I hate bell peppers. There is not much in the world that I truly and deeply hate; ticks, a couple of girls I went to high school with, and bell peppers. They are brightly colored, and very pretty, but eating them makes me want to curl up in a ball and weep. That said; I often find myself making recipes that call for them… And as they are healthy, and add a splash of color to the dish, I like to use them. Here’s how I render them innocuous: First off, I avoid the green ones at all costs; the red and yellow are much milder. Then, I chop them up into very very small pieces, and I saute them over medium high heat, stirring often so they don’t burn… And cook them for a good long time, until they forget what they are supposed to taste like. On the other hand, I LOVE eggplant, and this is a fantastic recipe, in spite of the peppers.
The first couple of times I made this, I had some trouble fitting all the extra stuff back into the eggplant, but I figured it out. Once you have sauteed all the flavor out of the peppers, throw your eggplant in the skillet with them, sprinkle a little bit of salt on them, and let them sweat down for 8-10 minutes. Do the same thing with the onions and tomatoes and it all fits in your empty eggplant shells.
I have been loath to use dried herbs as of late, as the flavor impact just is not the same, but I have been similarly reluctant to buy fresh herbs from the store as they are expensive. I had a crop of basil, sage, rosemary, oregano, and thyme planted in my meager garden space in the back yard, and they had just started sprouting, when the housing area we live in decided to spray herbicides all along our fence and I lost the lot. After I finished with my tantrum, I got some new seeds and planted everything again, inside, in pots. Point is, in that last picture, those purple sprouty things are my purple basil that I plucked in my efforts to un-crowd the plants in the pot.
I cannot rave about this recipe enough. The walnut, wheat germ, parmesan crust is rich, salty, and sweet all at once. The eggplant is meaty, the tomato is bright… And with any luck, you can’t taste the peppers at all! The last time my in laws came to visit, we procured some high-quality steaks wrapped in bacon which we cooked on the grill, and I made this as a side dish. All of the steaks went unfinished, but there was no eggplant left anywhere. True story.
Ingredients: (Makes two servings)
-1 Small red bell pepper
-5 TBS olive oil
-2 cloves minced garlic
-1/4 cup fresh chopped basil or 2 TBS dried
-2 small or one large tomato
-1/3 cup ground walnuts
-1/6 cup wheat germ
-1/4 cup grated parmesan
-1 tbs melted butter
-1/3 cup milk
-Slice eggplant in half and hollow. Dice the meat.
-Dice the bell pepper.
-Over medium heat, in 2 TBS olive oil, saute bell pepper and egg plant until reduced in size by about half. 8-10 minutes. Divide between shells.
-Chop onion, tomato, garlic, and basil. Add olive oil to pan, saute onion and garlic for 4 minutes until onions are very translucent. Add tomato and basil and saute for another 4 minutes. Divide between shells.
-In the blender or food processor, make a paste of wheat germ, walnuts, butter, milk, and parmesan. Spread a thin layer on top of the eggplants.
-Bake at 350 Degrees F for 45 minutes.