peppers stuffed with chicken and eggplant
A small confession here: this write-up, from start to finish took me a week. It’s pretty sad and shameful that I couldn’t muster enough time to get this out earlier, but this week has been out of control with work, events and last-minute outings. While it’s been fun eating out and traipsing around town, I’ve neglected to post. I’ve cooked absolutely nothing this week, sadly enough as last night took KS and me to Pio Pio on the UES (incredible chicken!), Wednesday night to the Soho House for a special viewing of Michael Clayton (I heart Tilda Swinton!), Tuesday night to a local Sushi joint and Monday was our leftovers and snacks night! So there you have it. No time spent in the kitchen and we’re at Friday. Am I cooking tonight? Highly unlikely! But anyway, the pictures from the dish above were inspired by watching Top Chef that afternoon (I’m so so hooked now!) and so after I made the peppers, I fancied myself a skilled plater – and as you see above, I failed miserably, as I’m certainly lacking a certain je me sais quoi when it should come to plating food well. That and it looks too deliberately arranged, which now that I think about it, drives me crazy. But I regress – onward with the recipe…
I don’t know about you, but green markets make me go gaga. It’s like I have to buy everything and KS has to remind me that I can’t have everything at the market, I have to select a few ingredients and commit to them. And I have to agree with him – working long hours leaves little time for elaborate meals with lots of perishables.
And so I have to go with a game plan and if I don’t, I wade around aimlessly and KS has to set me straight. Last Saturday was no exception, except, we were in a rush to get to the Cloisters and I discovered on top of rushing and disarray that my trusty Nikon D70s was not cooperating! I fantasized all week about doing some fall photography on the weekend, and, alas, we had to make do with a point-n-shoot, which really delivers disappointing results compared to the SLR version. But the camera is working again (there’s some weird fluke about having to reinsert the image card again) so that is a good thing!
While wandering about the market, I spied these beautiful peppers in a big, colorful pile. And it wasn’t so much their look as it was the aroma that wafted through the air, flowery and woodsy at the same time – the smell of fresh, ripe peppers – I had to grab a few. We had already purchased a few items here and there – a few apples, some chorizo from a grass-fed animal farm, a bunch of dill, which inevitably we always wind up throwing out a portion of because we can never eat it quickly enough. [And now – a suggestion and plea to herb vendors - for the love of the green guys you’re growing, please make these bunches smaller! I’d rather pick up several different bunches through the week, but have them be fresh, then throw out a portion of the wilted bunch, because the herbs, as you probably know, do not, at all, keep well!]
The next day, after our culture-infused trip, a sighting of scary squirrel, and some damn good falafel from West Village, I got to work on the peppers. There was little doubt what I was going to do with them, and while you can make lots of different dishes with peppers, I longed for the ones of the stuffed variety. In Russia, we used to mix ground chicken and seasoned rice together for the stuffing and finish off the dish with a dollop or sour cream (what Russian dish can do without it?) But I wanted something slightly different than the traditional recipe of my childhood – and used bulgur wheat, ground chicken, carrots, onions, tomatoes and pretty long eggplant. I have to say that with this recipe, I may not miss my childhood stuffed pepper dish for awhile.
3 tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 medium sized tomato, chopped
1 carrot, shredded
2 small, long, skinny eggplant, sliced into thin circles (like the Ping Tung variety)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 lb ground chicken
2 cups cooked rice or soaked bulgur
4 large peppers with flattish bottoms so they can stand on their own (tops, seeds, pith removed)
½ cup water, or vegetable or chicken stock
A few tsps of water/stock reserved
A few spoonfuls of fresh, chopped dill
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a non-stick skillet, over medium heat, warm the olive oil and to add the garlic and onions. Sauté for 5 minutes until the onions are wilted and translucent. Add tomato, carrot and eggplant and cook for 10 minutes more. Season with cumin, salt and pepper. Add in ground chicken and stir around the skillet so that the ground chicken isn’t stuck in clumps. Cook for 10-13 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in rice or bulgur.
Take your cleaned out peppers and stuff them with the chicken/vegetable sauté mixture. Place the stuffed peppers in an oven-proof baking dish. Once you have filled all peppers available, add the ½ cup water or stock to the bottom of the pan. Add a tablespoon or two of the stock on top of the chicken/vegetable mix and place in the oven for 40 minutes.
Remove peppers from the oven and if the chicken looks/feels a bit dry, add a few spoons of stock or water to the top. Let stand for a few minutes before plating. Garnish with chopped dill and doll-ops of hot sauce (or sour cream if you prefer!). Serve immediately.