When I recently stepped into the local farmers market, my eyes were treated to a feast of color. It’s amazing how many different colors—not to mention shapes, sizes, and flavors—there are of tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, and even carrots. And now that heirloom produce is getting so much attention, this variety seems to keep expanding. I knew I had to figure out a way to bring all this color together into a recipe, and I settled on mashed-potato-based roasted stuffed peppers, with a sweet Balsamic sauce.
I should mention that the ingredients list can be pretty fluid. If you can’t find the white eggplant or Pingtung Long eggplant, just use regular purple eggplant. I was told the main difference is that these two varieties are a little less bitter than regular eggplant, but I never found cooked eggplant to be all that offensively bitter to begin with. And by all means, if you only have dried thyme or fresh basil then use what you have. As Martha Stewart so helpfully points out, you need about 3 times as much fresh herbs as you need dried since dried herbs tend to be more potent.
I thought the sauce really finished off this recipe: it filled a gap that I believe is often left in the flavor of stuffed peppers. As a colorful side for this meal, I also prepared steamed Swiss chard with light salt. If you’re not familiar with Swiss chard, it’s a leafy vegetable sort of like kale or spinach, but it has brightly colored stems and veins. It has a little bitterness to it, a lot like kale, but it has a good flavor.
Roasting vegetables can really bring out a sweeter flavor, but some people prefer their vegetables to remain a bit fresher. When roasting these stuffed peppers, pull them out before they get very roasted (about 15-20 minutes in) if you want to maintain some more of that crispness that raw peppers have. If you have drastically varying sizes of peppers, you may want to take out the smaller once before the bigger once because they’ll roast quicker. The pepper in my photograph is actually a little under-roasted for my liking because I had some smaller ones that were starting to go past the perfect roast.
When I lived in Belize, our cook would occasionally make roasted stuffed peppers, but her method of roasting was putting each pepper right on the stovetop over a flame. This worked surprisingly well—none of them caught on fire that I’m aware of—but it will only work for those with gas stoves. Other delicious ways of achieving a tasty roasted stuffed pepper would be to grill or to wrap in foil and set on the hot coals after a fire.
I’m excited to see what comes to the farmers market as the season changes. One dependable favorite will be acorn squash! Does anybody have a favorite farmers market item or has anybody seen anything interesting at a farmers market lately?
- 4-5 large bell peppers
- 10-13 small new potatoes, poked with a fork (enough to make about 2 cups of mashed potatoes)
- 2 large cloves of garlic, whole
- 1 whole piece of ginger, about the size of a large garlic clove
- 1 medium-large shallot or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
- 5 medium-large shiitake mushrooms, chopped
- 1 medium-small white eggplant, chopped
- 1-2 medium-small Pingtung Long eggplants, sliced
- 2 small bell peppers or 1 medium-large bell pepper, chopped.
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1-2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (for sauteing)
- fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Poke each tiny potato a few times with a fork. Place the potatoes with the garlic cloves and ginger in a pot and cover with water. Lightly salt if you like and bring to a boil. Once it begins boiling, set it to about medium-high and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes slide off of a knife when inserted and lifted out of the water. Drain and thoroughly mash, being sure to mash the garlic and ginger in.
- While the potatoes are boiling, chop your shallots, mushrooms, eggplants, and small bell peppers if you haven’t already. Combine the chopped vegetables in a large skillet with the thyme, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, and mix. Drizzle olive oil over everything and set over medium heat and saute.
- Gently combine the mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetable so as to not mash the vegetables.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the tops off of the large bell peppers and cut/scoop out the seeds. Stuff with potato-vegetable mix and place the tops back on. Spray a baking pan with oil and set the stuffed peppers inside, then place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the outside begins to wrinkle. Then take the tops off and continue roasting for another 5-10 minutes.
- While the stuffed peppers are roasting, mix the Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon, whisking quickly with a fork to combine. Place in a small saucepan over medium high and stir. Continue stirring as it boils, but don’t boil for long. Take it off of the heat once it appears to thicken a little. If you let it thicken too much, it will harden when cooled. If this happens, reheat briefly before using.
- Sprinkle desired amount of Parmesan cheese over roasted pepper and drizzle sauce or cut pepper in half first and then add the cheese and sauce, then serve.