Hello… Again!

I was supposed to write this blog weeks ago, but business was to busy if you know what I mean. Too many tests, too many assignments, too much reading and not enough time to cook!

I made my “famous” Bell Pepper Meat Sauce at Tania’s house a couple of weekends ago when my mom came up to visit me. My mother, as you may or may not know, cannot really eat onions or tomatoes, so I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen trying to cook delicious things with substitutes. I often use bell peppers as a substitute for tomatoes, and I use garlic in lieu of onions. It has worked out to my advantage, because the flavors are diverse and delicious, and it’s helped me to sort of… cook around something in such a way that I create my own recipes.
I do, however, have a meat sauce recipe that includes tomatoes and onions, but I only make it on occasion.
Bell Pepper Meat Sauce w/ Pasta
Now, as you all know I am a Trader Joe’s fanatic, and I shop there all the time, just ask my boyfriend Spencer, he’s the one who usually drives me there once a week (sorry honey, I’m getting a car soon). This sauce, and many of my other “Bell Pepper” dishes was created from two products that Joe carries, but you can find this product, or make it yourself if you wish, at most grocery stores.
The ingredients are two separate jars of roasted peppers, one is just Fire Roasted Red Peppers, and the other is Fire Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers (with chopped garlic).
Roasting peppers at home is super easy and delicious, you only need 5 things: A baking sheet, Peppers, Olive oil, Foil, 500º oven, and that’s it. Gently brush the oil onto the peppers, and place them on to a foil-covered baking sheet in the oven. Watch the peppers, when they start to darken on the top, flip them over with tongs or a potholder, then take them out when the other side has darkened. The time of this depends on the oven. Once the peppers are blackened, remove them from the oven and instantly wrap the foil around them, let them sit for at least 20 minutes. Once they are cool, you can take out the stem, scrape off the seeds and peel off the skin.
If you choose to roast your own peppers, I would recommend roasting 3 red peppers and 1 yellow pepper.
1 Jar Fire Roasted Red and Yellow Peppers
2 Medium sized Red Bell Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom* (or if you prefer orange or yellow that is fine, but red just makes it look more like a tomato sauce)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Pound Ground Beef, or whichever ground meat you prefer (I do have a bell pepper “stew” with tofu which I will write about in a later blog)
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
1/4 Cup Red Wine
1 Tablespoon Paprika
Dash of White Pepper
Pasta of your choosing!
1) Deal with your peppers.
a) The first jar, which is only red peppers, usually comes with whole peppers that have not been peeled, and occasionally have seeds in them, drain the liquid from the jar, peel the peppers and set aside. The second jar is usually strips of cut up red and yellow peppers, these also occasionally have the skin on them, so they need to be peeled as well. The skin adds a bitterness to the sauce that really takes away from the sweetness of the peppers. Once you have peeled and seeded the peppers, grind them up in a food processor until they are minced up, and quite juicy. Set aside.
b) You need to dice up the raw peppers so that the pieces are no larger than a dime, this is done very easily if you cut the pepper in half, take out the stem and seeds, then cut each half into strips, and cut the strips into little squares. Set aside.
2) Cook the Meat.
a) Melt the butter and oil in the pan together. I get this combination of “fats” from my other grandmother, whom I call Busia. She doesn’t cook too much, but when she cooks meet for piroshkis, this is how she does it, and it tastes really wonderful in meat sauces.
b) Cook up minced garlic and do not burn your garlic. If you burn the garlic, start over. The taste of burnt garlic is not the best in the world, and there is no way to combat it, except for to start over. Cook it at a gentle medium heat, and then add the meat. Ground meat is easiest to break up with a wooden spoon. I know this isn’t exactly the most “Kosher” thing to do, but if you designate one wooden spoon for breaking up meat, then let that ease your mind.
c) Once the meat has browned, add several dashes of salt to enhance the flavor, but don’t overdo the salt, because salt isn’t good for you in large quantities. After stirring the salt in, push the meat to the side and…
3) Add your Peppers + Wine
a) Start with the raw peppers, cooking them on one side of the pan so they soften a bit, then mix them with the beef and add the pepper “mush” that you made in the food processor, and mix in the paprika and pepper.
b) If you don’t like wine, it isn’t necessary, but the alcohol cooks out, and non-alcoholic wines may also work, although I have never tried them in cooking. Once the mixture has been mixed well with all of the ingredients, add the wine. You should hear a bit of a sizzle in your pan, and that is a good sound. Mix the wine in and let your sauce simmer and reduce on a low heat for about 15-20 minutes. If you are in a rush, this step isn’t “necessary” just make sure the wine cooks in, and try to let it reduce for at least 5 minutes.
!) In the meantime…
Cook the pasta! You can use any pasta for this recipe! Long pastas are great, but I wouldn’t use anything thinner than spaghetti, because something like capellini (angel hair) won’t stand up to the thickness of the sauce. Short pastas are great too, try penne with little ridges in it, the ridges help to adhere the sauce to the pasta, and you get a better bite with every bit. I wouldn’t go much smaller than ditali (which are a bit larger than macaroni), and I wouldn’t use stuffed pastas or gnocchi (because they are too filling for such a heavy sauce)!
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, and mix the sauce in. Serve with cheese, and a vegetable. we roasted up some delicious zucchini with just a touch of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
*) According to an e-mail my cousin Natasha sent me (Tania’s daughter), Peppers with four bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking, and peppers with three bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating raw.
#) Tania’s tip on opening a jar:
Gently tap around the jar lid with a hard object, like a hammer or a meat tenderizer, then the lid will pop right off, like it’s nothing.
Please try this recipe! I want to know if it holds up in a world of people who love their tomatoes and onions. Mostly I just want to know if you like it.
Love and Happy Spatulas,