Stuffed peppers are a comfort food for both Americans and Israelis. But the two versions vary quite a bit in their spice profiles and methodology. American-style stuffed peppers are often topped with cheese, stuffed with corn, beans, rice and sometimes meat, and feature a more Tex-Mex spice mixture.
It’s common to stuff all kinds of vegetables: onions, zucchini, eggplant and, yes, peppers. Filled with rice, meat, pine nuts, raisins, fresh herbs and varying spices, the Israeli and Sephardic versions are saucier than their American counterparts, and often impart a sweet and savory flavor profile. The American version is typically just savory.
This version is inspired by a recipe from Janna Gur, a story from a colleague about her weekly stuffed peppers and my desire to make a weeknight-friendly recipe that you can make in your slow cooker. If you prefer to make it in a traditional pot on the stove, or in the oven, cook for approximately 2 hours on medium-high heat (or 375 F. in the oven).
Gur’s recipe was featured in her second cookbook, “Jewish Soul Food.”
For the peppers:
1 small onion (or half 1 large onion), diced
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tomato, grated (best to hand grate the tomato on a coarse grater)
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon fresh parsley (or 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
5-6 bell peppers, inside seeds and membranes removed (you can leave top of peppers intact for presentation if desired)
For the sauce:
15 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
Spray the inside of a 6- or 7-quart crockpot with a nonstick spray. Add tomato sauce, water, garlic cloves and honey. Stir to mix.
Arrange peppers in tomato sauce in the pot. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent.
Add rice, pine nuts and grated tomato, and stir to coat for 2-3 minutes. Add meat and break up with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook until meat is no longer pink, another 2-3 minutes.
Scoop rice-meat mixture into each pepper until filled three-quarters of the way. Place tops to each pepper on top (this step is optional).
Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 7-8 hours. Serve warm.
Shannon Sarna is editor of The Nosher.