Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bell Peppers Stuffed with Toulouse Sausage/Brown Rice/Parmesan...and brown rice stir fry

Recipes for this old standby are countless. What I like about this one is not only are the stuffed peppers good because of the nutty flavour of brown rice and the succulent spiciness of Toulouse or Italian sweet sausages, they look good also--plump and amply filled.  To accomplish that feat, it is necessary to parboil the peppers and cook the sausage ensuring that when you stuff them, those satisfyingly full peppers will remain that way after baking. Though I use brown rice in general, I do choose white rice for puddings and risottos. A nutritious and doable compromise is to eat fifty percent whole grains and fifty percent refined ones.

When cooking rice, I try to make more than needed for the recipe in hand, freezing the extra as ice cubes or portions with which I can eventually bulk up a cup of chicken broth--made from, yup, you guess it, a couple of concentrated broth ice cubes--or use in a stir fry.

For four stuffed peppers, you will need, of course, four peppers (medium large or their equivalent, I used 2 small, 2 medium, and a very large one from the potager), 16 fluid ounces/474 ml of cooked brown rice (about 4 fluid ounces/118 ml raw), 16 fluid ounces/474 ml of cooked Italian or Toulouse sausage (four raw sausages), 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, one or two large eggs, four fluid ounces/118 ml of grated Parmesan, 1 tablespoon of butter, and six fluid ounces/178 ml of fresh bread crumbs.

Preheat oven 350 degrees F/177 degrees C. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, prepare the peppers. Wash and core them.

Plop them into the hot water and using wooden spoons to keep them from bobbing about, parboil for two to three minutes depending on their size. You want them not to be raw, just slightly tender and still crisp.

Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs and run them under cold running water to stop their cooking. Drain them, cut side down, on paper towels.

Slit the sausages casings with a sharp knife and peel them off. Put a tiny bit of olive oil in a skillet and saute the sausage meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.

Drain the grease, deposing of it by putting it in a jar. Blot the meat well with paper towels and put it in a large mixing bowl.  Another advantage of using precooked meat is that the finished dish is way less greasier. When cool, crumble up the meat into tiny pieces with your fingers. Put several chunks of French bread into a mini-mixer to make fresh break crumbs. Dried breadcrumbs certainly have their uses, but buttered fresh crumbs often raise a dish to the next level. Grate cheese.

Mix half of the cheese with the crumbs. Melt the butter in a small pot and remove from heat. Stir in the crumb/cheese mixture till well coated.

Mix the remaining cheese with the sausage, brown rice, tomato paste. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Beat the egg--using two if you prefer a denser, firmer texture--and add, stirring the mixture well.

Stuff the peppers fully, packing each spoonful down before adding the next. (If there is left over stuffing, you can put it in a buttered, lidded casserole and place strips of lightly oiled green peppers and crumbs on top. Bake along with the whole stuffed peppers.)

Sprinkle with crumbs.

Bake for about thirty minutes. Test for tenderness by piercing the peppers with a tip of a sharp knife. If the peppers were all in the same state of being parboiled, most likely you will find that different sized peppers will all finish at the same time. If not, larger ones may need longer baking.

They are substantial, satisfying, and glorious. Though they could be halved vertically before cooking, making them easier to fill and take less time to bake, I prefer the scrumptious self basting which occurs with whole peppers.

The next day, there was fried rice made with the surplus brown rice. For each meal sized serving you will need 4 fluid ounces/118 ml of frozen or fresh peas, 16 fluid ounces/474 ml of cooked brown rice,  4 teaspoons of vegetable oil other than olive oil (I used safflower), a large egg, a teaspoon of minced ginger, a teaspoon of minced garlic, and a few red pepper flakes. Heat three teaspoons of the oil until hot. Saute briefly the ginger, a few red pepper flakes, and garlic. Toss in the frozen or fresh peas and fry for a minute or two. Move the veggies aside in the pan, oiling the bare spot with a teaspoon of oil, then pour in the beaten egg, stirring it vigorously until small, yellow bits form. Add the rice and over high heat, stir for a few minutes, salting to taste until everything is hot, mixed together, and ready to scoff down.

Late summer harvest is slowing down, but there are still lots of goodies to be had.

Late-season potatoes/tomatoes/cucumbers, figs and bay leaves

The autumn garden is burnished with copper, bronze, and golden tones, especially on brilliantly sunny though cooler days.

The Iris foliage will soon be clipped down to about six inches.

In the flower garden, the blue asters are coming into prominence.

The black-eyed Susan vine, both the volunteers from the previous season and the ones purposely planted in early spring, brighten the garden.

Pinks in a pot and a volunteer black-eyed Susan trailing from its cement crack onto a support

Hopefully these covering a fence will reseed themselves for next season

À la prochaine!