Ring the bell for peppers


Cat Campbell/For The Madera Tribune

Load up some crusty garlic bread rolls with steak, onions, bell peppers and garlic.

 

Ring the bell for peppers — bell peppers, that is.


They are delicious, nutritious and very colorful. Not only do we have green ones, but we also have yellow, orange, red and even purple. If you leave a green bell pepper on the plant long enough, it will eventually mature to its red stage.


I used to work for a company that developed all sorts of fruits, flowers and vegetables, and I know there is a lot of information about the genetics of this or that pepper species. But let’s just focus on the taste for now.


I love to snack on strips of red bell pepper. My dad used to cut them up in a small bowl, sometimes with red onion (why aren’t they called purple onions instead of red?) and dress them with wine vinegar, a high-quality olive oil, salt and freshly-ground black pepper. He would eat this as a snack, along with a couple slices of crusty Italian bread from a local bakery. So that is one way to eat bell peppers.


Here are a few recipes that feature those colorful, healthful veggies.


Classic stuffed bell peppers


Sometimes I like to cut the peppers in half lengthwise instead of cutting off the tops. This works very well when you have peppers that do not stand up straight, such as some that have rather pointed ends. Also, I like to add some cooked chorizo crumbles and use cooked bulgur wheat instead of rice. Feel free to kick up the amount of garlic and onion powder if you wish.


1 pound ground beef


1/2 cup long-grain rice, uncooked


1 cup water


6 green bell peppers (or any color)


2 cans (8-oz. each) tomato sauce


1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or granules


1/4 teaspoon onion powder


Salt and pepper, to taste


1 teaspoon Italian seasoning


Shredded Cheddar, Monterey Jack or other semi-soft cheese, optional


1. Preheat oven to 350. Place the rice and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Note: you can use a rice cooker, too, or make rice your favorite way. Or go all out and use Spanish rice.


2. In a skillet, cook the beef over medium heat until browned. Cut off the tops of the bell peppers. Clean out the seeds and any membranes. Then arrange the peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides face up. (If needed, you can slice off the bottom so they stand upright, or cut them sideways.)


3. In a bowl, combine the cooked rice, browned beef, 1 can tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper.


4. Fill each bell pepper to the top. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining tomato sauce and Italian seasoning. Pour as a topping over the stuffed peppers.


5. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven until the peppers are tender. Baste each pepper with sauce every 15 minutes to prevent drying out. If you are using cheese, sprinkle some over the peppers during the final 10 minutes of baking. Makes 6 servings.


Chicken fajitas


Marinade:


1 can (8-ounces) crushed pineapple


Zest of 1 lime


Juice of 1 lime (about 1/4 cup)


3 garlic cloves, minced


3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


1 teaspoon chili powder


1 teaspoon cumin


1/2 teaspoon salt


1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced


2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce


2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Remaining ingredients:


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded into 1-inch thickness (if necessary) and cut into


1-inch-wide strips


4 tablespoons olive or canola oil, divided


1 small red onion, 1/4 of it thinly sliced for the marinade and 3/4 sliced for the sauteed veggies


1 green bell pepper, sliced


1 red bell pepper, sliced


1 yellow bell pepper, sliced


8 to 10 flour tortillas, 6- or 8-inch size


Lime wedges


Fresh cilantro leaves


Avocado slices


Queso fresco or cotija cheese or your favorite type


1. In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the marinade. Mix the chicken into the bowl and let it marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or cover it and place it in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.


2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Working in small batches, add chicken to the pan and saute until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.


3. When the chicken is done, add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and turn up heat to high. Once oil is very hot, saute the onions and bell peppers until they are just tender and turning dark brown in some spots. Add chicken back into the pan and mix everything together.


4. Serve the fajitas with warm tortillas, lime, cilantro, avocados and cheese, if desired. Makes 8 servings.


Pepper steak sandwiches


I used to look for the thinnest steaks I could find, short of using shaved meat. They always seemed tough no matter how I cooked them. Then I decided to marinate and grill a tri-tip roast to my liking, and slice it for the sandwich meat. I think it’s so much better that way.


8 bell peppers, seeded and sliced


1 medium onion, sliced


3 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced


Salt and pepper, to taste


Olive oil


1 pound (or more) grilled top sirloin steak or tri-tip, seasoned as you desire


8 French rolls


Garlic butter


1. In skillet, saute sliced bell peppers, onion, salt and pepper in olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the peppers and onion become caramelized. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, about 2 more minutes (this is so the garlic doesn’t burn from being added too early).


2. Brush the rolls with garlic butter and toast on the grill. Thinly slice the steak or tri-tip across the grain. Place strips of meat on the bottom half of each toasted roll, then top with some of the bell pepper and onion mixture, followed by the tops of the rolls. Makes 8 servings.


Roasted bell peppers


Sometimes I like to add a bit of vinegar to this. Then I chop the peppers and add to a pasta salad.


1 large green bell pepper


2 colored bell peppers (yellow, orange or red)


1 tablespoon olive oil


1 teaspoon Italian seasoning


2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced


Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 425. Cut peppers into bite-sized pieces and toss with remaining ingredients.


2. Place on a baking sheet and roast 18 to 20 minutes or until softened and browned.


3. Serve immediately as a side dish, or save as an addition to a salad or casserole. Makes 6 servings.

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