the stuffing gets an update in my household from the sometimes bland ground beef and rice that was traditional in my house growing up. I’ve always loved Mexican food, so that classic combination of cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and chile flake were a must in this version. Additionally, my time at T.G.I.Friday’s kept entering my brain along with this short lived appetizer called Firecracker Crab Rolls, and also served as inspiration to make this a creamy, spicy flavor bomb. Firecracker sounds so appealing, doesn’t it? You know you’re going to get a lively dish with that descriptor.
Traditional Egyptian Mahshi
The inspiration for this dish actually came from my research into Egyptian cuisine, as the sauce we are using is a unique spin on Egyptian Tomato Sauce. I knew this would be perfect for the pool of tomato sauce that my family’s stuffed peppers were used to, but offers a grand update with its complex flavor profile. I was delighted to find that Egyptian cuisine has a similar dish called Mahshi, which translates to stuffed squash, though other vegetables can be used, like bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes. So, we are inspired by many regions, and histories across time, both personal and worldly. My childhood memories of stuffed peppers, the stuffed peppers or Mahshi from Egypt, and the Mexican spices that I love so much.
Misteka Foods Signature Tomato Sauce elevates this dish by creating a more complex pepper bath than the canned tomato soup that I’m accustomed to. It pairs so well with the creamy and spicy meat filling. Their sauce is available in 32 ounce jars for $13.85 through her website, under Sauce and Dressings. Other sauces are available as well. This sauce needs to be refrigerated, so it’s available locally in and around Clarksville, MD.
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Firecracker Stuffed Peppers
- 9 inch Cast Iron Skillet or Casserole Dish
- Foil or casserole dish lid.
- Rimmed Cookie Sheet
- 5 Large Bell Peppers
- 1 Cup Jasmine Rice
- 1½ Cups Water
- 2 Teaspoons Salt divided
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion diced (about 2 cups)
- 16 Ounce Package Beyond Meat
- 1 Teaspoon Cumin
- 1 Teaspoon Coriander
- 2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
- 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 8 oz Package Vegan Cream Cheese
- ½ Cup Cilantro fresh, roughly chopped + more leaves for garnish
- 32 Ounces Misteka Signature Tomato Sauce
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Prepare The Stuffing
- Put the rice, 1½ cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt into a small saucepan, cover with a lid. Bring up to a boil (about 3-5 minutes), then turn down to a very low simmer, cooking for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat, and allow it to sit while you prepare the spiced meat filling.
- Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add in the onion, and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. The edges of the onions should be slightly browned. Add in the Beyond Meat, remaining salt, cumin, coriander, paprika and red pepper flakes. Break up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon as the meat cooks. Cook for about 5 minutes. The meat will continue to cook in the peppers, so don’t overcook the meat at this step.
- Add in ⅓ cup of Misteka’s Signature Tomato Sauce, the package of cream cheese, and chopped cilantro. Mix well until the cream cheese has melted and is mixed in completely with the meat mixture. Add in the rice and mix well again.
To Make The Peppers
- Cut off the top of the pepper, but leave enough so that there is enough flesh that attaches to the stem. Set the tops aside. Clean out the seeds, and then gently spoon the stuffing into the pepper. Use the back of the spoon to gently pack in the stuffing.
- Place the cast iron skillet or casserole dish onto the rimmed cookie sheet to prevent any spillage. Pour the remaining Signature Tomato Sauce into the cast iron skillet, then place the stuffed peppers gently inside, so the peppers are surrounded by the sauce. Put the tops on the peppers, then using aluminum foil, cover tightly. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. After the time is up, remove the foil, and continue to cook, until the peppers have slightly browned on top. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
- To serve, carefully remove the peppers to plates, and spoon some Tomato Sauce around the pepper, and garnish with more cilantro leaves.
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