Stuffed Poblano Chili Peppers

Hunting isn’t always about killing animals. It’s also about the majesty of Mother Nature — and a whole lot more.

One of the most important things to me about hunting is the friendships that I have made with people who otherwise would have been strangers.

I recently returned from an elk hunting trip to Colorado with two good friends from Grand Forks — Mark Young and Jim Litzinger. We were met at Owl Mountain near Rand, Colo., by Jim Butzien and Duane Pauna of Park Rapids, Minn. We soon were joined by Colorado brothers Tuffy and Ray Hardy and Ray’s son, Colton.

I have know the Hardys and Butzien for about five years and consider them friends.  Pauna is new to the group, but his cousin, Darrel Koehler, is a close friend and former co-worker of mine. All of these fellows are knowledgeable about hunting and very personable as well.

And this year, I also met a couple of more guys from the Denver area who are white water rafting buddies of Tuffy. One of them, Steven Barnhill, is a technology teacher with the Jefferson County Public Schools, with whom I immediately made a connection.

Steven is an avid gardener — like me — who likes to preserve his bounty, some of which he shared with our hunting party. One of his specialties is growing peppers of all kinds, including poblano chilies.

I’ve never grown poblanos but plan on doing so next year after sampling some of Steven’s. (He also shared some jalapeno jelly, tomatillo salsa and green salsa that he had made with his wife this fall.

Steven shared some ideas about using the poblanos, one of which ways is to stuff them.  And that got me to thinking about making some stuffed peppers other than the classic American bell peppers that are filled with ground beef, rice, onions, tomatoes.

Here is one of the poblano recipes that I came across. It’s a take-off on a Mexican favorite — chili rellenos — which consists of a roasted green Pasilla or poblano chili pepper stuffed with cheese (traditionally queso fresco), and/or (occasionally) minced meat, covered in an egg batter and fried. (It is often served covered with a sauce, although the type of sauce varies widely. It sometimes also is served in a taco with rice, salsa and other toppings.)

Stuffed Poblano Chili Peppers
Nonstick cooking spray
6 poblano chilies
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 1-ounce package taco seasoning mix
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 11-ounce can Mexicorn (whole-kernel corn, red and green peppers, drained
8 ounces shredded light Mexican cheese blend
1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes, undrained, chopped
1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chilies
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Cut opening in one side of each chile. Carefully remove seeds and membranes, leaving top stem intact; rinse and drain well.
Spray large skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add ground meat; cook over medium-high heat for 7 minutes or until no longer pink and thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Add taco seasoning mix; mix well. Add beans, corn and 1 cup of the cheese; mix well. With small spoon, stuff chiles with turkey mixture. Place in sprayed baking dish. Lightly spray tops of chilies with cooking spray.
In small bowl, combine tomatoes and green chilies; mix well. Pour over stuffed chilies in baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until chilies are tender. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake an additional 3 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutrition analysis per serving (using turkey): 400 calories, 15 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 70 milligrams cholesterol, 1,390 milligrams sodium, 33 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams sugars, 32 grams protein.

Pesto-Marinated Chicken (or Pheasant) and Vegetable Kabobs

Labor Day is the last time a lot of people pull out the grill for the season. For many, it symbolizes the end of summer, since school has started or very soon will be under way.

I used to be one of those people. In fact, there were quite a few years when I didn’t even own a grill.

It’s a different story now. We grill three or four times a month during the summer. Most of the time, it’s fish, elk burgers or sausage or some other wild game that we need to use before the new seasons begin.

One of my favorite things to grill is marinated pheasant breasts and thighs. I usually use my old standby marinade but sometimes like to try store-bought versions. Recently, I used a herb and white wine marinade from Lawry’s with salmon.

Here’s a kebab recipe that makes use of a marinade. It’s adapted from one supplied by Weber, the grilling people. I plan on trying it this Labor Day with some pheasant. Not only do you marinade the meat but also vegetables. I can’t wait to try it!

