Persian Stuffed Mini Peppers (Dolmeh-Kouchoulou)

When it comes to cooking, I go through phases where I become enraptured with certain types of cuisine. For instance, I can recall going through a stir-fry phase, a Thai cuisine phase, a Greek cuisine phase and I'm pretty sure my earliest food love affair was with Italian food. Well, now I am onto Persian food, and eating Paleo at the same time is a bit of a challenge, but I am up for it!

One of my latest Persian-inspired creations are stuffed peppers, or dolmeh, but I used baby peppers (kouchoulou...such a cute word) that have been in season at my market lately. I used the basic kebab meat recipe of ground beef (lamb can be used too), onion, and saffron and used the mixture to stuff the mini peppers. I topped the peppers off with a sweet and tangy sauce made from a base of tomato paste, which is so popular in Persian recipes. I loved these so much I made them twice in one week! The first time I made them I cut the tops of the peppers off and then stuffed them, but I found I couldn't fit much stuffing into each pepper, but they did look cute. This method where I cut the peppers into little boats is much easier to do and you get more meat per pepper. The meat is accented by the peppers, which are sweet and once they are topped with their sweet and sour sauce, are broiled, which gives a nice little roasted flavor. These are the perfect accompaniment with any steamed vegetable, particularly cauliflower rice and/or a nice salad, such as my Marinated Baby Cucumber Salad. Because they're so small, they aren't as heavy as the usual stuffed peppers. I think these would be a great hot appetizer at a party, too.

Persian Stuffed Mini Peppers (Dolmeh-Kouchoulou)
Printable Recipe

3/4 lb lean ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup finely diced onion
generous pinch of crushed saffron
1 tsp dried parsley
3/4 lb mini sweet peppers
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tsp honey
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil, for greasing

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 13x9 non-reactive baking pan and set aside.
2. Mix the meat, egg, onion, saffron, parsley, and some salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Your hands work best for this job.
3. Cut all the peppers in half lengthwise and scoop out any seeds and pith. Arrange the peppers in the pan alternating stem ends to get a tight fit.
4. Taking out one pepper at a time, fill with a level amount of the meat mixture. Repeat with all the peppers.

5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the meat is done. While they are baking, blend the tomato paste, water, vinegar, oil, honey and a little salt and pepper in a small bowl. After the 20 minutes, pour the sauce over the peppers and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. After that time, raise the pan to 8-10-inches from the top of the oven, and broil for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the edges of the peppers become slightly charred. You may have to rotate the pan once through for even browning. Allow to rest for 3 minutes before serving.

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