It’s salt. I know, big secret, right? Duh, salt! But the thing about most stuffed bell pepper recipes is that they call for salt in the filling, not for the peppers themselves. Without salt, the peppers are flabby and bland, merely a filling case. With, they transform into a sweet and powerfully savory part of the dish.
Stuffed peppers are so easy that I’m going to give you a wing-it recipe. Substitute at will. Nice additions might be finely chopped raisins, olives, capers, hard-boiled eggs, grated zucchini, or cheese.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
Uncooked rice, any kind, about 1/2 cup
4 bell peppers, any color or size, washed, 1/2 inch cut from the top, cores and ribs discarded
1 medium onion, chopped into sizes you like to eat
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 pound of ground meat
Some form of tomato: chopped fresh, canned (small can oughta do it), tomato sauce, even ketchup
1. Cook the rice as usual.
2. While that’s cooking, start water boiling in a pot big enough to hold your four peppers. Stir in enough salt to make it as salty as seawater, at least a tablespoon per four quarts.
3. When the water boils, dump in your peppers. Let them sit until they’re just starting to get soft, about three minutes. Remove them from the water with tongs and let the peppers drain in a colander while you prepare the filling.
4. Put a big knob of butter (two tablespoons? a little more?) into a pan and heat over medium high. When the butter foams, tip in the onions and cook until soft, a couple of minutes. Shake some salt over them.
5. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant.
6. Stir in the meat and cook until it’s no longer pink. Salt the living hell out of it, and chuck Worcestershire on it until it tastes good to you. (Don’t be weirded out about eating lightly cooked meat, ya big baby.)
7. Put the meat in a bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir in the rice. Stir in whatever tomato form you’re using until the mixture looks nice and moist and juicy. Taste for salt—you want this thing good and salty, so go nuts. Put some pepper on there too. Taste it again. Hey, that’s not bad. Maybe you’ll eat lunch right here over the sink.
8. Crack the egg on top of the meat and rice and stir it up good.
9. Sprinkle salt all over the peppers, inside, outside; stand them up in a 9-inch square baking dish.
10. Using a soup spoon, squish the stuffing into the peppers, making sure to pack it in tightly. I despise cheese but there are people who seem to like it, so if you are one of them, throw your grated cheese over the top now. Yuck. You just ruined it, but OK.
11. Bake at 350°F for a half-hour or until the peppers have gone pleasingly wrinkly all over and your cheese is bubbly.
Stuffed peppers freeze and travel well, so make a double or triple batch and keep them in the freezer in a resealable plastic bag. Need lunch? Pull one out and microwave until hot, about 8 minutes if your microwave is of the same wattage as mine, whatever that is.