Pesto-Marinated Chicken (or Pheasant) and Vegetable  Kabobs
½ cup  dry white wine
¼ cup  extra virgin olive oil
1 package  Weber Tomato Garlic Pesto Marinade Mix
4  (6 to 8 ounces each) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2  medium yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch squares
16  small cherry or grape tomatoes, stemmed
2  small zucchini, cut into chunks
2  small summer squash, cut into chunks
1 small eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut into bite-size chunks
Red onion, quartered, separated (use outer sections only)
Place a large, resealable plastic bag in a bowl. In the bag mix the wine, oil, and Weber Italian Herb Marinade.
Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise and then cut each half into equal-size pieces, about 1½ inches each. Add the chicken and vegetables. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade evenly. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, turning the bag once or twice.
Pour the contents of the bag onto a rimmed platter or sheet pan. Thread the chicken pieces with the vegetables onto 8 to 10 metal skewers, alternating the ingredients. Discard the marinade.
Grill the kabobs over Direct Medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice. Serve warm.

Sirloin with Herb Butter and Charred Peppers

Cooking with herbs can greatly enhance the flavor of food, while at the same time reducing the need for salt.

I’m big fan of that concept. And hardly a meal goes by at our house in which herbs aren’t used in one way or another.

Tonight, we’re having what I term a warm-weather supper. It’s going to consist of sandwiches, made with smoked chicken I cooked last night and freshly baked bread from Dakota Harvest Bakers;  a salad dominated by recently picked lettuce from our garden; and homemade tomato salsa featuring cilantro — a very pungent herb — that’s the best we ever grown.

Herbs are quite versatile, as the following recipe shows. A sirloin steak that has been rubbed with a mixture of dried porcini mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce is cooked on the grill and later topped with herb butter. The sirloin then is complemented with grilled mini peppers.

Sirloin with Herb Butter and Charred Peppers
2¼ pounds sirloin, at least 1 ½ inches thick, cut into 6 portions, or 1 bone-in, double-cut rib eye steak (about 2 ½ inches thick, about 2 ½ pounds), trimmed of excess fat
1 ½-ounce package dried porcini mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, divided
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 green onions, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces assorted red, yellow and orange baby bell peppers
Juice of 1 lemon
Set the sirloin pieces on a plate.
(If using a bone-in rib eye, place the steak flat on a board; tie kitchen twine tightly around the sides (including the bone) to help the steak keep its shape during cooking.)
Grind the mushrooms in a spice grinder or blender; transfer to a bowl and mix with the garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 ½ tablespoons rosemary, red pepper flakes and 2 teaspoons salt. Cut several slits all over the steak; fill each slit with some of the mushroom mixture, then rub the rest all over the meat. Transfer the steak to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before grilling.
Meanwhile, combine the butter, green onions, parsley, remaining 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and ½ tablespoon rosemary and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat a grill to medium-high, then prepare for indirect heat: For gas, turn off the burners on one side. For charcoal, push the coals to one side. Brush the steak with the olive oil, then place on the cooler side of the grill (indirect heat). Cover and cook, turning occasionally, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 110 to 120 degrees, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness. Move the steak to the hotter side of the grill (direct heat) and cook until the thermometer registers 125 degrees, about 2 to 3 more minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 15 minutes, spreading with some of the herb butter.
Meanwhile, grill the peppers over direct heat, turning, brushing with the lemon juice and seasoning with salt, until charred, 8 to 10 minutes. Top the steak with more herb butter and serve with peppers.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 469 calories, 61 percent of calories from fat, 31 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 10 grams carbohydrates, 36 grams protein, 1,324 milligrams sodium, 90 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

Stir-Fried Pheasant with Brown Rice

Spring cleanup is an annual rite in many cities. Citizens can throw away items they no longer need, and public works crews pick them up on a designated week.

In our household, it’s also time to go through four freezers, so we can consolidate their contents in half the space. Often, that requires digging out some food to prepare immediately. Wild game fits that category.

Being an upland bird hunter, I usually have a good supply of grouse, partridge and pheasants after the fall season. We usually don’t get through all of the birds by the time spring arrives, so they are some of the food that’s taken out of the freezer in the spring for immediate use around cleanup time.

