Red peppers, green peppers, red lentils, barley (or short grain brown rice!), dried currants, and a bountiful amount of fresh herbs. Stuffed peppers exist in cuisines from around the world, and this recipe takes inspiration from the Persian classic, Dolmeh Felfel, a stuffed pepper dish that is fresh, hearty, and incredibly delicious.
While I had a great template to gain inspiration, I took a number of liberties, including swapping rice for barley, adding red lentils instead of yellow split peas, and incorporating dried currants for a bit of sweetness. The aspect it has most in common with the classic Persian recipe is incorporating a variety of fresh herbs--parsley, dill, mint, and tarragon.
I enjoyed eating the peppers straight out of the oven, but nothing prepared me for how great it would taste the next day. Wow, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the top, and it was heaven. Something tells me this is the kind of dish that would freeze well. Also, I selected barley, because it has a bouncy and chewy texture. For a gluten free option, use short grain brown rice, instead.
Stuffed Red and Green Peppers
1 cup barley (or short grain brown rice, if gluten-free)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup red lentils
1 Tbsp dried currants
1 cup broth (fake chicken or vegetable)
¾ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 scallions, chopped
¼ cup fresh dill weed, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped
3 green peppers, stems removed and cored
3 red peppers, stems removed and cored
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
Pinch of saffron, optional
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Lemon wedges, to serve
1. Add 1 cup of barley to 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and turn down to low. Simmer for ~20-30 minutes or until the grains are soft. Drain off the excess water, and add to a large mixing bowl.
2. In a large skillet, add onion, garlic, olive oil, and a dash of salt. Sauté over medium heat until the onions become a bit golden (~7 minutes). Add turmeric and cinnamon and sauté an additional minute. Add the red lentils, currants and broth, and simmer uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes or until the broth absorbs.
3. Add fresh herbs--parsley, dill, mint, tarragon--and scallions to the barley. Then, stir the lentil mixture into the barley mixture. Taste, and adjust seasonings.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Stuff the peppers with the herbed-lentil-barley mixture, and place the peppers in an 8" X 11" pan. In a skillet, heat the tomato sauce and add a pinch of saffron (if using) and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Simmer for about 3 minutes, stirring to allow the saffron to release into the tomato sauce. Pour the tomato sauce over the stuffed peppers. [note: If you are not using saffron, skip heating the tomato sauce. Simply sprinkle the peppers with the lemon juice, and then, pour the tomato sauce over the stuffed peppers.]
5. Cover the peppers with aluminum foil, and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven, and serve with lemon wedges on the side.