I love giving you 15-minute recipes, but once in a while there comes a dish that is worth the extra effort. This Layered Summer Vegetable Torte is just that. Yes, you have to grill some vegetables and make a simple vinaigrette, but this is a hearty, delicious, veggie-centric showstopper. Every summer I have a few recipes that I put on repeat when I entertain at home, and this was one of my go-to’s from the Summer of 2021 and now it’s back in the rotation!Continue reading
I just returned home from a beautiful vacation on Long Island with my family. It’s always my favorite week of the year and I enjoy the time even more when the weather is perfection like it was last week (barring the crazy 30-minute quasi-tornado on Tuesday morning.) I try to visit my parents in August rather than earlier in the summer because my father’s vegetable gardens are much more abundant now. I think one of the best, most rewarding things in life is to be able to grow your own food. On so many levels it’s good for you and good for the earth.
It can be very confusing to know what’s in season these days since we can buy virtually anything at any time. But if you’ve ever gardened, you know that certain vegetables are planted during certain times of the year. When I was growing up, I knew strawberries were only around for a short time so I would eat as many as humanly possible to take advantage of nature’s little springtime gift. Same with tomatoes. In fact, my mother loves telling me the story of when I was little and I ate so many unripe green tomatoes out of my father’s garden that I made myself sick. I guess you can have too much of a good thing.
Here’s a newsflash for some people: bell peppers are a summer vegetable. Sure you can buy them all year, but they’ll be imported and likely not organic. Another newsflash is that bell peppers are usually on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of most highly contaminated produce, so I always buy organic or not at all. Yikes. Now I look back and thank my lucky stars my father grew lots of peppers without pesticides.
Sweet bell peppers have a soft spot in my heart because they were one of Mr. Picky’s first “approved” vegetables. I can even remember the day he tried a stick of raw red bell pepper and said, “Hey, this is good! It’s juicy!” Munch, crunch. Then I went overboard trying to put sweet bell peppers in everything because I thought they were my ticket to broadening his limited palate. Well my strategy didn’t exactly work. But I’m glad I went pepper-crazy because I found this recipe for Parmesan peppers and it has become a favorite.
Parmesan peppers is one of the easiest and tastiest side dishes. It gets multiple flavor boosts from garlic, thyme, lemon and Parmesan cheese, although I often use Pecorino, a sheep’s milk cheese. It’s true that my son prefers his bell peppers raw (“juicy and crunchy”), I prefer the sweeter flavor and silky texture from roasted peppers. One sliver of these peppers wrapped around a bite of fish or roasted chicken is just delicious. And if you can find two (or even three) colors of peppers, this is a really beautiful side dish. And I repeat, easy!
So the big question is, does Mr. Picky eat this? And the answer is, almost. What does that mean? Like most kids, he’s slow to come around to vegetables and he likes to try things on his own terms. It’s annoying for sure, but it is pretty normal. So the first couple of times I made this, he was like “no way I’m eating that.” He did have the obligatory taste, but nothing more after that. More recently, he has eaten an entire piece and declared, “it’s pretty good, but I’m fine with one piece, thanks.” The last time he had one piece and said, “it’s good and I’m pretty sure I’ll eat more next time.” Welcome to my world!
While there are no guarantees in life, these peppers have always been a hit with everyone else who has tried them, including my two daughters. What I do know for sure is that summer and local peppers won’t be around forever, so do enjoy them while you can.
In all my classes since Labor Day, everyone seems to be so motivated to get back into a cooking and dinner routine! Although, now that I think about it, people that come to a cooking class ARE motivated to cook. So maybe the entire universe isn’t looking for new dinner recipes, but I am. And I am doing my best to be really organized about meals again.
I find it a million times easier to make dinners in the summer than during the school year. Sliced tomato, burrata, basil and olive oil counts as a meal in the summer. Not so much now. My family wants “real food!” Of course my days right now are overscheduled and I am still driving around a 16-year-old who could easily have her license by now if she were only motivated to take the test. I was dying to get my driver’s license when I was in high school. Not my daughter. She seems perfectly content to let me and her friends be her personal Uber. Why am I talking about this? Oh right. Because I am driving all over the place in those precious hours before dinner time. So I need to be Uber organized, if you will.
I taught these turkey and brown rice stuffed bell peppers in a class a year or two ago and realized I hadn’t made them in a while. With a salad, green vegetable or some millet-cauliflower mash, this is a great weekday meal for my family. My husband and son feel like they’re getting a substantial “meaty” main dish and I know that there’s more plant-based foods in this recipe than meat, so I’m happy too. My mom and my grandmother used to make stuffed peppers often, but they used ground beef and I don’t think much rice, if any at all. I love adding a hearty grain like brown rice here to stretch the turkey a little further.
I think this recipe has a lot of flavor as it is written, but there’s plenty of room for adaptation here. Add basil or switch to cilantro; add some grated cheese to the mixture or on top; add a little turkey sausage; or use grass-fed beef if you prefer. Once I had a half of a small zucchini and I grated it into the onion mixture. Mushrooms also go really well here. One thing I would advise is to seek out pesticide-free or organic bell peppers since they are on the Dirty Dozen produce list.