Yesterday, I used a few of my last pheasants from the 2011 season in a classic stir-fry. Along with some mushrooms, onion and sweet red bell pepper, I prepared them on the stove top in a large wok. I served them over cooked brown rice, along with a spinach salad.

If you’re looking for a meal that is quick and easy to make, give the following recipe a try.

Stir-Fried Pheasant with Brown Rice
1½ pounds pheasant breast cut into ½-inch strips
1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
1 8-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon teriyaki marinade sauce
1 low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup Vidalia onion, sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup brown rice
1 teaspoon salt
Prepare brown rice according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, heat sesame and olive oil in wok or skillet over medium-high. Add chicken, leaving any liquid on the plate. Stir-fry 3 minutes. Add vegetables and stir-fry 2 minutes.
Mix cornstarch and water. Add to wok or skillet. Continue cooking mixture until thickens.
Serve over rice.
Yield: Serves 4.
Note: Chicken could be substituted for the pheasant.

Stuffed Green Peppers

Jack Frost has claimed most gardens, which means some people have an overabundance of fresh veggies in their refrigerators, and that includes me.

One of the vegetables that I have to deal with is peppers. I must have 10 to 15 nice green bells in the crisper drawer of our refrigerator that need to be either cooked or frozen. Either way, some are going to be stuffed.

Here’s a recipe for stuffed green peppers that features 96 percent lean ground beef, making it a lighter version of the old favorite.

Stuffed Green Peppers
4 medium green or red bell peppers (about 6 ounces each), ½ inch trimmed off the tops and cores and seeds discarded
2/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 ounces 96 percent lean ground beef
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
¾ cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend made with 2 percent milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring 4 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the bell peppers and cook until the peppers just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water and place the peppers cut-side up on paper towels. Return the water to a boil, add the rice and boil for about 13 minutes, or until tender. Drain the rice and transfer it to a large bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
While draining the can of tomatoes, reserve ¼ cup of the juice and discard the remaining juice.
While the rice is cooking, in a skillet, cook the ground beef over medium-high heat until it’s crumbly and browned. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the rice. Stir in the tomatoes, reserved juice, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
Place the peppers cut-side up in a 9-inch square baking dish. Divide the filling evenly among the peppers and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is heated through. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 343 calories, 7.6 grams fat, 642 milligrams sodium, 36 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 28 grams protein, 64 milligrams cholesterol.

Super Eats for Super Bowl

Not everyone with agrees with the philosophy of those who believe that chili shouldn’t contain beans or vegetables. Also, there are those who think chili must have only beef or some other red meat (such as venison, elk, buffalo, etc.), not white meat like chicken.

Well, I eat on both sides of that fence. And I even appreciate a chili that doesn’t contain any meat. I try to carry that over to my writing, no matter if it’s on my Chef Jeff blog or on the Wednesday food page of the Grand Forks Herald.  There’s always something for everybody.

Recently, I’ve featured a Texas-style chili (no bean or vegetables) as well as one that contains 97 percent lean ground beef. Today, I’m offering up a turkey chili recipe, as well as a couple of appetizer recipes.

All of the recipes would be great fare for a Super Bowl party, if you already haven’t picked out your menu for this Sunday’s big game between Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Included is one for pineapple wings, which is a takeoff on just about everyone’s favorite, buffalo wings.

