Friday the 13th as a special day: writing about the past, happiness and… stuffed peppers

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Today is a special day, and I’m going to share my happiness with you guys. First of all, it is special because today I got a job: I’m going to work as a tutor at a local school! I applied for a position at this school last year and my application was unsuccessful, which to me was a big disappointment. Someone kind enough from Human Resources introduced me to the director of the Tutoring Department. She did not have any immediate openings, yet she interviewed me and kept my resume on file. We have kept in touch ever since, exchanging emails periodically. It looks like my persistence has paid off because yesterday I got an email from her offering me a job. I had a meeting with her a few hours ago, and now I am sooo happy. Who says Friday the 13th is an unlucky day? 🙂

Second, today is a special day because I am going to write about a recipe that is very dear to me: vegetarian stuffed peppers.

I won’t lie to you: I’m carnivorous through and through. There is something I really enjoy about meat, be it red or white, beef or fish. Maybe it’s because I hardly ate any meat when I was a child (I grew up in a family of very modest means). Or maybe it’s because I really like the rich texture of various meats, in all their shapes and colors: red, with a deep layer of flavor (beef); white and surprisingly light (turkey); flaky and sea-salt smelling (cod). I like all meat equally, and I make both vegetarian stuffed peppers and meat stuffed peppers. However, if I were to choose between them, I would choose the vegetarian option without a question. The look of this dish is so appealing, and the flavors are so fresh and unadulterated!

Both stuffed pepper recipes make use of my “unsung culinary hero”: homemade vegetable sauce. I will write down my recipe for meat stuffed peppers in one of my future posts. For now, here is the vegetarian version.

Ingredients

6 bell peppers

2 cups long grain rice

1 cup julienne cut carrots

1 medium-sized onion

2 cups homemade vegetable sauce

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 can diced tomatoes

1 bunch parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

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Finely cut the onion  and put it in a pan along with the carrots, the vegetable oil and 1 cup of water. Bring to simmer and let it cook over a medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. Add the rice, 1 cup of hot water, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Here it is important to note that I do not want the rice to be fully cooked at the end of this stage (there will be plenty of time for the rice to cook later, after stuffing the peppers with it). For this reason I have used less water than the usual rice:water ratio, which is 1 cup rice:2 cups water. Also, the diced tomatoes will bring in more liquid too.

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Add the diced tomatoes:

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Add half of the chopped parsley. Mix all ingredients together and let them simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes. You can add more hot water, but only if necessary (to prevent the rice from drying out or from sticking to the pan).

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This is how the rice looks like at the end of this preparation stage. I love how all the colors come together – like in a merry gathering:

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Wash the peppers and dry them with a paper towel. Cut off the tops and core the peppers, making sure all seeds are removed. Stuff the peppers about 3/4 full with the rice filling, leaving enough room for the rice to expand during cooking. Unfortunately, I did not leave enough room this time, and some of the rice got out of the peppers and into the sauce.

Put the peppers in a pot. If you have any extra pepper, slice it and squeeze the slices in-between the peppers.

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This is how the peppers look like just before putting their tops back on…

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…and this is when they’re all prepped up and ready for stage #2:

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Now is the time to make the vegetable sauce. I followed my veggie sauce recipe to the letter, with one exception: I did not use garlic this time.

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Put the pot with the peppers on the stove top. Add hot water into the pot just enough to cover 3/4 of the peppers (we want the rice to have enough water to finish cooking). Bring to simmer and let it cook over a low heat for about 25-30 minutes. Half-way through the cooking time, add the vegetable sauce. Using a spoon, spread it evenly across the pot. Also add extra hot water when/if necessary.

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After 30 minutes check to see if the rice is cooked (it should be cooked by now). If it’s still tough, let it cook for an extra 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining chopped parsley over the peppers.

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I’m always nostalgic when I write about recipes which use tomatoes or peppers as main ingredients, because these veggies remind me of my childhood. We always had to be resourceful, to find ways to feed ourselves on a small budget. For my family, meat was almost never an option. Thankfully, Mother Nature provided us with plenty of choices, and I often took advantage of its generosity. I have vivid memories of me eating peppers fresh from my aunt’s garden, picking them up and swallowing them unwashed, filling my mouth with their wonderful, earthly flavor. I love these memories – Those were the days…

As a happy coincidence, this day (Friday the 13th) has given me the chance to reflect on both my past and my future. While writing down this recipe I took great joy in remembering my past – while at the same time contemplating my future as a school tutor with great anticipation. I cherish my past, and I expect good things from my future – and for both, I’m very grateful.

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