Drinking before you cook has its benefits. For starters, it loosens you up; makes you less anxious about whether the salmon will sear perfectly or the Étouffée will be an Étoufail. On the flip side, drunk cooking might lead to cooking accidents and/or a viral web series.
On weekends, I like to enjoy a good cocktail before heading into the kitchen. My favorite, these days, is a White Negroni: equal parts Gin, Cocchi Americano, and this orange-flavored Amaro we get here in L.A. called Amaro Angeleno. It was after imbibing an especially potent version of this favorite drink that I decided to do something truly wild: I decided to stuff vegetables with random things that I had in my fridge and then to bake them in tomato sauce.
Here’s what I had in my fridge: a pound of ground pork, leftover rice from the previous night’s dinner, green peppers that I bought for no apparent reason (I thought they were part of this red beans and rice recipe, but they weren’t), celery, Parmesan, and an heirloom tomato which wasn’t in my fridge because you shouldn’t keep tomatoes in your fridge.
I had some previous experience stuffing vegetables with rice — see my Greek Stuffed Peppers — but the pork was new to me. I read a few recipes online (including one by Nigel Slater) and learned that you basically sauté your aromatics in olive oil, add some tomato paste, add some tomatoes and then, off the heat, stir in the pork and the rice.
That all went very well (I also added pistachios and raisins), but then I had a problem: I had WAY too much filling for the two green peppers I had planned on stuffing. Enter the onions and the tomato.
I hollowed everything out — the onions were the trickiest, I used a paring knife – and stuffed until I could stuff no more. Then I used the same skillet that I sautéed the aromatics in and poured in a can of tomatoes that I crushed by hand. I placed the stuffed vegetables back in (kind of looks like a vegetable jacuzzi), drizzled everything with olive oil, and baked at 350 until the pork was cooked through, the filling was set, and the sauce had thickened.
What can I say? Drunk cooking has its benefits. Had I not had a White Negroni, would I have had the courage to core out an onion and stuff it with pork? Probably not. We probably would’ve ordered pizza for dinner.
So make yourself a stiff one, this weekend, and get cooking.
Stuffed Onions, Peppers, and Tomatoes with Sausage and Rice
A great way to use up leftover vegetables and rice with a dramatic presentation and a self-making sauce to boot.
- 6 – 8 Assorted whole vegetables: peppers, onions, large tomatoes Be sure to have at least one tomato for the tomato pulp (see remaining ingredients)
- Olive oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- Salt and pepper
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 cup fresh tomato pulp (scooped out from one of the large tomatoes and chopped)
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 cup leftover cooked rice
- 1/2 cup green pistachios (optional)
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional) I know you might hate raisins, but it lends a nice sweetness.
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
- Chopped parsley
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
First, prep your vegetables. Slice the tops off the peppers, onions, or tomatoes, creating a little hat. Scoop out the insides: with the peppers, just pull out the seeds and membranes (they're the easiest). With the tomatoes and onions, use a paring knife to create a cavity large enough to hold at least 1/2 cup of filling. Be careful not to carve out too much, though, or the filling might leak through. Be sure everything can stand up neatly in a pan.
Heat a large skillet, pour in 1/4 cup of olive oil, and add your chopped onions and celery with a pinch of salt. Sauté until soft; then add the garlic, tomato paste, and the smoked paprika. Cook until fragrant, then add the tomato pulp. Stir around with a pinch of salt and take off the heat.
Once cool, mix in the ground pork, leftover rice, pistachios, raisins, and Parmesan (best to do this by hand). The mixture should be very moist. If not, add more tomato or, if you're out of tomato, a splash of white wine would do too. Season again with salt and pepper (at least a teaspoon of each).
In the skillet, pour in the can of crushed tomatoes and season that with salt.
Now's the fun part: stuff your vegetables! Use your hands to stuff as much in as possible and place the little hat back on as you put it into the skillet. When finished, drizzle all of the vegetables with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the pork reaches a temperature of 160 degrees on a digital thermometer. You'll know it's done when the filling is completely set, the vegetables are softened and maybe a bit charred, and the sauce in the pan has thickened.
Serve right away with the sauce on the plate, the vegetable on top, and a sprinkling of Parmesan and parsley to garnish.
Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Pine Nuts (Amateur Gourmet)
Couscous and Feta Stuffed Peppers (Smitten Kitchen)
Sausage and Rice Stuffed Peppers (Pioneer Woman)
Stuffed Bell Peppers (A Brown Table)
Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers (LA Times)