Turkey Chili
1 dried guajillo pepper
½ cup boiling water
1 chipotle pepper (canned and packed in adobo sauce)
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
4 teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound ground turkey
1½ cups diced onion
1 poblano chili, roasted, peeled and finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2½ teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 small bay leaf
1 cup tomato soup
Salt
3 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-ounce cans pink or pinto or cranberry beans, drained and rinsed
Pepper
In a dry skillet heated over high heat, toast the guajillo chili on both sides until darkened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place the chili in a small bowl. Pour over the boiling water and keep the chili submerged until it rehydrates and is softened, 10 to 15 minutes.
Pour the chili and water into a blender, along with the chipotle pepper, canned whole tomatoes and tomato paste. Puree the mixture (this might need to be done in 2 batches). Set the pureed chilies and tomatoes aside.
In a 6-quart heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook, stirring frequently, until the turkey is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove the turkey and set aside. Drain the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pan (the rest can be discarded).
To the same pan, stir in the diced onion and poblano chili, and cook until the onion is translucent, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook until the garlic is aromatic, about 1 minute.
Stir in the chili powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, cayenne, garlic and onion powders and bay leaf. Continue to stir until the spices are aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato soup, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any flavoring. Stir the ground turkey back in, then stir in the pureed tomato and chile mixture. Season with 1 teaspoon salt.
Cook the chili at a very low simmer for about 2 hours to develop and marry the flavors. About 20 minutes before the chili is done, stir in the kidney and pink beans to warm through. Taste and adjust the seasonings and flavorings as desired.
Note: Garnish the chili as desired with shredded cheese, avocado, tortilla chips, sliced green onion, cilantro.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per servings: 241 calories, 16 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fiber, 6 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams sugar, 706 milligrams sodium.

Pineapple Wings

2½ to 3 pounds chicken wings
½ cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vinegar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
½ cup butterscotch ice cream topping
½ cup miniature marshmallows
Spread wings in a large roasting pan and bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Or deep-fry at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.
In a large saucepan, combine hot sauce, butter, vinegar, cayenne, crushed pineapple and butterscotch topping. Stir over medium-high heat until mixture bubbles. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Cook several minutes until thick, then pour over wings in a large bowl. Stir well.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Warm Double-Beef Spread
1 jar (2½ ounces) dried beef, snipped into slivers
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 can corned beef, crumbled
¼ cup chopped green pepper
½ teaspoon onion salt
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Combine all ingredients except nuts, stirring well. Turn into a 3-cup baking dish and top with nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Serve warm with crackers.

Marinated Stuffed Olives and Peppers
1½ cans (6 ounces each) jumbo black pitted olives
2 jars (about 16 ounces each) whole, small pickled peppers (cherry, small hot chili, sweet banana or pepperoncini)
1/3 pound asiago or fontinella cheese, cut into small cubes
1/3 pound salami, sliced very thin
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Drain olives and peppers. Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds. Drain in a colander.
Cut cheese into cubes small enough to fit into the peppers and olives. Cut salami slices into pieces just large enough to wrap around the cubes of cheese. Stuff a salami-wrapped cheese cube into each olive and pepper. Place in a serving bowl.
In another bowl, combine oil, vinegar and garlic. Pour over olives and peppers. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 days. Drain and serve at room temperature.
Yield: Serves 15 to 20.

Feta Cheese Dip
2 cups crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Salt, pepper
1 cup chopped tomatoes
¼ cup green olives
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Stir oil into cheese in a bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, add more oil if necessary to produce a moist spread. Serve with toasted pita triangles.
Yield: About 4 cups.

No Suffering Succotash

I have fond memories of watching cartoons on television as a kid. One of my favorites was Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird from Warner Bros. "Puddy Tat," as he was known by the wily little canary, had a catch phrase that I’ll never forget — "suffering succotash."

Of course, I had no idea what succotash was then, but how the times have changed. Now, a variation of succotash is one of my favorite dishes this time of the year.

Succotash (from Narragansett msíckquatash, "boiled corn kernels") is a food dish consisting primarily of corn and lima beans or other shell beans. It also can include tomatoes and sweet green or red peppers. The dish was popular during the Great Depression because all of the ingredients could be grown in a garden.

My version of succotash contains corn off the cob, tomatoes, sweet bell pepper, onion, garlic, eggplant and okra. I mix all of the ingredients in a saute pan and cook them in a little olive oil. While it is cooking, I add about one-fourth cup of white wine, a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon or two of sugar and salt and pepper to taste. The dish is ready is about 10 minutes. Some days, if it were up to me, that’s all I would eat for a meal.

Here’s a more traditional version of succotash that also include bacon and corn left on the cob for easier eating.

