Stuffed bell peppers are one of the most beautiful ways of presenting a simple, savory entrée. Many fruits and vegetables are suitable for use as serving vessels, as are some shellfish.
Bell peppers come in a variety of colors, from the common green to reds, yellows, orange and purple. All of these are sweet varieties of the indigenous chiles of Mexico, Central and South America. When Christopher Columbus took these back to Spain in 1493, he named them pimientos, which is Spanish for pepper. Black peppercorns were already highly prized in Europe, and the name was extended to anything with hot and pungent characteristics.
Red Bell Peppers Stuffed with Saffron Rice, Lentils, Shrimp and Bacon
I had everything on hand except the bell peppers and the shrimp. I wonder if I would have included the tomatoes if there weren’t some left on the counter top from an earlier appetizer. This easily converts to a vegetarian dish.
- 6 Bell peppers, all similar sized with stems attached. Look for attractive ones with smooth skins
- ¾ cup (180 ml.) basmati rice
- ¾ cup (180 ml.) French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) finely minced celery
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) finely minced carrot
- 6 jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
- 6 strips bacon
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) finely chopped scallion
- 6 tablespoons (90 ml.) tomato, seeded and chopped
- Generous pinch of saffron
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) vermouth
- 1½ cups (360 ml.) chicken stock
- 1½ cups (360 ml.) dry white wine
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Carefully remove the stem end of each pepper in an attractive way for later presentation. Using a spoon, remove all the seeds and membranes and discard.
- Crush the saffron in a small bowl and cover with the vermouth.
- Fry the bacon until crisp then remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool then break into small pieces.
- Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan large enough to hold all ingredients.
- Sauté the shallots until soft then add the carrots and celery and continue to cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the rice and lentils and stir all together.
- Add the vermouth and saffron and stir well.
- Add the stock and white wine and bring to a boil.
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Lower heat, cover and simmer until rice and lentils are tender, about 35 – 45 minutes.
- Cool slightly then add in the bacon, shrimp, tomatoes and scallions.
- Stuff the peppers with this mixture, cover with the pepper tops and place in an oiled baking dish.
- Add enough hot water to the baking dish to come up about 1 inch.
- Bake 35-45 minutes or until middle of peppers reaches 150ºF.
Serve immediately with a salad and some crisp white wine. Stuffed peppers store and reheat well.