- 6 gypsy peppers
- ¾ cup cream cheese
- 1 ½ cups feta cheese
- 2 cups cooked basmati, jasmine, or wild rice, chilled
- ¾ cup golden raisins
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
To prepare gypsy peppers, cut around base of each stem the way you would a pumpkin, and gently remove stem. Trim off seeds and keep the tops to hold the stuffing in. Blanch peppers in rapidly boiling water 60-90 seconds, until just tender but not collapsing. Drain and shock in an ice bath. Drain again very well just before stuffing.
To make stuffing, fit a mixer with the paddle attachment and beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Crumble the feta into mixer bowl and beat until well mixed, with no large chunks of feta. Quickly mix in rice, raisins, and mint, breaking up any raisins that are sticking together. Do not over mix.
Divide the filling into 6 equal portions. Moisten your hands, then roll each into a lozenge about the same shape as the peppers. Slip the lozenges into the peppers, pressing them gently to get the filling into all the nooks and crannies. Put the tops back on and set the peppers aside.
Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
- 1-1 ½ pints cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. minced fresh basil or whole baby basil leaves
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
- 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar or champagne vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 6 Tbsp. California Olive Ranch EVOO
- ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
- 2 to 3 Tbsp. crème fraîche, whisked until smooth
To make the vinaigrette, simply combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix gently. The vinaigrette should be made no more than 20 minutes or so in advance of serving.
For the final preparation, grill the peppers over a medium-high flame until caramelized nicely on all sides and hot through. You could also heat them up in a ridged or flat cast-iron pan. To serve, place a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette on each plate. Top with a stuffed pepper, sprinkle with almonds, and drizzle with crème fraîche.
Note: When they’re in season, gypsy peppers flood the farmers’ markets here in Northern California. These sweet, thin-skinned peppers are a little smaller than a bell pepper, which makes them the perfect size for a small-plate serving. They come in many colors—white, light yellow, gold, red—so you can work out a pretty dramatic color scheme with them. If you can’t get gypsy peppers, use drained, canned piquillo peppers. If you do, use gold or orange tomatoes in the vinaigrette and cook the piquillos not on the grill but in the oven. Ten to twelve minutes at 350 degrees F to 375 degrees F should do it.
For the stuffing, you’ll need two cups of cooked rice that has been chilled, so figure that into your time plan.
You can use large tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes in the vinaigrette: Cut out the stem end and cut an x in the bottom of each. Blanch in boiling water for thirty seconds, then shock in an ice bath. Peel them and cut them in half; remove the seeds, and dice. Then carry on with the recipe.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Cindy Pawlcyn, Mustards, Go Fish and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena and Napa, California