Corn and Bacon Succotash with Rice
6 strips bacon
1 onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon each: salt, crushed red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
4 ears corn, each cut into thirds
2 cups fresh lima beans or 1 14-ounce bag, frozen
2 cups long-grain or basmati rice, cooked to package
Heat a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat; add bacon. Cook, turning once, until crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove to paper-towel lined plate; crumble when cool. Add onion to skillet; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 7 minutes.
Add bell pepper, garlic, thyme, salt and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add chicken broth; cook, stirring up any browned bits, 2 minutes. Add corn and lima beans; cook, turning corn often to cook evenly, until corn and beans are tender and liquid reduces slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bacon. Serve over rice.
Yield: Serve 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 753 calories, 9 percent of calories from fat, 8 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 143 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 431 milligrams sodium, 12 grams fiber.

Kung Pao Chicken

It’s shaping up to be a pretty good summer for peppers. My bells are well on their way, and my hot Hungarians aren’t too far behind. (See related content at www.grandforksherald.com/event/tag/group/Life/tag/food/.)

Peppers lends themselves nicely to Chinese cooking, so it was nice to see this recipe for Kung Pao Chicken on the New Asian Cuisine’s weekly digest that comes to me via e-mail. Their are many versions of this Chinese delicacy, and this one is a favorite of New Asian Cuisine food writer Grace Young. Here is how she describes it:

"This one of the many versions of kung pao chicken that I’ve eaten, and this is one of my favorites. The dark, rich sauce clings to the chicken and peppers, with just an undertone of heat and aromatic flavor from the chilies and Sichuan peppercorns."

I can’t wait to give it a try with some of my peppers.

Kung Pao Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast, cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chicken broth
1 tablespoon Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
4 to 8 dried red chili peppers, snipped on one end
½ teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
¾ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
½ cup minced scallions
In a medium bowl combine the chicken, ginger, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, ½ teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon cold water. Stir to combine. In a small bowl combine the broth, vinegar, dark soy sauce, sesame oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, add the chilies and ground Sichuan peppercorns, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 15 seconds or until the chilies just begin to smoke. Push the chili mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Then stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through.
Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok. Add the bell peppers and stir-fry 1 minute or until the peppers begin to soften. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the chicken is just cooked through. Add the peanuts and scallions, sprinkle on the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the scallions are bright green.
Yield: Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish with rice or 4 as part of a multicourse meal.

Fiesta Stuffed Peppers

One of the vegetables I like to grow in my garden is bell peppers. I generally like to raise an assortment of them, but mostly they’re the green and red variety.

One of the things I like to do with my peppers is stuff and bake them. I have a pretty basic recipe but always am on the lookout for new ones.

That brings me to the following recipe, which was sent to me by a friend and former co-worker, Steve Schmidt. Schmidty, as we called him when he was in Grand Forks, was a reporter at the Herald for several years before moving to the Twin Cities area, where he’s been teaching Spanish.

Steve recently e-mailed me to say he and his wife, Karen, were moving to Georgia. It seems she was transferred to the home office of Home Depot in Atlanta, where she’ll join a new human resources management team.

Along with the news, Schmidty sent me a "fantástico" recipe for stuffed peppers, which he promised me last year. He said the recipe was inspired by a stuffed pepper lunch made for him by a Minnesota teaching colleague and friend, Fred Yacono of Eagan, Minn. Fred taught music across the hall from Steve’s Spanish classroom for one year at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Savage, Minn. Steve said Fred’s mother cooked peppers often in his home state of New York.

The recipe contains a lot of interesting ingredients, including ground turkey breast, balsamic vinegar (one of my favorites), Worchestershire sauce, sweet vermouth and a variety of herbs and spices.

I can’t wait to try the recipe!

