What a weird gardening year. After an inordinately slow start with our cooler and rainier than normal Spring and Summer, the Fall garden season has been balmy and today, October 7th, we have yet to have a killing frost. The always fertile zucchini plants keep pumping out produce, though the vines are somewhat withered, and my bell and frying pepper plants just keep fruiting away. The trees are just shy of the peak of autumn color, but we still have summer veggies. Just plain weird.
Faced with this autumnal abundance, we have been eating a lot of peppers and eggs, peppered tomato sauce, raw pepper strips, and packing egg and tuna salad into small hollowed-out peppers for breadless lunches. Not to mention those countless numbers of diced peppers cryogenically preserved in my chest freezer and which fly out to bonk us in the head every time we open the overhead freezer compartment in our refrigerator.
To keep up with this pepper bonanza, I decided to make some stuffed peppers. I have a gorgeous bunch of Busillus pepper plants which are still blossoming away. They are very faintly hot when cooked and they make my hands tingle slightly after I handle them, so people with sensitive skin should probably wear gloves. And try not to rub their eyes right afterward either.
Some of the Busillus Peppers are turning a glorious red, but most stay dark and glossy green. Despite their unfortunate name (doesn't Busillus sound like a pathogen?), they are a new favorite in our garden. They are incredibly productive and taste wonderful fried up with onions and garlic as the basis for other dishes, but I wanted to feature them (and use a good number of them up) in a casserole for supper, so I came up with this version of the classic rice-stuffed peppers.
It was a satisfying supper and was even better heated up as leftovers for successive lunches. The queso fresco cheese gets soft, but doesn't melt as much as other cheeses, so if you want a gooier stuffed pepper, you could substitute Monterey Jack. The herb patch is still green, so I harvested some fresh cilantro, plucked some homegrown garlic from the garden shed and got creative in the kitchen.
Baked Stuffed Frying Peppers
1-1/2 cups enchilada sauce, divided (check ingredients to make sure wheat is not added as a thickener)
12 oz. queso fresco
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2-3 extra frying peppers, seeded and chopped
12 large frying peppers, tops cut off, seeds and ribs removed, and slit up one side
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups cooked rice (make up a bigger pot of rice to serve peppers over later, mmmmm)
Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with 1/2 cup enchilada sauce.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, blanch prepared peppers 4-5 minutes, or until skins are easily pierced with a fork. Drain and cool. Repeat with remaining peppers.
Cut queso fresco into wedges as below.
Heat oil in frying pan. Add garlic and cook, stirring, one minute. Add onion and chopped peppers and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, 7-8 minutes.
Add cooked vegetables to mixing bowl. Add rice, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in about 1/2 cup enchilada sauce to moisten. Stuff about 2 Tbsp. rice mixture into each blanched pepper. Place a wedge of cheese in the center and place in prepared baking dish. Drizzle peppers with remaining enchilada sauce. Cover baking dish with foil and bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes.
Serves 6 pepper lovers. Delicious over more plain cooked rice.
This seemed like the kind of recipe that would be enjoyed over at Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly blog event run by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once, where the focus is on the Vegetable Kingdom. This week WHB is being hosted by Susan the Well-Seasoned Cook, whose blog has lots of gorgeous photography and is the headquarters of My Legume Love Affair. Susan will have a roundup of all the Weekend Herb Blogging entries after Sunday's deadline, so be sure to swing by and see what everyone's playing around with in kitchens from around the world.