Updated: Sep 13
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Every year we venture down to a local farm called Dempsey Farms to hand pick fresh produce. What else is there to do on a hot day, right? On the particular day we went, it was truly miserably hot, and we couldn't stay in the field without drinking water about every 10 minutes. It was a constant back and forth: drink, go back to the field, get another drink, and go back to the field! It was an educational experience especially for my youngest son who learned for the very first time about peppers and their varieties.
We definitely made it a fun trip despite the heat and certainly learned a valuable lesson: Do not go late in the season, and never go during the afternoon hours, for sure.
My boys and I gathered so many tomatoes and peppers that it took me a week to process them. Many of the tomatoes, as always, were made into tomato-ricotta pie, of which I made to have on hand and also froze a few for future meals. The rest of the tomatoes were made into different ferments. The eggplants we picked were transformed into delicious baba ganoush.
For the peppers, I stuffed and froze them as well and like having them ready to go for those times when you don't have time to cook.
Stuffing veggies is something I love to do and keep on hand: Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, potatoes, eggplants, cabbage leaves, etc.
Last year I posted my grandmother's recipe for Fermented Stuffed Cabbage Leaf Rolls with Chicken and Quinoa.
These stuffed peppers are divine. Using my mom's recipe with a tiny twist of adjustments turns this dish into a healthy hearty meal that can be made way ahead of time. Sweet bell peppers stuffed with ground meat, farro, and veggies that are slowly cooked in the most delicious chunky red sauce. What is not to like about it?
What kind of meat should I use?
Honestly, there isn't any meat that can't be used. This is such a rustic dish, and as with any old recipe the ingredients can be easily substituted. My mom always cooked in the style that I refer to as "What do I have on hand?" And I cook the same way. In the video I used venison, just because that's what I had in my freezer that day. Venison is reminiscent of lean beef, but my preference would be to use pork for that's what my mom used most of the time. My recommendation is that you try this recipe with different kinds of meat, and you will be amazed at how the flavor profile changes while still delivering an undeniable focused stuffed pepper flavor.
Why did I choose farro and what are some other ways to enjoy this grain?
For the filling you can use pretty much any kind veggies. For the grains, most of the time my mom used rice, buckwheat or sometimes millet. I personally love them all, and don't mind experimenting with different grains, especially when I make vegetarian stuffed peppers.
This time I decided to use farro, but you feel free to use any grains you like.
During pregnancy I try to avoid rice, especially the brown kind, and here is the reason why.
Lately I'm in love with an ancient wheat grain called farro. This wheat has so much to offer because it has beautiful texture, cooks easily, and never turn into a mushy overly cooked grain like rice for example. Plus, its nutty flavor with unique chewy texture provides so much joy to work with and to eat. It is great as breakfast porridge, to be used in salads or as a side dish for dinner.
This versatile grain is used in soups too and even in desserts. It is usually paired with olive oil, fresh herbs, fruit and all types of vegetables.
What is farro and what are its health benefits?
Farro, an “old world grain,” has been around for thousands of years. Lately this impressive grain is beginning to gain traction for its health benefits and ability to adapt to different recipes. While it does contain gluten, it contains lower levels than today’s wheat, and if prepared properly, the gluten is pre-digested and broken down prior to consumption.
This ancient wheat grain is better for you than rice or quinoa. Because farro contains more fiber than other popular grains like rice or even quinoa, farro might have even more positive benefits when it comes to digestion and cardiovascular health.
It’s also exceptionally high in protein and even though it is a grain, it provides about the same amount as most legumes or beans. Farro supplies more than 10 different vitamins and minerals too.
Why is soaking the important step?
I’m a big lover of reading food history and recipes of the past. Reviewing such recipes supports my point of a proper preparation of whole grains.
Scientists have learned that the proteins in grains, especially gluten, are exceedingly difficult to digest. A diet high in unfermented whole grains, like wheat, puts an enormous strain on the whole digestive mechanism. When this mechanism breaks down with age or overuse, the results take the form of allergies, celiac disease, mental illness, chronic indigestion, and candida overgrowth. During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten, and other difficult to digest proteins are partially broken down into simple components that are more digestible for the human body.
All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer of bran. This acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. A diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli, and other organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. Even as little as 7 hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will kill a large portion of phytic acid in grains. Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the vitamins, especially B vitamins.
Notes on freezing peppers
If you’re wondering if you can freeze stuffed peppers to make them last longer, the answer is YES! You definitely can. In the summer when peppers are in season, I make stuffed peppers quite regularly and in large quantities. After we eat some for dinner, the rest will be put into the freezer right away. Sometimes I even portion them individually before freezing.
Let's do it...
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
Author: Inna of innichkachef.com
Yield: 10 portions
Ingredients for the peppers
5 sweet peppers (any color)
2 small carrots or 1 large, grated (using a cheese grinder)
2 small onions, chopped
1 lb. of ground meat raw (I used venison in the video)
1 cup dry farro (soak 7-8 hours before cooking)
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon bay leaf powder
Crème fraiche or sour cream (for serving is optional)
Ingredients for the sauce
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
4 Tablespoons of butter
1 large carrot, grated (use a fine grinder)
1 large onion, minced
32 oz. tomatoes in juice
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Drain and rinse your presoaked farro. In the pot add farro, 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and let cook for 10 minutes or until wheat berries are soft. This step could be done a head of time. Set aside to cool down.
3. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds. Let sit a side.
3. On pan add olive oil, onions and carrots, salt, black pepper and bay leave powder. Cook on medium to low heat for 10 minutes, stir once a while. Add one or two tablespoons of water at this point if needed. Once it's cooked set aside.
4. In a bowl mix together meat, cooked farro, veggies mixture, and parsley. And fill peppers with it.
5. For the sauce, to the pan add olive oil and butter, let it melt. Then add onion, carrots, salt, black pepper. Let it cook on medium-low heat for few minutes, stir once a while. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Then add tomatoes with juice, mix all together. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes on low heat.
6. To assembling a dish, take a casserole dish and add sauce a little bit on a bottom of the dish, just enough to cover it. Place on top the peppers, snuggle them to sit nice and tight. Pour the rest of the sauce on a top of the peppers. Then pour one cup of the water over the sauce, cover the dish with a foil, place into the oven for about 40 minutes.
P. S. Serve peppers with a generous amount of accumulated sauce.
And as an option sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley. And dollop of crème fresh or sour cream will bring your joy to another level.