Friday, September 9, 2011

Stuffed Peppers with Lentil Salad

Late summer/early fall in Oklahoma means a few things:  relief from relentless heat, kids are back in school, and the peppers and tomatoes are amazing!  Around this time of year red bell peppers can be found in the grocery stores for about $.50 each.  Considering there are times of the year when they are about $3 each, this is an amazing deal.  Not to mention they taste soooo much better in season.  I literally buy about 20 of them when they are cheap, then wash, slice or dice, and store in freezer bags.  It makes me happy knowing that little burst of summer is in my freezer, ready to perk up dreary winter days.  It's the little things!  Anyway, I had to eat at least some of these little beauties right away, so here is what I came up with:

Stuffed Bell Peppers

2-3 large to medium red bell peppers, washed, ribs and seeds removed and cut in half.
1 lb. extra lean ground beef, like longhorn or sirloin
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions or 1/4 red onion, sliced or finely chopped
5-6 whole wheat saltine crackers, finely crushed.  Or 1/3 C whole wheat bread crumbs
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 egg
Black pepper, cumin, and and paprika to taste
1/2 C grated parmiggiano reggiano

Cut a slit in the pepper halves (to drain) and lay them in a glass baking/casserole dish.  Mix the remaining ingredients except cheese (basically you are making meatloaf).  Divide meat mixture into four or six even balls and form into the pepper cavities.  Sprinkle grated cheese on top.  Bake in 375 oven for 35-45 minutes or until browned and cooked through.

Lentil Salad

1/2 bag of dried lentils, rinsed and picked through
1 C Beef stock (optional)
2 C Water
1/4-1/2 cup light Italian dressing (or make your own vinegrette if you are less lazy than me)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2-4 T fresh flat leaf parsely (you can just reserve a bit of the onion/parsley from the meat mixture)
8-12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
4 oz feta cheese (1/4 domestic feta block, 1/2 French feta package)
Pepper to taste

Bring stock/water mixture to boil in medium saucepan.  You can use water only but those poor lentils really do benefit from a little extra flavor!  Drop in lentils and reduce heat to medium.  Cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes (or you can use pre-cooked lentils).  Drain lentils and let cool to room temperature.  In a large bowl, assemble dressing, parsley, and onion.  Let "steep" while lentils are cooling.  Toss cooled lentils in bowl with dressing mixture.  Add tomatoes, cheese and pepper and gently toss.  Serve with stuffed peppers for a protein-packed and tasty dinner. peppers!!!

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