A classic vegetarian dish, these rice and veggie stuffed peppers are made more flavorful with exotic Mediterranean spices and sultanas. Topped with a tangy roasted red pepper cream sauce, these peppers make a hearty main dish for any occasion – from weekdays to holidays.
When I was growing up, I really didn’t like stuffed peppers. At all. My mom, however, loved them, so they were in her rotational meal menu, which meant she served them to us often. Don’t get me wrong, my mom is a fantastic cook and we always ate very well. I have so many fond childhood memories of my mom’s cooking, and many of her recipe are favorites of mine, even today… I just didn’t like cooked green peppers! Never mind the stuffing, which was hamburger meat and tomato, if I remember correctly. Or maybe it was something different… it’s been too long to say for sure.
But, as with other tastes, mine have changed over time and now I really enjoy stuffed peppers, albeit vegetarian ones of all types! So, as history often repeats itself, peppers also appear in my rotating meal menu from time to time.
Recently, I was thinking about stuffed peppers and thinking that maybe I needed to dress them up with a new sauce to put some zing into an older recipe. So that is how this stuffed green peppers with pepper cream came into being.
Let’s Make Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers with Red Pepper Cream
It’s quite simple, really. As with most of my recipes, this version of stuffed green peppers is not meat based, but instead, emulates what might be a traditional Mediterranean lamb and rice dish… without the lamb, of course!
Now, in case you think that stuffed green peppers with red pepper cream is a bit redundant, here’s the deal… there’s quite a difference in flavor between red and green peppers.
Green bell peppers, the most commonly found, are slightly more bitter, or sharp in flavor. That’s because, although they are the same genus as red bell peppers, they are picked earlier in the growing season, before they are ripe. That’s one reason why they are less expensive than yellow, orange or red bells. because those have less time to be plucked and sold as they get further along in the ripening process.
Before starting the rice, you’ll slice the tops off of your beautiful green peppers and core them, removing seeds. Then you’ll put them into boiling water on your stove top to soften up for a few minutes.
While that is going on, you can clean and core your red pepper, removing all seeds and roast it in the oven, or over a gas flame if you have a gas stove. (instructions below in the recipe card if you haven’t roasted red peppers before… it’s not hard to do, and adds so much flavor… well worth the little bit of extra effort, in my opinion!)
While the pepper is roasting away, get back to your green peppers before they get limp, drain and set aside.
Next you’ll can set the rice to steam. I use white Basmati rice when I have it, but you could certainly use brown rice or any other rice that you prefer. Although, I think the texture of wild rice and the flavor might not be perfect with the spices, but that’s up to you…
Now you’ll sauté cubed eggplant (the “meatiest” veggie available for this purpose), along with diced green pepper and onion. When a recipe calls for frying small eggplant pieces, I usually slice some of the skin off (as below) before cubing; otherwise the skin can get too fried – hard and dry.
Then we add a whole slew of Mediterranean spices. Plus sultanas, for a sweet pop every other bite or so.
Now, on to the sauce. Having rescued your pepper from the hot oven when it has blackened and blistered, you’ll let it cool enough for the skin to soften and become easy to peel off.
A word to the wise: Choose a very thick red pepper; I’ve tried roasting thinner skinned ones and by the time the pepper is roasted, it has evaporated the flesh to almost nothing… and you end up with a very small amount of roasted pepper… so go for a nice thick one!
From this point, it’s a simple matter of blending the pepper, spices and sour cream… and then, just wait until you taste the amazing flavor sensations!
If you are tired of the same old meat filled peppers, or vegetarian stuffed peppers with tomato sauce, do give these Mediterranean spiced peppers a try – I’m sure you’ll love them as much as I do!
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Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers with Roasted Red Pepper Cream
- 3 medium sized round green bell peppers
For the filling:
- ½ cup uncooked white or brown rice
- ¼ cup chopped green pepper (I use whatever pepper I can get from the tops of the peppers that I removed, then add more if needed to get ¼ cup)
- 4 TBSP olive oil
- 1½ cups chopped eggplant
- 2 TBSP sultanas (golden) raisins
- ½ cup diced onion white or red
- ¼ teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika powder
- 1-2 pinches cayenne powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ⅛ teaspoon clove powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cardamom powder
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice powder
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- salt to taste
For the Sauce:
- 1 large red pepper, roasted and peeled See details below in Notes for how to roast a red pepper
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 pinches cayenne powder
- 1 squeeze lemon juice
- salt to taste
- Slice the tops from the green peppers and remove ribs and seeds
- Cook the peppers in boiling water until they are slightly soft (3-4 minutes). Don't overdo it – you don't want the peppers to be limp ?
- Remove peppers from water and set aside in an oiled baking dish
- Boil the rice according to package instructions and set aside. Remove lid so the rice can cool while you make the stuffing.
- Roast the red pepper according to the instructions in the recipe notes
For the Filling:
- In a large frying pan, fry the eggplant in olive oil until it begins to get soft and slightly browned on the edges
- Add chopped green pepper, garlic and onions and continue frying until they are translucent. Add spices, sultanas and lemon zest and fry 2-3 minutes more.
- Add cooled cooked rice and stir to mix. Add salt to taste.
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Divide rice mixture into three portions and stuff the green peppers with rice mixture
- Wipe the outside of the peppers with a little oil to keep them from drying out while baking
- Place in a covered baking dish (lid or foil) and bake from 18-25 minutes, or until sizzling
For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:
- Add roasted red pepper, oil, spices to a blender and blend (pulse or blend) until smooth. If necessary, you can add the sour cream one tablespoon at a time to get the mixture to blend.
- Remove from blender and place sauce into a small bowl. Add remaining sour cream, squeeze of lemon and salt to taste.
- When peppers are ready, gently spoon sauce onto the peppers and replace in oven for 3-5 minutes more, uncovered
- Serve immediately