Diary of a Foodie

Turkish Herbed Beef-and-Rice-Stuffed Peppers, Zucchini, and Tomatoes

Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: Turkey: Iftar in Istanbul

Serves6 (main course)
  • Active time:1 1/2 hr
  • Start to finish:3 hr
March 2009
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For tomatoes and filling

  • 8 medium (5- to 6-oz) tomatoes, left whole, plus 1 large (1/2-lb) tomato, chopped
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup white rice (preferably medium- or short-grain)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef (preferably 80 to 85 percent lean)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint

For zucchini and peppers

  • 6 (1/2-lb) zucchini
  • 6 (5- to 7-oz) green bell peppers

For baking stuffed vegetables

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Prepare tomatoes:

  • Cut a thin slice from tops of 6 tomatoes, reserving tops. Hollow out tomatoes by scooping out pulp with a spoon and drain pulp in a sieve. Chop pulp. (Set aside remaining 2 whole tomatoes for slicing.)

Make filling:

  • Cook onions in oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add chopped tomato and 3/4 cup chopped tomato pulp and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid from tomatoes has evaporated and pieces of tomato begin to break down, about 5 minutes.
  • Add rice and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, over low heat until rice is tender and water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer rice mixture to a large bowl, spreading in a thin layer to facilitate cooling, and chill until cool, about 20 minutes.
  • Add beef, herbs, 1 3/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper to cooled rice mixture, kneading with your hands until mixture is smooth.

Prepare zucchini and pepper while filling cooks and cools:

  • Trim ends and cut zucchini crosswise in half. If necessary, trim zucchini halves to fit upright in a deep 7-qt heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. With a melon-ball cutter, starting from the wider end, hollow out each zucchini half to form a cup, leaving about 1/2 inch intact at bottom.
  • Cut tops off peppers, then discard seeds and ribs. Wash tops of peppers well around stems and reserve.

Bake stuffed vegetables:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
  • Spoon filling into tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers.
  • Arrange stuffed tomatoes in an 8- or 9-inch cake pan lined with foil. Stir tomato paste into water, then add 1/2 cup to cake pan, reserving remaining tomato water. Put tops on tomatoes and cover tightly with foil. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of filling registers at least 140°F, about 45 minutes.
  • While stuffed tomatoes bake, cut remaining 2 tomatoes into thin slices and arrange in 1 layer in 7-qt pot, then drizzle oil over them. Stand zucchini and peppers in pot, leaning them against each another and wedging pepper tops among them to keep them upright. Sprinkle remaining chopped tomato pulp over stuffed vegetables. Pour reserved tomato water around stuffed vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of filling registers at least 140°F, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Carefully transfer stuffed vegetables to a serving dish and add sugar and lemon juice to cooking liquid in pot. Boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Spoon a little cooking liquid over each stuffed vegetable.
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