Having spent the past few weeks exploring the wilds of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming as part of my summer vacation, I came back in awe of the landscape's raw beauty and weak at the knees for cowboys (sorry hubby). I also returned over-nourished with enough elk, bison, beef and pork to last me through the New Year, deficient in veggies, and craving ethnic flavors. We had some good eats out on the prairie, but nary a whiff of exotic spices.
So a few days into my return, I set to work with my favorite Afghan seasonings, a moderate portion of meat, and a few favorite summer vegetables. The result is this recipe for red peppers stuffed with ground lamb, rice, zucchini, warming spices, and fresh mint. The peppers are roasted until tender and served with yogurt feta sauce. The recipe is similar to dolma e murch-e-shireen, a traditional Afghan vegetable dish, minus the sauce. That part I made up. It's a worthy embellishment, but feel free to leave it out if you are a slave to authenticity, or just don’t feel like the extra trouble.
We eat a lot of ethnic food at home. “Are we having Afghan again?” is a common refrain amongst my three children, who, to be fair, are adventurous eaters. So it was heartening that as the heady aroma of the Afghan peppers hit the far corners of my house, it drew the kids into the kitchen to comment on the tantalizing smells and sample the savory lamb as I stuffed the peppers.
Lamb and Mint Stuffed Peppers
with Yogurt Feta Sauce
1 1/3 cups basmati rice
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground lamb
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup water
6 red bell peppers
1 cup plain yogurt
2 ounces feta cheese
¾ tsp. dried, ground garlic
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook the rice using your preferred method.
While the rice is cooking, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the lamb, salt, paprika, coriander, cumin, and black pepper, and continue to sauté for 8 minutes until the meat is cooked through and the flavors bloom. Add the diced zucchini and sauté another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the mint and water.
Cut off the top ¼ of each pepper and scoop out the seeds. Fill the peppers with the lamb mixture, packing it firmly down. You may have a little leftover filling, which you can save or set on the table in a little serving dish. Put the peppers in a roasting pan large enough to comfortably fit all six of them. Set the tops back on the peppers.
Fill the roasting pan with water until it is about 1 inch deep. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until tender. Serve on individual plates with a few spoonfuls of the yogurt sauce. If you want to serve this as a side dish, cut the peppers in half down the center.
Yogurt Feta Sauce (optional)
Puree the yogurt, feta and garlic in a food processor or blender until smooth.
Serves 6 as a main course, 12 as a side dish.
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