Stuffed Bell Peppers

This recipe originated with Advocate columnist Teresa Day. I have incorporated reader Cheryl Litwin’s changes. She uses 10 times the garlic (not uncommon in south Louisiana), doubles the cheese and changes it to smoked gouda, and adds cayenne and fennel seed. The amounts from the original recipe are in parentheses.

Makes 6 to 12 servings.

6 large whole bell peppers plus 1 chopped bell pepper

2 pounds ground Italian sausage

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

10 cloves (or 1 clove) garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Generous amount fennel seed (optional)

2 eggs, beaten

6 cups (or 3 cups) shredded smoked gouda (or fontina) cheese

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet. Cut whole peppers in half lengthwise. Remove ribs and seeds.

2. In a large skillet, cook Italian sausage until lightly browned and juices are clear. Drain. Let cool at least slightly.

3. In a deep Dutch oven, melt butter and olive oil. Add chopped bell pepper, mushrooms, onions and garlic. Sauté until vegetables are tender. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne and fennel seed.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs. Add 4 cups cheese and breadcrumbs. Pour egg and cheese mixture into Italian sausage mixture and stir quickly. Fill pepper halves with sausage mixture. Top with remaining cheese.

5. Bake 20 minutes, until heated through and peppers are slightly tender. Serve warm.

Vegetable Soup with Smoked Sausage

My great friend Kathy Luther found a soup recipe on a bag of greens that she has modified and made her own to great acclaim. I love it and asked for it for this column of the best recipes. You can vary it endlessly.

“I haven’t found a veggie that isn’t good” to include, Kathy said.

Makes 12 to 15 servings

5 quarts (20 cups) chicken broth

1 quart water

1 or 2 onions

Garlic to taste

3 or 4 ribs celery

8 to 16 ounces mushrooms

3 to 5 carrots (or small bag sliced carrots)

Other vegetables as desired (zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, green beans, leeks, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, anything seasonal)

1 can (15-ish ounces) beans (any: red, white, navy, black, kidney, field peas, black-eyed peas, garbanzos), rinsed if needed

1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes and liquid

1 can (15- to 16-ounces) whole-kernel corn, drained

Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

¾ to 2 pounds smoked sausage (turkey sausage is great) or cooked chicken, turkey or turkey ham, sliced or diced

1 (2-pound) bag mixed greens (not salad greens): collards, mustard or turnip greens, kale, spinach, your choice

Hot sauce to taste

1. Roughly chop all vegetables except greens. In a large soup pot, combine them with broth and water, cans of beans, tomatoes and corn. Season generously with pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat; lower to simmer and cook 30 to 45 minutes, until vegetables soften.

2. Taste for seasoning. Add more pepper or a little salt if needed. Add sausage (or poultry), greens and hot sauce to taste. Simmer until greens are cooked. Reheats and freezes well.

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