My mother loves to garden. She is one of those sometimes annoying people who can make anything grow. Whenever I visit her I am greeted by a blooming garden, no matter the season, before anything else. Conversely, I've been known to kill cacti under my care and am not known for my gardening prowess. Even still, I do aspire to grow abundant beds of vegetables one day. One can dream right?!
Aside from glorious flowers and shrubs, my mother also grows many different vegetables; tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, carrots, herbs and more. The irony here is that my mother hates to cook. In fact she grows these vegetables not as much to have fresh produce on hand but more to indulge her love of gardening and planting something that she can nurture to harvest.
Luckily, I love to cook and we get to benefit from her gardening efforts with supplies of varied herbs and vegetables. Recently, these long banana peppers were ready for picking and I brought a bag of them home with me.
Thinking about what to make of them had me puzzled so I dragged out various ingredients from the pantry wondering which ones might work together. In the end, I decided to stuff and bake them. The peppers were sliced in half lengthways. The stuffing amongst other things was made of sauted mushrooms, toasted pinenuts, sourdough breadcrumbs, lemon zest and parsley.
The roasting really brought out the sweetness in these peppers and allowed all the flavours in the stuffing to come together. These were enjoyed as a vegetarian lunch, but would also make a colourful side dish. A platter of these lined up would look stunning as part of a bigger meal.
This recipe is easily doubled to make a larger quantity.
So dear reader, do you have a green thumb or is the closest you ever get to fresh produce at the green grocer?
Stuffed banana peppers
2 long peppers (you can use any long pepper you prefer), cut lengthways
6 medium mushrooms, diced
¼ Spanish onion, finely diced
½ cup pine nuts
1 tsp fine lemon zest
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
½ cup of breadcrumbs (I used small slices of day old sourdough)
2 Tbs olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Cut a couple of slices of bread into small cubes. You will need ½ cup. Spread on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 5-10 minutes until lightly golden.
3. Heat a non stick frying pan on medium heat and add the pine nuts. Stir until lightly golden. Remove from pan.
4. Slice the peppers lengthways and remove seeds and membranes with a sharp knife.
5. Reheat the pan, add 1 Tbs olive oil. To this add the mushrooms, onion, chilli and pepper only. Cook for a few minutes until all moisture is removed from the mushrooms.
6. To a mixing bowl, add the mushrooms and onion mixture, pine nuts, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, parsley, 1 Tbs olive oil and salt to taste. Stir well.
7. Using a teaspoon or your fingers, place the stuffing into each half of the pepper pushing the stuffing tightly into the pepper.
8. Place the stuffed peppers on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with added olive oil if you wish and cook in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until peppers are slightly golden.
9. This dish can be eaten on its own or with a side salad. It also makes a wonderful side dish also.