If you’ve never had a carmen pepper, a sweet italian variety- you should absolutely locate a farm near you and scoop some up. They have an outstanding flavor and are delicious both straight out of the field and cooked. This week, we took the culls from our harvest and decided to try stuffing them. I’d honestly never tried using them this way and was really pleased with the results.
Luckily, this variety of pepper has proven to be easy for us to grow, although every year it always seems to take forever for them to change from green to red... but that’s likely due to impatience more than anything else. We start the seeds in the greenhouse in late March or early April (at the same time we start tomatoes and eggplants) and after about a month we move them to bigger trays so they can be the biggest, healthiest transplants possible. Once the danger of frost passes, we move them out to the field in two rows per bed, a foot apart between plants. While they’re still small, we put out tobacco stakes to trellis them so that when the peppers finally begin to form we can wrap string down the sides of the plants and keep them upright from the weight of the peppers. I know that some farmers have problems with disease in pepper crops, or with animals nibbling on the delicious peppers before they are ready... but somehow, someway we have been spared this so far. Once the crop turns from green to a gorgeous deep red, they are ready to harvest and enjoy!
The great thing about enjoying these as stuffed peppers is just how much you can personalize this dish. Add plant based sour cream, cheese, Beyond Meat crumbles, whatever the heck you want. So, read on for our recipe if you aren’t feeling like coming up with your own spin. Or build off of this and let me know what you did differently.
The inspiration for this dish came from here … though I basically didn’t follow any of it except for roasting the pepper.
4 Carmen peppers, cut in half (or 3/4 if you want more space to fill with stuffing) and de-seeded.
2 1/2 cups rice (I used brown but make white to spare yourself some time if you’d like)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
2 medium onions, chopped into thin slices
3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)
OPTIONAL: one spicy pepper of your choosing, de-seeded and chopped
Cook the rice. Combine 2 1/2 cups of rice with 5 cups of water or stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and cover. Brown rice will take about 45 minutes to be fully cooked, white about 15 to 20.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. Arrange the peppers cut side up in a broiler safe pan. Bake until slightly softened, 6 to 10 minutes (I ended up going with 8, for the record). Remove from the oven.
While the rice and peppers are cooking, add the oil to a pan over medium high heat for sauteeing the onions and garlic. Sautee the onions for about five minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic in the last thirty seconds and remove the pan from the heat as soon as the garlic becomes fragrant.
While that is cooling, you can dice up your cherry tomatoes into quarters and put them in a bowl. Add the chopped cilantro (and spicy pepper if you opted for that) and salt, then stir. Add the sauteed onion and garlic mixture to this and stir again. Now is a good time to set your oven to broil on high.
If you like to save yourself too many dishes, like me, add your cooked rice to the pan where you previously sauteed the onions and garlic and set it to low. Add a can of beans and add salt to taste, stirring somewhat often to heat up the beans. Stir in the mixture of cherry tomatoes, cilantro, onions & garlic.
Take your cooled peppers and stuff them with this mixture by carefully spooning the mix in. Broil until warmed throughout and starting to brown, about ten minutes for our convection oven, but start to keep an eye on yours after about five.
Plate and enjoy!