Stuffed Peppers – Where Is the Beef?

You think veganism is a recent trend? Think again! You think feminism was invented in the twentieth century? Missed it by about 2400 years!

Orpheus.jpg

Meet Orpheus, mythical Ancient Greek poet and musician, a hero of one of the best-known love stories of all times (if you are wondering about the black hole behind his lire, that had been a clock face, and we’ve been looking for a matching 18th century clock for almost twenty years, as this bronze was my in-laws’ wedding present; we are still looking…). Orpheus loved his wife Euridice, but sadly, she died. Inconsolable, Orpheus conceived a fantastic plan: he would go down into the Underworld Kingdom of Hades and beg his mom Percephone, who just happened to be married to Hades at the time, to convince Hades to release his beloved Euridice back into the world of living. Crazy? Not to his mind! If he was able to play music like this, he could charm even Cerberus, the monstrous Hound of Hades:

Fantastic Jean-Pierre Rampal, considered the best flutist in the world, immerses us into divine music of Gluck’s Orpheus and Euridice.

To make a long story short, mommy did what her talented son requested, and Euridice was released, but on one condition: she had to follow her husband without turning around, no matter what was happening around her. We have a similar, albeit much earlier story about Lot’s wife who had been given the same instructions, but haven’t heeded them, and turned into a salt pillar as a result. Poor Euridice, unfortunately, followed a wrong model of behavior, rather than following instructions. Reacting to baleful pleading of spirits, she turned around and was dragged right back.  According to one myth, to console her son, Percephone added to his gift of charming animals with music by giving him a blessing to grow plants. It seems that her mother Demeter, the symbol of Earth, had bestowed upon someone a sheaf of wheat with a mission to teach people agriculture. Take another look at my Orpheus bronze, and you’ll see that sheaf of wheat on the pedestal.  Note: according to another myth, it was Dionysius, not Orpheus, who was Percephone’s son, and Orpheus only started the Dionysian rites (that’s when everybody got drunk and rowdy). Regardless, vegetarianism was a mainstay of Orphism, or Orphisism, one of the two predominant Ancient Greek beliefs.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, by Steven Sondheim, opens with this number, brilliantly delivered by inimitable Zero Mostel.  Moving from a Baroque opera to a Broadway musical, and from a tragedy of lost love to comedy, here is the famous comedy writer Aristophanes (5th century BCE) writing about some Orphists and Pythagorians who are so “strictly vegetarian” that they are “living on bread and water alone.”

Aristophanes is also pretty much involved with contemporary gender-related issues as he pens his famous comedy Lysistrata that deals with power of women to assume leadership roles and stop wars:

“There are a lot of things about us women
That sadden me, considering how men
See us as rascals,”

proclaims Lysistrata and enthusiastically sets out to change this perception.

“Where is the beef?” – demands Clara Peller in the old hilarious Wendy commercial.  I confess: I do not subscribe to veganism or vegetarianism as described by Aristophanes (power of women is a different story!); I do eat meat on Shabbos and holidays, as our sages suggest that a positive commandment to rejoice includes eating both meat and fish and drinking wine. However, I feel that getting my protein from plant-based sources keeps me in better health. Therefore, I have taken a ubiquitous Mediterranean dish that dates back to Aristophanes’ times and replaced meat with Beefless Ground. Sorry, Mrs Peller, no beef in this recipe!

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We are making yemista, or gemista – simple stuffed peppers.  Certainly, everybody’s grandmother had the best recipe, and my grandmother was no exception, but we also had Greek neighbors who made yemista with raisins and walnuts, which is way different from a traditional Jewish recipe. The sauce is made of diced tomatoes, sweet red wine (my grandfather made his own!), and agave. A handful of baby yellow tomatoes is just there for decoration purposes, for a splash of color, but they do add a slight lemony accent.

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Another important substitution is using quinoa instead of traditional rice for stuffing vegetables.  Feel free to adhere to the tradition and use rice (feel free to use meat too, if that’s your pleasure), but I opt for having almost no carbs and double protein – it’s a win-win!

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Carefully cut the tops off nice fat bell peppers and clean out the middle, seeds and all. Pour some sauce on the bottom of a baking dish and place your peppers side by side, standing up and at the ready, like good little soldiers.

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Prepare your filling by mixing quinoa, meat substitute, grated carrots, chopped walnuts, and raisins. Add fresh chopped cilantro, squeeze some garlic into it, and flavor it with salt and pepper, cinnamon and cumin, and another splash of the sauce, to bind it. Mix it well to blend the flavors, fill your peppers to the brim, and tamp it down to compress it. Put the pepper tops back on and add the sauce to the dish to reach about half the height of the peppers. Cover it up tightly and bake it for about an hour, or until the peppers feel soft to the touch.

