Monday, July 14, 2014

Stuffed Padron Peppers...And Other Veggies :)

My colleagues and I were having a conversation about how to train kids not be picky eaters. To my mom's delight, I was a good eater from early on. But even when meals didn't include what I absolutely loved, mom enforced a simple rule - serve a very small portion on the plate and don't get off the table without finishing it. As tortuous as it may sound to some, it really can't kill you to eat a few bites of something you don't love. The good part was that my mother cooked delicious food. If we didn't like something, she made an effort to try different recipes to make it more palatable for us. And there was often that guilt trip - there are way too many kids out there who don't even get two meals a day, let alone choose what they eat. Be thankful that you get to try such variety of foods!

There was one vegetable for which I always made faces though -  bell peppers! The ubiquitous vegetable in the US, and something I've grown to love, was my enemy as a kid. The Indian bell peppers are much smaller, with thinner skin, and more robust flavor compared to what we get here. I thought they were too pungent. Mom cooked them many different ways - fire roasted bell pepper and yogurt raita, stir fry with crispy potatoes, or stuffed  potatoes or chickpea flour to mask their strong flavor. Her stuffed bell pepper preparation was my favorite.

I found beautiful Padron peppers at the Saturday farmer's market. They looked like smaller versions of Indian bell peppers with the same fragrance. Padron peppers originate from Spain and have a wonderful smoky flavor when charred. The seller at the market told me they are usually deep or shallow fried in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt. They don't have a lot of heat, so you can eat them whole. I asked her how they would taste stuffed with something, and she thought it was a great idea. I thought I would try the chickpea filling. The recipe is fairly simple. Chickpea flour is seasoned with garam masala and other spices and stuffed inside seeded peppers. The peppers are beautifully charred in oil on high heat. The slight heat and smoky flavor of the peppers is fabulous. The chickpea flour filling is slightly crunchy against the soft flesh of the peppers, and does a great job of taming some of the pungency. This dish can be served as an appetizer, or a side dish. It tastes great with roti, or rice and yogurt. If you don't find padron peppers, any low heat peppers such as small bell peppers, poblano, Anaheim would be great. I cooked the peppers on stovetop, but you could grill stuffed peppers in summer. It'll be a great side to all the cookouts.


Chickpea Flour Stuffed Peppers

2 Dozen medium Padron peppers - destemmed and seeded
1 Cup chickpea flour
3 Tablespoons olive/vegetable oil + more for shallow frying
1/2 Cup chopped cilantro
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
Pinch of asafoetida
1/2 Teaspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons garam masala
1 Teaspoon red chili powder (adjust per liking)
Salt to taste
  • Heat oil in a frying pan and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add asafoetida, turmeric powder and chickpea flour.
  • To this, add chopped cilantro, garam masala, red chili powder, and salt to taste. Roast chickpea flour till fragrant and 'cooked'. If it looks too dry, you can sprinkle some water (use very little - you don't want clumps). Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
  • Once the chickpea flour filling is done, keep aside.
  • Remove the stems of peppers and take out the seeds. Fill them with chickpea flour filling.
  • Coat the frying pan with some more oil and lay all the peppers on the pan. Cover and let the peppers get charred. Covering the pan will keep the steam inside and help cook the chickpea flour further.
  • Turn the peppers with a tong and char them on the other side. Once the peppers are cooked through, turn off the heat.



Speaking of stuffed veggies, I made a set of stuffed felt veggies for my baby girl. I had seen a toy veggie basket at my friend's house; her son played with them. That set was a little more 3D than my version, which is somewhere in between 2D and 3D :D. I think it's a great toy - colorful, educational, and may encourage my daughter to eat all her veggies (or so I hope).One of my friends who has a girl just a little older than Shreya loved the idea of felt toys, and asked me to make some for her baby. I wanted to send the toys just in time for her 6-month birthday which didn't leave me time to make a new veggie set, so I gifted her the one I already had. I can always make more for my daughter. Here's my satisfied customer playing with her new toys :).

Along with veggies, my friend asked if I could make an owl as well. Owls are all the rage these days. I came up with the following pattern after going through several pics on the web. Whooo wouldn't like a pink owl?

Just hangin' out!

Until next time!

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