Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slovenian Dinner Week 7: Stuffed Pepper Odyssey




Menu
Stuffed Peppers (Nadevana Paprika)
Coleslaw
Braised Broccoli and Kohlrabi

I grew up eating stuffed peppers, but I had no idea this might be a Slovenian dish, until I found recipes in all three of my vintage cookbooks.   I'd thought of it as Tex-Mex, probably because my mother referred to the meat-rice filling as Spanish rice.

I continued to wonder if it might be an American dish, until a conversation at last week's Pust dinner at the Slovenian Hall in San Francisco.  I'd been describing my new cooking venture to one of the men there.  He listened with interest when I mentioned the first dish I'd tackled, stuffed cabbage.  Back home in Slovenia,  he said, it was even more common for their family to have stuffed peppers.  So now I knew for sure: this dish was legitimate!

In those mid-1950s recipes, the seasoning did seem a little bland, just salt and pepper. Some online searching turned up a few Slovenian recipes with paprika and garlic, so I felt I could justify that addition.  I drew from all those sources to come up with a final recipe for stuffed peppers with tomato sauce.

But first, it was off to the big produce market around the corner to buy some peppers. This time, I took my camera.  Once again,  I was seeing our familiar neighborhood market with fresh eyes.  I felt enchanted by the beautiful shapes and jewel-like colors of the vegetables:


I picked out an assortment of organic peppers:  red, green, yellow and orange.  And then, just for fun, I picked up a handful of baby peppers:




Back in my kitchen,  I admired my wares.  I arranged those bright, shiny peppers in a glass bowl:






Then, my imagination took over.  I arranged them as a pepper family.  Papa, beaming at Mama beside him, with the baby peppers gathered in front.



Enough whimsy!  Time to get to work on dinner.



Filling:
1 1/2 lb. ground meat (turkey, pork, and beef mix)
1 large onion, chopped (1 c.)
1 large clove garlic
1 t. paprika
1/4 c. rice, parboiled
1 egg
1 t.salt
1 t. pepper
olive oil for browning

Sauce:
28 oz. can ground peeled organic tomatoes
14.5 oz. can organic diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 t. paprika
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
remaining 1/4 c. onion/garlic mix

4 large peppers, assorted (1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow, 1 orange)

For filling: Brown chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil and reserve 1/4 c. of mixture for sauce.  Parboil rice in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain. Mix meats, seasonings, egg.  Add onion/garlic mix and rice.

For sauce: Mix all ingredients together and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stem peppers, cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds and membrane.  Rinse and drain. (You might want to parboil, although I didn't.)

Put a little sauce in bottom of oiled rectangular baking pan. Divide filling among pepper halves. Pour sauce over peppers.  (You will have sauce left over.) Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until tender, adding sauce or other liquid if needed.

The verdict: A very tasty filling and sauce, and not at all like Spanish rice.  The dish was suffused with the flavor of Central Europe and the Balkans.  The peppers were a little on the firm side, although the bright colors were preserved.  Next time, I might parboil the peppers, cover them completely in the sauce, or try the stovetop simmering method used in one of the cookbooks.

Update:  Eight months later, I did a makeover:  I parboiled the peppers and created a healthy turkey-kasha filling.  It was even better!  It's here, if you'd like to take a look.




Before Baking



Stuffed Pepper, Coleslaw, and Broccoli 

5 comments:

  1. This looks like a yummy dish! I like peppers and I usually staff them with vegetables. This version looks very good. I will give it a try soon. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thank you for stopping by, Eftychia. Yes, so many cultures use stuffed peppers to good advantage. I love reading your blog!

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  3. My mom always puts a can of tomato soup in her stuffed peppers. I don't think it's particularly authentic but it tastes good. In Toronto, anyone with Slovenian parents grows up learning and living the Slovenian culture. Glad you are now a part of it!

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    1. Thank, Marta, for dropping by and commenting! You are lucky to have grown up with the culture. Are you still in Toronto? Coincidentally, my Scottish dad was born in Ontario, not to far from there, in Hamilton.

      Blair

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    2. Yes I'm still in Toronto and have to start trying harder to immerse my little kids in the Slovenian culture. It's a little more difficult with a non-Slovenian husband. I went to university in Hamilton so I know it well.

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