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I checked on them about half-way through and tossed in the little golden nuggets – baby yellow tomatoes. They plumped up but did not lose their shape which was very nice of them!

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For some mysterious reasons, stuffed peppers are usually served on Sukkos. I don’t always follow this American Jewish tradition; I make them any time peppers are in season, and they are in season four times a year in Florida. Am I lucky or what? Since they are meatless, they could be served with sour cream, but since dairy products have decided to exit my house a few years ago, I have been using Tofutti Sour Supreme – it works! Now I can invite Orpheus to dinner, together with Aristophanes, but not Clara Peller who is still looking for beef!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup Beefless Ground or any ground meat substitute
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (1/2 cup uncooked)
  • 2 – 3 large bell peppers (any color)
  • 1/2 cup  grated carrot
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sweet red wine
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon or more agave (to taste)
  • A pinch of cumin
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/2 cup yellow grape tomatoes

PROCEDURE

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Prepare sauce by mixing diced tomatoes with wine and agave. Cover bottom of baking dish with 1 – 2 tablespoons of sauce. Reserve the rest.
  • Cut tops off peppers,  carefully seed and clean the middle without damaging peppers. Place peppers upright in baking  dish on top of sauce. Leave tops on the side.
  • Prepare filling by mixing remaining ingredients, except yellow tomatoes. Add 1 tablespoon of sauce while mixing. Mix thoroughly. Fill peppers, tamp filling down, cover with pepper tops. Add remaining sauce to the dish up to the middle of standing peppers. Place lid on firmly, bake for 1 hour or more, depending on firmness of peppers.
  • Yellow tomatoes could be added after 30 minutes. Peppers are done when soft to the touch.
  • Serve with sour cream or substitute on the side.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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57 Comments Add yours

  1. I love the Greek mythology story, I’m ancient enough to remember the “Where’s the beef!” commercial as an adult, and I’m a fan of both stuffed peppers and lean beef. I’m a fan of veggie protein, too, so this recipe looks like a delicious one to try.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Eva! I am so glad you like it (yes, I am also ancient enough!).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A_Boleyn says:

    I have seen both the 2 plays you mentioned (Funny Thing … and Lysistrata) and thought they were hilarious. As to your meatless stuffed peppers, I think the addition of cooked quinoa is very interesting. I’ve only discovered quinoa recently (used it in bread and an enchilada casserole) and just yesterday, made a breakfast ‘porridge’ with it and some dried cranberries. As a substitute for rice, it’s probably a boon for those going low or no carb. I’m sticking with my real beef though. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve seen Lysistrata in many different interpretations, including a Russian musical, and I always loved it. Well, what do we expect – it’s a classic, after all!
      I’ve been cooking with quinoa for years and gradually replaced rice and pasta in most of my recipe that require either one. It’s the most wonderful and most versatile thing. I don’t want to say “grain” because it’s not grain. I use both red and white quinoa, for different purposes. Red quinoa has dense texture and a subtle nutty taste, which make it excellent for salads.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. A_Boleyn says:

        I like its chewy texture. I liken it to eating falafel in that after you’ve eaten it, you feel full and satisfied.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I agree, and agree about falafels as well.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Teri! I am so glad you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We can’t wait to prepare these. A true favorite of ours.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so glad I was able to out a new twist on one of your favorites – enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You sure did. I haven’t found a recipe like this and I think its gonna beat my dear ole mom’s. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh wow! I am honored! Please let me know how it comes out – enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes we will. We’re picking up the ingredients today.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I am holding my fingers crossed, as well as my toes and my eyes – I so much hope you enjoy them!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. We know we will and will surely let you know.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Christy B says:

    From the history to the recipe, there is lots of goodies here! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, dear Christy; I am so glad you found “goodies” to enjoy!

      Like

  5. I loved the mythology leading to the veganism. The play’s look like it would be fun. Will check it out

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Juliet, I am so glad you like it!

