Ballpark Stuffed Peppers

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This isn’t the first time we’d tried a riff on stuffed peppers around here. I loved our last creation – Chicken & Couscous Stuffed Peppers, probably because I like anything with pearl couscous. This variation goes pretty much the opposite direction and is stuffed full of rice, cheese, and the American classic – hot dog. Think of it like a reverse loaded hot dog! A delicious, messy ballpark hotdog, stuffed inside a pepper instead.

We use Stadium/Ballpark mustard in our recipe (and pretty much anytime we need mustard). It’s a Cleveland thing – a mild brown mustard that has been used at the Cleveland Indians ballpark for decades. Apparently there’s a controversy about it – here’s the story. When Selim moved to the Mid-Atlantic, he was mildly appalled that he couldn’t find it in stores and that I had never heard of this miraculous substance. I was a bit skeptical, but he was right. Stadium mustard is definitely a family favorite for both of us now. We bring home a few bottles of Bertman’s every time we go to Cleveland.

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Ballpark Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:
  • 3 large bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 hot dogs, chopped
  • 1 tbsp mustard (see above for our favorite)
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup + cheddar cheese
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Prepare the rice – in a small saucepan, cover rice with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. After it’s boiled, reduce heat to low and cover until water is absorbed & rice fluffy.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp of oil over medium heat. Add the onions and toss with the oil. Then add the hot dogs to the dish and cover. Continue cooking for 10 minutes, until the hot dog pieces have crisped up a bit and the onions are soft and fragrant.
  4. Once cooked, stir the onions and hot dogs into the rice, along with the cheese, mustard, and hot sauce.
  5. Stuff the rice mixture into the peppers.
  6. Place the peppers upright in high-edged oven-safe dish. Add a thin layer of water to cover the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Serve topped with an additional sprinkle of cheese if desired.
Serves 2.

Cypriot Carnival Bourekia

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Happy Mardi Gras (Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, etc)! Here in the US, we associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans’ celebrations alone. But this week I reminded myself that not everyone celebrates with beads, King Cake, Cajun food, and exposed breasts. So I looked into worldwide traditions, with the hopes of picking a different dish to make tonight. (I wanted a surprise for Selim when he came home from work, so I was looking for his favorite foods and flavors!) I learned so much – pretty much every country with healthy Catholic or Orthodox Christian traditions has their own celebrations. In my browsing, I decided I should definitely have been born in Cyprus. There, Carnival is a two week celebration – the first week is “Meat Week,” or Kreatini, which is the last week eating meat is allowed until Easter. The second of the weeks is “Cheese Week,” or Tyrini, which leads right up until Ash Wednesday. Cheese week!? A whole week for eating cheese?! How did I not know about this until now?

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Tonight we made these Cypriot sweet fried cheese pastries called bourekia. (I’ve also seen the spelling pourrekia, I’m not sure the difference, other than just translation into the Latin alphabet?) To be truly authentic, they should have Cypriot anari cheese inside, but given that isn’t entirely readily available in the US, the internet assures me that unsalted ricotta is an acceptable substitute. The rosewater and cinnamon take the cheesy filling and make it sweeter and full of the flavors of the greater Middle East and Mediterranean. I’m still mildly terrified of frying things, despite our recent forays into frying (Southern Fried Chicken & Shrimp Beignets), but we jumped head-first into our first fried treat tonight! Good thing we have our Culinary Bucket List to keep motivating us.

I’m not going to lie, these were good, but not perfect. I’m happy enough with the result to share, but I need to work on the dough. I’m not 100% content with that. The filling however… Perfect! Sweet, but not overly sugary, with a delicious blend of flavors. The hint of rosewater is excellent!

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Cypriot Carnival Bourekia

(Adapted from this publication from Toni Buxton & the Cyprus Tourism Organisation)
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups AP flour
  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water (+ more if needed)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp rosewater
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  • Oil, for frying
Instructions:
  1. Mix together the four, oil, and salt. Knead together, adding small bits of a cold water if needed to create a smooth dough ball.
  2. Wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, stir the cinnamon, sugar, and rosewater into the ricotta cheese.
  4. After the 30 minutes, roll out the dough and cut out circles. Use the base of a glass to stamp them out. You want the dough to be fairly thin – mine were somewhere between 1/8th & 1/16th of an inch.
  5. Spoon a small dollop of the cheese mixture into the center of each circle. Brush water on the edges of the dough circles and fold over into half-moons. Crimp edges together.
  6. Heat the oil in a heavy, tall-sided pot to 365 degrees. Fry the bourekia in batches, taking care not to crowd the pot, for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Remove them to a paper towel to drain and dry. Dust with powdered sugar prior to serving!

