Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Healthy, Happy New Year!

Greek Stuffed Peppers with Farro

We wish our customers and cooking school students a Happy New Year! The Cooking School staff at Jungle Jim's resolved to plan a schedule of innovative and exciting cooking classes for 2014. The fresh produce and grain selections at Jungle Jim's International Market teem with healthy ingredients ready to assist with your resolution to prepare satisfying whole-food and healthy meals. Leigh tested a recipe, Greek Stuffed Peppers with Farro, that makes a wholesome and delicious lunch or dinner and is very versatile for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. We enjoyed the vegetarian version for lunch today.

Farro (or Emmer) is usually sold in the U.S. semi-pearled (sometimes labeled semiperlato), meaning some of the bran layer has been removed. If you find farro that is not semi-pearled, it needs to be soaked in water overnight before cooking and will need to cook for 30 to 45 minutes more to become tender. Farro has a satisfying chewy texture and nutty flavor. It can be used in baked goods and soups. 

If you are avoiding wheat products, you could easily substitute cooked brown rice. Barley would work nicely, too. Follow the directions on the package to prepare the farro you purchase. To have farro readily available, consider cooking the entire package and then freezing it in 1-cup portions.

The peppers were beautiful and perfect for stuffing! Clean the peppers and cleave them straight down the middle through the stem. It won't hurt to remove the stem, but it sure looks impressive.They fit nicely in the 9x13" baking dish. We couldn't have planned that any better if we tried!

Prepare the filling. Here's where you can get creative. Once you get the filling done, you can remove half to a bowl and then add some chopped, cooked Italian or Greek-flavored sausages to the filling for the meat-lovers at your house. Jungle Jim's International Market carries a wide selection of Aidells and Saag's brands of precooked chicken, pork and beef sausage. Other beans can be substituted for the chickpeas and you can use kale or other hearty greens instead of spinach. Our taste testers agreed that more feta would be a good thing!

The addition of Kalamata olives makes for a welcome salty bite, but you could substitute your favorite olives.

Stuff the pepper halves with the filling - be generous and pack it in. There may be some filling leftover, so spoon it into the bottom of the pan around the peppers. Leigh used a large ice cream scoop to fill the peppers, but you can use a serving spoon or whatever utensil works best for you.

After 50 minutes of baking, you can take the peppers out of the oven and test them for doneness. Take a small knife and stick it through the largest pepper. It should easily pierce through. If you like your peppers firm, then remove them when they meet your test for doneness. If you enjoy your peppers soft, bake them the full 60 minutes.

Greek Stuffed Peppers with Farro
adapted from a New Jersey Herald recipe by Amy Casey (

4 small sized yellow, orange, and/or red bell peppers
½ cup farro, we used pearled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise through the stems. Cook farro according to package directions and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat add the olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes, until the onions are softened. Add the zucchini and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and sauté until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked farro, oregano, tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, and feta cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place peppers in a 9x13-inch baking dish and divide farro mixture among the pepper halves; tuck any extra filling mixture around peppers in the dish. Cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 50-60 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the filling is heated through. Remove from oven and serve.

Serves 4

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