      Like

  6. Osyth says:

    I loved your recanting of Orpheus in the Underworld. You might think of writing a book of myths (or a series … Greek, Roman, Nordic etc) in accessible English. You have quite the knack!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And offend representatives of every culture in the world? I am an equal opportunity offender, but I’d rather stick to my kitchen.
      Thank you for the compliment!
      When my son was about 5, he read The Legends and Myths of Ancient Greece (I forgot the author – Ellen something) and The Bible Stories by Zenon Kosidowski; thereafter everything got promptly mixed up in his head to the point where Zeus was running around with Moses on Mt Sinai. I follow the style.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Osyth says:

        I stuck to telling the stories to the children myself rather than letting them read … so I can at least I can be confident that any misunderstandings are traceable to me 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We are “People of the Book” – remember? We start reading very early and encourage reading. Then we discuss the books. I pulled Anna Karenina from my mother’s book shelf at the age of 8, read it, didn’t understand what the tragedy was all about, asked mother who said that I shouldn’t have done it, and disliked it ever since.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Osyth says:

        It’s a strange thing, language. I am English and if I didn’t know better I would find that statement quite offensive. I am, after all an Oxford girl which brings with it education from the cradle.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I am so sorry – I certainly didn’t mean to offend! Please forgive me, but I didn’t not invent this phrase, and I am sure you know what it refers to.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Osyth says:

        Oh it takes far more to offend me … in fact I’m not sure I have ever been pushed that far. I was just gently making the point that we use our common language differently. My experience of living in the US was that you are much more confident to be direct whereas Brits tend to bumble round subjects. Neither is right, neither is wrong, just different. This is what I love about exploring cultures, event those that supposedly speak a common language! All hail people of the book. Books, be they scriptures or not are essential to the pursuit of wisdom. And the pursuit of wisdom is essential to a rewarding life. 📚

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I thank you so much for your kind and generous acceptance of my apology. I literally could not think of anything else during the entire Shabbos but the fact that I have committed this terrible blander.
        Are you suggesting that during my almost 40 years in the U.S. I have unwittingly picked up American cultural traits? I have to examine my attitudes, and, since one the psychological maxims states that attitudes are not measurable, only behaviors are, I have to examine my behaviors. Thank you for pointing this out.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Osyth says:

        My husband has been in the US since 1989 and still thinks of himself as Liverpudlian with a dollop of French where he spent the previous 9 years. I have to gently point out to him that he does have some American traits but I promise you in neither case is that intended as an insult – I actually think there is much that other cultures can learn from the US. Just not all of it 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      8. To quote a Russian song, “I am a different tree. Not because I am better or worse than other trees, but I am simply a different tree.” We are all different trees. It makes this world a fascinating place.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Osyth says:

        I LIke that very much 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Thank you; I am glad you do.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Utterly delicious and a great and interesting read. Go Vegans!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reblogging.

      Like

  8. I absolutely adore stuffed peppers – and have known to stuff them with anything I have available. But I have always cut them in half and mound the stuffing (freezing the leftovers that I “revive” with more sauce), but these look so much prettier, I’m going to try your approach as well as your recipe.

    The plays are among my favorites, by the way, and have seen many different productions.

    Funny thing – at my first [quick] glance, I thought Orpheus was holding a cell phone! Missed the black hole completely trying to figure out what it was. 🙂
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Orpheus holding a cell phone – that’s an idea I have to use, thank you! You’ll get full credit for it, I promise.
      Stuffing peppers without cutting them in half and covering them with their own tops keeps the stuffing juicy and prevents it from drying out. Try it – you’ll see the difference.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I most certainly will. Happy Hebrew Birthday!
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you again! It’s not a significant date, and we didn’t even have any guests for dinner, so it was just the two of us, but a nice Sauvignon Blanc, and my spelt challah with caviar, a cream of broccoli soup and salmon poke for main course, and then my husband’s signature non-dairy Irish cream for dessert – I was happy indeed!

        Like

  9. spearfruit says:

    Dolly, I always enjoy reading your stories that go along with your recipes. Stuffed Peppers with no beef sound good to me. Happy Saturday my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Terry! I hope you are enjoying your time with your visiting family. Have a peaceful weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reblogging.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. daisymae2017 says:

    Interesting post. Dad loves stuffed peppers with meat and rice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s a traditional recipe. Mine is a bit more dietetic, with a Mediterranean flavor. You can make them with meat and rice but add the flavoring, if you wish.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. daisymae2017 says:

        I was always taught not to put something down until you try it. My grandmother always said to everyone his/her own cup of tea. If you can’t have meat you would like it. I’m not going to put it down because the picture makes it look appetizing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We do eat meat, and we do eat rice, of course, but this is just soooo delicious!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. daisymae2017 says:

        Will do. You too.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. daisymae2017 says:

        🖼🖼🙂🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Vegetarianism is NOT a fad. And if we look beyond the religious mandate and moral diktats, it does make sense to feed less on flesh and bones. It is a matter of food Security for all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your valuable comment and the link.

      Like

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