I love fresh herbs, but I realized the other night that my thinking about herb usage has been a bit narrow. Sure, I pair fresh basil with ripe tomatoes, rub roasted chicken with thyme, and top fish tacos with cilantro. I toss fresh chopped mint with berries, infuse it into chocolate mousse, and use it to garnish lemon tarts. But until now, I have rarely used mint in savory dishes.
I know, I know… you’ve been making lovely minted pea salads for years, and enjoying mint pesto on your lamb kebabs as long as you can remember. But it would seem that I’ve had a mint mental block.
I’ve long reserved mint for dessert. But no longer. The background of fresh mint in these stuffed peppers is surprising, but fits so naturally with the rich, meaty filling. Neither frosty nor sweet, the mint here simply adds an herbacious intensity that brings these peppers to life.
I’ve made stuffed peppers before, this lentil stuffed version, in particular, is a favorite. When I posted those lentil and rice stuffed peppers, I was yearning for a healthy, filling meal that would reheat well from my lunch box. These beef, orzo, and herb stuffed peppers are just as nutritious, filling, and portable. And while the bell peppers in my garden are still quite tiny, this would be a wonderful way to use up garden surplus. It is most certainly a great way to put some of that mint overtaking your garden to work on your table.
These peppers have a whisper of Greek influence, but you could substitute a bit of lamb in for the beef, and add a drizzle of good olive oil to pump up the mediterranean flavor. I served my peppers with a dollop of sour cream, but a bit of tzaziki would add both creaminess and additional flavor.
Beef, Orzo and Herb Stuffed Peppers
6 large bell peppers
1 cup uncooked orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 lb lean ground beef
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the tops off of the peppers, core and rise the insides of the peppers, and arrange them in a baking dish. Bring a few cups of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and cook the garlic, onion, and celery until slightly soft, about 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon until browned.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the orzo, beef mixture, tomato sauce and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the oregano and mint. Lightly spray the insides of the peppers with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fill the peppers with the beef mixture and top each pepper with its cap. Add a few tablespoons of water to the bottom of the baking dish. Bake until the peppers are a bit shriveled and tender but still slightly crisp, about 45 minutes.