Fiesta Stuffed Peppers
4 large green or red bell peppers
1 to 1¼ pounds ground turkey breast
1 small onion, chopped
½ to 1 cup bulgur wheat
Bread crumbs or rice (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese
1½ teaspoons dried basil leaves (or more if using fresh)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
¼ pepper to taste
8-ounce can of tomato sauce
3 to 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice or juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 to ¼ cup sweet vermouth
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar or honey
To make meat mixture: Cover bulgur wheat with water and let stand 20 to 30 minutes.
Saute onion in ½ to 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 3 minutes, then add ground turkey to brown.
While turkey is browning, drain bulgur wheat, and in a large bowl add up to ½ cup of bread crumbs or cooked rice if desired.
Then add 1 to 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, grated Parmesan, 1 teapoon basil, parsley and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Stir into ground turkey and onion mixture. Add sweet vermouth and refrigerate one hour.
To make sauce, in a small bowl, mix together the following ingredients:
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (the vinegar and olive oil can be whisked before adding the rest), tomato sauce, sugar or honey, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce ½ teaspoon dried basil leaves, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, salt and pepper.
To prepare stuffed peppers, remove tops and membranes from four large bell peppers (or five smaller). Arrange them on a baking dish or pan and add the meat mixture. Then spoon the sauce into each pepper. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Remove peppers from oven. Turn the oven to broiling temperature. Add 1 tablespoon of grated or shredded Parmesan cheese to the top of each pepper. Return to oven and broil 5 minutes.
Remove peppers from oven. Reduce temperature to 400. Sprinkle peppers with grated or shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake 5 to 10 minutes or more or until cheese begins to turn toasty brown. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Stuffed Peppers with a Twist

People aren’t born being good cooks. That comes with a lot of practice. And it starts with the little things. For me, I think, it was making that first fried egg sandwich. After that, I knew anything was possible.

But I believe the biggest reason for my success, besides loving to cook, is a penchant for not being afraid to try something new. Sure, I have a lot of favorites that we have on a weekly basis. But I like to throw in a new recipe at least once or twice every week or two.

Sometimes, that means just changing one or two of the ingredients in an old standby. For example, now when making stuffed grape leaves or cabbage rolls, I like to use brown rice instead of white. I do this not only because of the nutritional value of the brown rice but also its taste.

Another example is mashed potatoes and mashed rutabagas. I always loved them separately, but now my favorite way to have them is mixed together, in the same pot.

Speaking of the brown rice, my next venture with it is going to be in stuffed bell peppers. Not only did we get several nice green ones from one of Therese’s co-workers, Holly Cronquist, I have quite a few in my own garden, including about six or eight nice red ones.

So, of course, I’ve been looking for new recipes for stuffed peppers to try, and in one of my searches, came across the following that has one of the most unusual combinations. Not only do the stuffed peppers contain onion, potato, cabbage and nuts assertively seasoned with spices and cheese, they’re also cooked on the grill.

The recipe comes from barbecue guru Steven Raichlen and can be found in "The Barbecue Bible." One of the peppers looks like a meal in itself.

Stuffed Tandoori Peppers
4 large green, red or yellow bell peppers
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, one coarsley chopped, one minced
1 piece (1/3-inch long) fresh ginger root
½ teaspoon salt
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon each: cumin seeds, ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
1/3 small head green cabbage, cored, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon raisins
8 cashews, coarsely chopped
1 large potato, peeled, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 tomato, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
½ cup grated Gouda or mild Cheddar cheese
Cut stem ends from peppers to form caps; set aside. Scrape veins and seeds from peppers with a spoon or melon baller; set peppers aside. Combine the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the coarsely chopped garlic, ginger and the salt in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Brush interiors of the peppers and caps with this mixture; set aside.
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling using high heat. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat on stovetop. Add the minced garlic, onion, cumin seeds, turmeric and red pepper. Cook until the onion just begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cabbage, raisins, cashews, potato and tomato. Cook 2 minutes; reduce heat to low. Cover; cook the vegetables until soft, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes; if the vegetables look wet, uncover the pan for the last 5 minutes to evaporate excess liquid.) Stir in the cilantro; cook 1 minute. Stir in cheese; remove from heat.
Spoon the filling into the peppers; top with pepper caps. Place the peppers in the center of the hot grate away from the heat source. Cover grill; cook until the peppers are nicely browned and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Place peppers directly over the flames to lightly char skins before removing from heat. Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 305 calories, 46 percent calories from fat, 17 grams fat (4.2 grams saturated), 16 milligrams cholesterol, 430 milligrams sodium, 35 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 7 grams fiber.