the rest of summer – & stuffed red bell peppers
If you’ve been following along, you know that for me this summer has not been about maintaining a steady, even pace. For at least four weeks, it almost seemed as though you’d need to poke me to know I was still alive. : ) There were whole days in fact when I could do little but stare out a window. Then the pace, following surgery, suddenly changed. Daily, for the next three weeks, I was shot out of a cannon. My youngest brother was marrying his sweet love at our house (!) and I had everything yet to do! Inside, outside, all around the house! I’m delighted to say that they were married this past Saturday…and everything was . just . plain . lovely ! Sixty or so of the nicest people, a beautiful and moving ceremony, a stringed trio, a veritable feast, and so much love it was contagious. Quite a few of us left euphoric…but no one more so than my brother and his new wife.
Health, happiness and a long, sweet life together, Jeem and Darlyn!
Today I think I may be hitting one of the gears I missed between the two extremes of summer. I am back to humming in my kitchen, and happy to be back in your company again. Expect me to be keeping it in third gear for the rest of summer, with a steady stream of food-stuff I’ll be wanting to share.
But I begin by emptying my refrigerator. I have a few too many red bell peppers and oodles of feta. I have farro (that wonderful nutty Italian grain tasting something like barley, but actually an old-world wheat.) And oregano (passed down from our Greek Yaya) is spilling out of the herb garden. So let’s stuff ourselves some peppers!
These can be served as a side-dish or as the center of a vegetarian meal. Perhaps with green salad or fresh green beans drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with coarse salt and thin strips of fragrant, fresh basil.
(If you don’t have or can’t find farro – it is worth the hunt – substitute with brown or white rice – or barley – or that little pasta, orzo.)
Stuffed Red Bell Peppers with Farro and Feta
- 4 red bell peppers, medium to medium-large – (peppers with broad bottoms will stand up better)
- 1 cup farro
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil) – diced
- 1-1/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes (along with their juice)
- 3 – 4 green onion, thinly sliced
- 1-1/2 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, or 2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- Pepper and salt to taste (keeping in mind that the feta will impart its own)
- A little extra sauce from the the crushed tomatoes (or catsup if you like) to spread over the top
Optional: 10 black or Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
Garnish: toasted (& herbed) bread crumbs for the peppers once they come out of the oven (see NOTE)
Set a large pot of water to boiling. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Cut off the top 1/2 inch of the peppers (reserving these tops for later) and remove and discard the cores and seeds. Submerge the peppers in the boiling water and boil for about 3 minutes – peppers will just be starting to soften. With slotted spoon, remove the peppers to a paper towel to cool and dry. (Place open-side up to prevent over-softening.) No need to discard the cooking water.
To the boiling water add one cup farro and cook for about 15 minutes or until done al dente. (Depending on the type of farro you use, cooking times can vary by quite a bit.)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Drain the cooked farro and return it to the empty pan. Add sun-dried tomatoes, crushed tomatoes with juice, sliced green onion, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and crumbled feta. (Add olives, if using.) You may want to add just a little more sauce from the canned tomatoes – just to moisten – but not make soupy.
Using either a muffin tin that accommodates the size of the peppers, or individual ramekins, or a baking dish, fill the peppers with the farro mixture and place upright in your chosen container. (Full but not overstuffed.) Spread a spoon of sauce (or catsup) over the top of the pepper and then replace the lid that you cut from the pepper. (This will help retain some moisture.) Put peppers in the oven and bake with lid on for 15 minutes – then remove the lid and cook for another 10 or 15 minutes, until steaming hot.
Serve topped with herbed bread crumbs for flavor and bit of crunch.
NOTE: To prepare herbed bread crumbs – remove crusts from 0ne to two day old country-style loaf or baguette. Process in food processor until coarsely chopped. Add herbs of your choice – Italian parsley, thyme, etc. – lay on baking sheet, add a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, stir. You can also add grated Parmesan or Romano. Bake in 350°F oven’til toasty – watch closely, stirring once or twice – approximately 10 minutes. When I have good bread just past its prime, I’ll process into crumbs and store in the freezer for just such a purpose, or to strew over fresh steamed or sautéed vegetables.