For those of you do-aheaders (like me), stuff the peppers earlier in the day and refrigerate. Then bake when you get home. Or, prepare and bake these after school, and transfer cooked peppers to your slow cooker on the warm setting until you are ready to eat. I am doing this more and more since I have a little time after school to do meal prep and then I’m out with the rest of the taxi drivers until dinner time. Until, I pray, someone decides to get herself into gear and let me stick to my day job.
2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil + additional for greasing the peppers
1 pound ground turkey
1 clove garlic, minced
½ onion, minced (can be done in a food processor with the “pulse” button)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, divided
¼ cup marinara or tomato sauce
1 ½ cups cooked rice (I use brown rice)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the tops off the bell peppers, just enough to remove the stem. If you want, dice up any pepper that you removed with the stem. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Rub the outside of the peppers with a little olive oil. Place cut side up in a baking dish and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and parsley to the pan. You can also add any pepper bits you may have diced. Sauté about 2 minutes and add ground turkey, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Break up the turkey into small pieces with a wooden spoon and sauté until turkey is almost cooked through.
Add tomato sauce and ½ cup stock. Simmer on low for 5 minutes until just cooked through. Add cooked rice to turkey mixture and combine well.
Spoon turkey mixture into each pepper and fill to the top. Place the stuffed peppers in the baking dish and add ½ cup stock to the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes until peppers are nice and soft and the turkey mixture is heated through.
You can add a little shredded mozzarella on top and broil until melted, if you like.
As I type this, my slow cooker has been on for 36 hours straight. Is that allowed? I am officially obsessed and I completely understand why you all have been too while I was under a little rock. Wow! I made this awesome sweet potato chili the other night, then washed out the insert and put in some beef bones to make beef stock while I slept. Then the next morning strained the beef stock and made a grass-fed beef brisket with veggies that I turned into a delicious sauce for pasta. I’m on fire!
Are you gearing up for Super Bowl Sunday? I love football, so I am always excited for the big day. What I’d really like to know though, is why does everyone make chili for the Super Bowl? Or a lot of Tex-Mex food? I take that back. My family in NY will be eating sausage and peppers and a baked pasta of some sort. Maybe it’s just Southern California, but everyone I know is ripening their avocados for guacamole to go on top of their tacos or nachos or what have you. Just curious since I am one of these people too and I’m not quite sure how I got to be.
I do try and mix it up a little every year, but somehow chili makes it onto the menu in some way. I have been alternating between Vegetable Chili (my favorite) and Deer Valley Turkey and Black Bean Chili, which I serve alongside a baked potato bar, corn bread and Mexican Chopped Salad which I have a feeling doesn’t resemble anything you’d get in Mexico but sure is the perfect salad to go along with everything else Tex-Mex-y. I’m in a bit of a conundrum this year with only two days to go until Super Bowl Sunday because I have no menu yet! There are too many things I would love to make, including this fabulous chili as well as Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos or even this terrific-looking vegetarian tortilla soup recipe I spotted on Foodily. Alas, I have a mere one slow cooker.
Fear not, good people. I will share with you how to make this recipe on the stove in case you either do not have a slow cooker (yet) or you only have one slow cooker and you are planning on making my slow cooker chicken tacos. I like to have a good balance of different food groups even on Super Bowl Sunday so that it’s not just chips and animal protein all day long. Personally, I think chili is an easy dish to do vegetarian. All those beans are super high in fiber and protein so they’re really filling and it’s the spices that make everything taste delicious, not the meat. This chili is really interesting because it includes a bit of sweet potato, one of my most favorite foods. There’s a touch of cinnamon and cocoa powder which you can’t really taste, but pairs great with the chili powder. I didn’t add any leafy greens, but in retrospect I think a few chopped leaves of chard, spinach or kale would have been a nice addition at the end. This Super Bowl I’m rooting for you to eat something healthful!
Author: Pamela, adapted from CookieandKate.com who adapted it from Real Simple, both via Foodily
2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil (or skip this if you don’t want to pre-saute vegetables)
1 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced (remove seeds to make it less hot or use half or omit altogether)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons sea salt (depending on salt in tomatoes)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 28-ounce container chopped or diced tomatoes with the juice (I prefer to use Pomi from a box or tomatoes in glass jars to avoid the inevitable BPA in canned tomatoes.)
1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed (click here to learn how to cook beans from scratch, otherwise Eden Organics doesn't use BPA in their cans)
1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
2 medium sweet potatoes, about 1 pound total, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup water (use 2 cups water if cooking this on the stove)
Omit this step if you cannot bear to pre-cook anything when using a slow cooker. I like to sauté my vegetables because I think it adds more flavor, but feel free to dump everything (omit the oil) into the slow cooker and press “start.” Otherwise, heat oil in a large skillet (if not using a slow cooker, sauté in a large pot) over medium heat. Add onion, peppers and garlic and sauté until onions are tender and translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add spices, salt and pepper and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. If your tomatoes are unsalted, use 2 teaspoons salt.
Add tomatoes and their liquid and cook for another minute or two.
Pour the onion and pepper mixture into a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Stir in beans, sweet potato and 1 cup water. (If cooking on the stove, add remaining ingredients to the pot plus 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until sweet potatoes are tender and everything is nice and thick, about 1 hour.)
Cover and cook until sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.
Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with desired toppings such as tortilla chips, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, and sour cream.
I have also served this with cooked quinoa and millet, which was delicious. Also, I think adding some chopped fresh leafy greens about 10 minutes before serving would be very nice, too. Swiss chard, spinach and kale would all work well.