Friday, November 2, 2012

Slovenian Dinner Week 41, a Healthy Makeover: Stuffed Peppers with Turkey-Kasha Filling

Stuffed Peppers with Turkey-Kasha Filling
Fresh Cranberry Beans
Green Salad
Lost Kosovo Kugel

After my recent excursion to the FoodBuzz Blogger Festival, it was a relief to get back to the simpler, down-to-earth cooking traditions of my Slovenian American forbears.

But that foodie festival did strengthen my resolve to continue working on healthier versions of the traditional recipes I had been making.

Stuffed peppers, one of my early dishes, was a prime candidate for an overhaul. Although it was a successful Week 7 entree, those peppers had been a little too firm. I had already resolved to parboil them, and probably to leave them whole, the next time around.

Now, with an eye to a healthy makeover, I made a few more changes.  For starters, I would make an all-turkey filling, instead of the beef-pork-turkey mixture I had used before. That meant increasing the spices, as I had done in my recent attempt at healthy turkey cevapcici.  And why not substitute high-protein, flavorful kasha for the white rice?  It might not be traditional, but it would be in the Slovenian spirit.

Otherwise, I followed my original recipe, although I did add a little wine to the tomato sauce.

When I went to the market in the morning, I found a surprise: fresh cranberry beans, otherwise known as Roman or borlotti beans.  By now, the dried version had become a staple in my Slovenian kitchen.  I couldn't resist buying these tasty beans fresh, although I wasn't quite sure how to prepare them.

And for dessert, I invented something new: Lost Kosovo Kugel.  But that's a story in itself.

Stuffed Peppers with Turkey-Kasha Filling

About 8 fresh peppers, assorted colors (I used half green and half red)

1.5 lb. ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. smoked paprika
1 c. cooked kasha (buckwheat groats)
¼ c. fresh parsley, minced
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 egg, beaten

For the sauce:

14 oz. can organic Italian peeled tomatoes
14 oz. can organic diced fire-roasted tomatoes
7 oz. strained Italian tomatoes
¼ c. reserved browned onion-garlic mixture
2 oz. red wine
1 t. paprika
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. salt

To prepare the peppers: Remove stem ends carefully and set aside to use as lids.  Clean out the inside of each pepper.  Parboil for 10 minutes in boiling salted water.  Drain and cool.

To cook kasha: Bring 2 cups salted water to boil.  Add 1 cup uncooked kasha.  Let simmer 10 minutes, covered.  Measure out 1 cup and save the rest.  Let cool.

To make filling: Brown onion and garlic well in olive oil.   Set ¼ cup aside to use in sauce. Mix the remaining onion-garlic mixture with the rest of filling ingredients.

To make sauce: Mix all ingredients together and simmer for about fifteen minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

To assemble: Put a little tomato sauce in the bottom of a Dutch oven or other large casserole dish.  Arrange peppers inside.  Divide filling among them. (You may have some filling left over.) If you like, add the previously removed  “lid” on top of each pepper. Add more sauce, almost to cover.  Bake at 350 degrees, for 1 hour or more.  Add more sauce if needed.

stuffed peppers, before adding sauce

stuffed peppers, after baking

Fresh Cranberry Beans

Shell the beans.  Rinse and drain in a colander.  Admire the pretty pink mottling, because it will disappear once the beans are cooked!   Simmer in a pot of boiling salted water for 10-20 minutes, until tender.  Drain.  Toss with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.

The verdict?  The stuffed peppers were delicious!  The peppers themselves benefited from parboiling and then a longer time in the oven.  We didn't miss the beef and pork in the filling at all.  The addition of kasha worked well.  It created the same dense texture as the traditional rice-meat mix, but with an intriguing hearty, smoked buckwheat flavor.

The beans were a nice, mild complement.  The flavor was even better the next day, after they had marinated in the dressing.

As for that  Kosovo Kugel, I think perhaps it should remain lost.  To learn the full story, read on!

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