Baked Beef Empanadas

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Just a few weeks ago, we shared our Farewell Columbia homage to our food faves from our home for the past three-ish years. One of Ally’s favorite things to do in Columbia was to walk up and down the market, pretending like she might branch out, but then settle back on her favorite empanadas for brunch. Can’t blame her! We’ve been a little apprehensive to make empanadas at home for fear we won’t do them justice. But since we have time off between graduation and starting our new jobs, we’ve promised ourselves that we would attempt some of the more intimidating/time-consuming/difficult dishes that we’ve been too afraid to try! Fingers crossed ūü§ěūüŹĹ

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A lot of time when we attempt a recipe from a cuisine that we didn’t grow up cooking (ie: most of them), we struggle to find the authentic recipe. We don’t want to misrepresent anything on here. In standard fashion, we spent a lot of time scouring the internet for the perfect empanada dough recipe. For a basic empanada dough for baking, it seems that the biggest controversy is whether or not to use an egg in the dough. We decided to try no egg dough today. We mostly leaned on one of Ally’s favorite sites, Global Table Adventure, for our dough recipe and inspiration for the empanadas themselves. Her video of repulgue-ing the dough edges was really helpful! While Sasha made empanadas for her Argentina meal, we didn’t add the more traditional Argentine ingredients (hard-boiled egg, olives) to ours tonight – we wanted to start our homemade empanada adventure with a basic recipe. We also consulted an article – Common Empanada Mistakes – for help too!

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Baked Beef Empanadas

(Roughly adapted from Global Table Adventure)
Ingredients:
  • Dough
    • 4 cups AP flour
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 16 tbsp (2 stick) cold butter
    • 1 – 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • Filling
    • 1 tbsp neutral oil
    • 1 small onion, minced
    • 6 cloves garlic
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne (omit for those who can’t take the heat)
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
    • 1 lb ground beef
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the dough first. Place the butter in the freezer for ~20 minutes prior to getting started.
    • Sift the salt into the flour.
    • Grate the cold butter into the flour.
    • Slowly stir the water into the mixture until a shaggy mixture forms. Then turn it out onto a floured surface and smush into a ball with your hands. (You don’t need to knead this dough!)
    • Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan. Once warm, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes.
  3. The add the tomato paste and the herbs & spices. Cook another minute.
  4. Now add the meat to the pan. Break up into small pieces and cook until almost completely done.
  5. Refrigerate the filling while rolling out and cutting the dough. The filling should be cool before placing on the dough.
  6. Remove your dough from the fridge. Roll out into two circles, an 1/8th of an inch thick. Using a mold (or a cup or a bowl), cut out rounds of dough.
  7. Place a small dollop of meat into the center. Don’t overfill! Crimp the edges together to seal. (Check out the link in our post above or YouTube “repulgue” to get visual hints how to make it pretty!)
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
*Side note: these can be frozen prior to baking. They then can be baked from frozen, adding an extra 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
Makes ~ 2 dozen – this obviously depends on the size you decide to make!

Chicken & Couscous Stuffed Peppers

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So what do you think of when you hear “stuffed peppers”? Chances are, you’re imagining¬†something with bold Tex-Mex flavors, I am right? I picture a big old red pepper, filled with beef, beans, onions, and spices in a red sauce, smothered with cheese on top. The cheesy, spicy goodness gets you every time! So hate to tell you… but that’s not the recipe I’m sharing tonight.

Tonight, I decided to go a little different route. I was thinking that the flavors of the Mediterranean would go perfectly, stuffed inside a tasty¬†pepper. The flavors of this dish are a little more subtle than your big, bold, Tex-Mex stuffed pepper, but are delicious in their own right. And yes, I am aware that feta cheese would be the perfect addition to this recipe, but alas, I had none. I didn’t feel like hitting up the grocery store twice in one day once I came up with this idea. Furthermore, just the hint of Asiago allows the other flavors to shine through!

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Chicken & Couscous Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients: 
  • 2 large bell peppers
  • 10oz chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup Greek vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup of pearl couscous (dry)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15¬†kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 10 turns of black pepper
  • 2oz Asiago cheese
  • Water
Instructions: 
  1. Cut your chicken into small (even smaller than what I consider ‘bite-sized’) pieces. Combine the chicken with the vinaigrette, stir to coat. Refrigerate and marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Once you’re ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Prepare the couscous. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add the couscous and lower heat to medium. Simmer until the water is absorbed and the couscous is al dente, ~6-8 minutes. (Note: there are wide variations in sizes of pearl couscous, and therefore variations in cooking times and water needed Рfollow your package instructions if you have them.) Set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Saute the garlic for ~3 minutes.
  5. Now add the chicken and vinaigrette into the same pan. Saute the chicken over medium heat for 5 minutes, until no longer translucent. (Does not have to be fully cooked all the way through.)
  6. Turn off heat to the burner, but leave the pan where it is. Add the couscous, olives, lemon juice, oregano, pepper, and cheese to the pan. Stir to combine.
  7. Slice the very top off of the peppers and remove seeds & membranes from the insides.
  8. Stuff the couscous/chicken mixture into your peppers.
  9. Place the peppers upright in high-edged oven-safe dish. Add a thin layer of water to cover the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes.

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