I literally threw this dish together last night and haven't been able to stop twittering about it, it was that good.
I had to recreate the recipe afterwards, so some details are a bit fuzzy, but it is a very flexible concept based on what I had in the house -- no special shopping trips were made for this dish. So feel free to make your own substitutions.
I recognize where some of the concepts came from -- my sister's Cuban picadillo, my penchant for stuffing vegetables, my love of Spanish food, an interesting bag of mixed grains from the pantry and a half bunch of spinach from the fridge, but honestly, the dish came to me out of nowhere when I was in the mood to just cook not cook for the blog. While the dish was coming together I realized it had potential, so I did take its picture.
Spanish Stuffed Peppers with Smoked Paprika Tomato Sauce
Serves Four to Six
The ground turkey filling has a wonderful, warm, full taste and is good on its own without being stuffed in the peppers if that is easier or more practical for you. (Or if you have leftover filling after you have stuffed the peppers.) The tomato sauce adds a nice smoky note. Use regular paprika if you don't have the Spanish smoked paprika. It will still be delicious. The recipe took me about 45 minutes start to finish, but my grain mix cooked in 10 minutes. Allow more time if you are using brown rice or other long-cooking grain.
Don't be intimidated by the lengthy list of ingredients or instructions. It really is relatively easy and very impressive. The flavors of the dish really did remind me of the foods I've eaten in Spain. While I put this together for a family meal, I think it would make a nice "company" dish.
For a vegetarian version, try with lentils, white beans, veggie soy ground "meat" or crumbled tofu instead of the ground turkey.
6 small to medium red bell peppers, "lids" cut off and reserved, seeded and cleaned
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika (regular, not hot or smoky)
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
20 ounces of ground turkey
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned, drained)
1/2 bunch of fresh spinach, chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped (I used the kind stuffed with pimento)
1 cup cooked grain(s) -- I used a mix that included Israeli couscous and other grains. Regular couscous, bulgar, brown or white rice, millet or a tiny pasta such as orzo would also work.
8 ounce can of plain tomato sauce
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 tsp sugar or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of cooked grain (see comments above)
Stand the red bell peppers up on their bases in a microwave safe baking pan. Slice a bit off the bottom of any of the peppers that wobble. (Reserve scraps with reserved pepper tops). Put a half cup of water in the bottom of the baking dish and microwave on high for about 5-8 minutes or until the pepper shells are tender but not mushy. Drain water out of dish. Set peppers aside in baking dish.
Trim the leftover pepper "lids" and chop any usable red pepper. Chop any scraps cut from the bottoms of the peppers. Reserve.
Heat oil in large skillet. Saute onions until just golden, add garlic and saute until it begins to color.
Add red pepper flakes, cumin and paprika. Saute for a minute until they release their aromas. Add reserved red pepper scraps, carrots and celery. Saute for a few minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the ground meat, breaking up any big clumps, and brown well, stirring often. When the meat is almost cooked through, add tomatoes and spinach, cook, stirring occasionally until the spinach has wilted. Add chopped olives, stirring well to combine. Cook until meat is cooked through. Add the one cup of cooked grain. Stir well to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Set aside.
Make the sauce. In a small saucepan combine tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, olive oil and smoked paprika. Stir well and cook until heated through. Taste. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. (The sugar balances out the acid in the tomato sauce. Some brands need it, others don't, so taste first.)
Assemble the peppers. Stand the peppers in a microwave safe baking dish and using a large spoon pack full of the ground meat mixture. Spoon some of the tomato sauce on top of each pepper. Microwave on high for 5-10 minutes or until the peppers are heated through.
Reheat sauce and cooked grain if necessary. Serve the peppers with the cooked grain and remaining sauce.