Sunday, 30 August 2009

Viva Canadian Produce!

This summer, the good people behind the Loblaw Grown Close to Home program, a national initiative by the Loblaw grocery company to support our local farmers and get Canadians eating more regional fare, have invited me to come up with a dish that celebrates local and seasonal Ontario produce.
Here, in gorgeous full colour, is what I came up with - giant, colourful peppers, stuffed with a risotto-style orzo, feta, fresh herbs, and lots of summer veggies.
The corn for stuffing the peppers can be grilled ahead of time, just throw a couple of ears on when you do up your burgers one night.
*To grill corn, remove husk and silks, place corn on grill at medium heat, away the flame, turning every 3-4 minutes until slightly toasted on all sides, about 10 minutes in total.

Late Summer Stuffed Peppers
Natashya, Living in the Kitchen with Puppies

6 large coloured peppers - orange, red, yellow, or a mix. Look for very large and firm peppers for stuffing.

2 cups orzo pasta
900ml container chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

2 ears of corn, grilled, and niblets sliced away from cob
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup fresh peas
3 green onions, sliced
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped fine
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
3 cups baby spinach, packed
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Season to taste - kosher salt and black pepper
Parmesan cheese for top

Preheat the oven to 35oF
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Slice the tops off of the peppers, leaving enough on the top for an attractive lid. With a paring knife, carefully remove the ribs and seeds. Stand the peppers on the prepared baking sheet, shaving a little off the bottom of any that won't stand on their own. Place the lids on the baking sheet beside them.
Bake for 15 minutes, until softened. Put aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add olive oil, salt and orzo. Stir. Reduce to gentle simmer and continue to stir until orzo is al dente, about 8 minutes. It is important that you keep stirring so that the orzo does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
When done, it should be creamy and have absorbed most of the chicken broth, like a risotto.

In a large non-reactive bowl, add all the hot orzo, all the veggies, herbs and feta. Stir to combine. The heat will wilt the spinach down and partially cook the rest of the veggies. Season to taste with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Stuff the peppers with the orzo/veggie stuffing, rounding the tops, and sprinkle fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top. Place lid gently on top and bake the peppers in the 350F oven until soft and heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad.

*Have all of your ingredients prepped and ready before you begin. The French call this mise en place and it makes cooking much easier and less stressful.
*You may have some stuffing leftover. It is great for lunches or even cold as a pasta salad.
* For more information on the Loblaw's Grown Close to Home Program, and what is in season in your Canadian area, please visit