I find most Romanian cookbooks expect you to have some cooking background when it comes to ingredients and directions accompanying most recipes. At least that's been my experience with some of the older cookbooks I have... like missing ingredients, and directions that are quite vague. I've even encountered recipes where the amount of liquid required to make a soup or sauce was left to one's own imagination.... even some bread dough recipes expect you to know exactly how much flour to add in order to get just the right consistency ("adauga faina cat cuprinde"). Oftentimes, certain recipes will let you even guess the oven temperature that's needed to bake the dish("se coace la foc portivit")... It's true, that for those with a bit more cooking experience, these "inconveniences" might not pose too much of a problem... can actually be figured out. But for beginners.... well, it would make it difficult to use such information, and in the end, the cookbook may seem useless and uninspiring.
It took me years to finally understand the Romanian recipes in my cookbooks. At first glance, the recipes looked simple... short ingredient list, and directions written out in just a few sentences. Looked simple enough. Yet I always had questions... and because of that, the cookbooks remained on the shelf for years. So I've been wanting to post more Romanian recipes that are a bit easier to understand... just to have them on file, and in turn be of help to one or two others who are looking to try their hand at Romanian cooking. Funny thing is that I've even contemplated the idea of baking/cooking through an entire Romanian cookbook.... sounds doable, but I would sorely miss trying out various international cuisines. Maybe I could do both:). Hope you enjoy...
Note: I'm sure there are numerous versions of stuffed peppers... but this is a simple one. You can easily adapt the recipe I posted below to fit your own taste or ingredients. Use whatever meat you prefer, opt to use quinoa instead of rice... or any other grain for that matter. Feel free to use zucchini instead of bell peppers (even tomatoes will work)... and opt to bake the dish instead of cooking it on the stove top.
Tip: If you are looking to omit the carbs from rice, you could substitute an egg or two as it will "lighten" the meat mixture a bit.
You will need:
5 large bell peppers (any color)
1/2 cup rice
2 cups waterpinch of salt
1.25 lbs ground chicken (or any meat you prefer)
1/2 large onion, grated
3 TBS chopped parsley, or to taste
1 TBS tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
pepper, to taste
5 TBS olive oil (you could use butter)
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2 TBS flour*
7 TBS tomato paste
3 cups water + 1 cup water
salt to taste
* can use a gluten-free thickener, to make this dish gluten-free
1. Cook rice... in a sauce pan, place rice and add water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to med-low and cook the rice until al-dente (about 7 minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Grind chicken and run onion through grinder. Alternately, use store-bought ground meat and grate onion(or finely dice) onion. Set aside.
3. Place ground meat and onion in a large bowl. Add egg, tomato paste, cooled rice, parsley, salt and pepper.
4. Mix the meat mixture thoroughly.
5. Cut bell pepper tops and remove core and seeds.
6. Stuff peppers with meat mixture and place in a large pot.
1. Heat saucepan on medium heat, and add oil. Add the diced onion and cook on med-low until onion becomes translucent and soft (6-8 minutes).... stirring every so often.
2. Mix tomato paste and 3 cups water and add to sauteed onions.
3. Cook sauce for an additional 5 minutes... and season with a few pinches of kosher salt.
Assemble and Cook Peppers:
1. Pour the cooked tomato sauce over the stuffed peppers... making sure to get some sauce over the top of the meat mixture.
2. Place pepper "lids" on top of each pepper and add an additional 1 cup of water to the pot.
3. Bring the pot up to a boil, cover with a lid and lower heat to a simmer.
4. Cook for 50-60 minutes... or until peppers have softened and meat is completely cooked through. (you can remove pot lid and place in hot oven for an additional 5- 10 minutes if you prefer)
5. Serve peppers with sour cream and chopped parsley... and plenty of sauce. I like to cut peppers in half and pour some sauce over the meat mixture... this way the sauce gives the meat extra flavor.