It’s the most wonderful time of the gardening year. The harvest is pouring in, and we’re dreaming up summer food recipes galore on which to gorge ourselves. From Greek salad to home fries to squash fritters to sautéed okra with tomatoes, it’s been very good eatin’ around here.

Yield :  1 pint jar (or ½ lb) marinated feta

I was at my mother’s house the other day when she told me about the dinner she’d whipped up the night before. It starred green bell peppers from her garden, which she stuffed with a mixture of hamburger, rice, tomatoes, cheese, and sundry spices, then baked. Turned out awesome, she said.

I thought about our pepper plants, which have grown steadily heavier, even stooped-over, with bells. One is a red bell, so I’ve held off picking, waiting (and waiting and waiting) for its peppers to take on a crimson hue.

Alas, with this stuffed pepper vision now stuck in my head, I decided we could wait no longer. Thalia was excited to help gently twist the big bell peppers off the plant. We took them inside, where Todd was already at work over a hot range, browning ground beef, onion, and spices. Thalia helped him stir in some cherry tomatoes, and then she and I let her dad finish the rest. (Sure, I like cooking what I grow, but I’m also quite fond of having it cooked for me.)

We stuck to mom’s recipe except for the rice. For that, we subbed in Israeli couscous, which I love for its nubby texture and slightly nutty flavor. Either way, though, these peppers are a surefire pleaser because all the various flavors – the mild but snappy pepper, the garlic and onions, the tangy sweetness of the tomatoes, the potent dash of cinnamon – all meld beautifully into a complex, perfectly spiced dish. They’re delicious both as the main attraction or as a side dish.

Feel free to follow my lead and improvise on this recipe. Throw in chorizo or ground turkey instead of ground beef, or do a veggie-bean medley instead. Try quinoa instead of couscous or rice. Add more cheese, or less, or different cheeses. I think it’d be hard to go wrong, frankly.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 large bell peppers (tops cut off, seeds and insides removed)
  • 1 lb or so ground beef
  • ¾ cup dry rice or Israeli couscous, cooked
  • 1 small-medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
  • Equal amounts (about 1 tsp or so) cinnamon and chili powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1½ cup grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • Pint or more of cherry tomatoes or diced tomatoes

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Brown the meat with the garlic and onions (add chopped up pepper tops if you’d like) and season with the cinnamon, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. When meat is cooked through, add cherry tomatoes and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, cook couscous or rice according to instructions.

Combine couscous and meat mixture, adding in one cup of cheddar cheese and all of the Parmesan. Spoon mixture into peppers and place in a casserole dish, topping each pepper with what’s left of the cheddar. Cook uncovered in oven for about a half hour. Let cool a bit, and enjoy!

Featured Ingredient: Lettuce

Lettuce usually takes a back seat to other ingredients that stand in the spotlight — but it deserves a starring role! There are so many different varieties of lettuce, providing a wide range of flavors, textures, and colors. These can add quite a bit of interest to even the simplest salad or sandwich. Lettuce contains valuable nutrients such as vitamin A, potassium, and dietary fiber. If you grow only one vegetable other than tomatoes, it should be lettuce. Growing lettuce is so easy, takes up little space, and you can even grow it among flowers. Learn how to grow lettuce in your own garden.

Grow lots of lettuce in a wide bed packed tightly with rows.
Lettuce growing in wide rows.