Growing up, I thought the only peppers that existed in the world were green bell peppers. Romanos? Padrons? Serranos? They didn’t exist in my food world. My mom frequently served us green pepper steak and we gobbled it up. The steak was great – not so sure about the peppers.
Fast forward to 2013 and my realization that peppers sometimes aren’t green and come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. Having moved up the pepper learning curve, I decided to prepare the stuffed peppers from the cookbook Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. It was the first time I ever stuffed a pepper. Please don’t think less of me for it. At least I finally took the plunge. And what a lovely, fragrant, hearty, soul-satisfying plunge it was!
The recipe is called Ruth’s Stuffed Romano Peppers. Ruth is Mr. Ottolenghi’s mom. Now that I’ve eaten her stuffed peppers, well I want to meet her, cook with her, and share a meal with her.
The romano peppers are part of the sweet pepper family that includes bell peppers of all colors. But romanos are longer, thinner, and taste, to me, more like hot peppers, than bell peppers but without making you sweat and pant your way through the meal.
In Ruth’s recipe, these skinny beauties are stuffed with a basmati rice and lamb mixture flavored with Baharat spice mix, cardamom, dried mint, fresh dill and parsley as well as sautéed onion that is mixed with the dry spices. The Baharat mix I used contains nutmeg, black pepper, coriander seed, cumin seed, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, and chili. You can read more about this warm and fragrant Middle Eastern spice in our August Tasting Jerusalem post. You can mix your own Baharat or find it at a local Middle Eastern market or purchase it online from your favorite spice vendor, such as sadaffoods.com.
After making the peppers, I realized the process can easily be broken into stages, allowing you to prepare them up to the cooking point ahead of time, and just cook them right before you serve. Or even cook them ahead and reheat. Our two-day-old leftovers maintained their flavor and shape. The filling mixture can also be prepared ahead. The peppers can be cleaned, cut, and stored for a bit in the fridge. Or you can fill them and refrigerate until you are ready to cook. Lots of options.
I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe. Courtesy of Adam of Victorian Farmstead Meats, I had 9 oz. of organic grass fed beef to try so I subbed that in for part of the lamb, using a combination of both meats. The recipe uses onions twice – once sauteed with the dry spices for the filling and then again raw underneath the peppers with some tomatoes. I decided to saute the onions that the peppers sat on for about 10 minutes, rather than just using them raw. I also mixed vegetable broth and chicken broth, rather than using 100% vegetable. And I heard from another member of our Tasting Jerusalem group, Michelle of Daily Waffle blog, that you can skip the pre-cooking of the rice – it will cook up just fine when you cook the peppers in the broth for an hour. Nice time-saver Michelle!
I couldn’t find fresh dill at my market so I used a smaller amount of dried – that seemed fine. And as you can see from the pictures, I used both red and green versions of the peppers. I can’t confirm that the greens were actually romanos as well but they were sweet style peppers and worked just perfectly.
You can find the recipe on the The Guardian web site, posted about one year ago or better yet, buy the cookbook Jerusalem, join our cooking and conversation at the Tasting Jerusalem virtual cooking community and delve a little deeper into Ruth’s son’s cooking wizardry.