The Food Shift culinary training program is built to create opportunities for community members facing employment discrimination. Vincent, who graduated in March, is a dedicated student, volunteer and advocate of cooking good food from the heart, and reducing wasted food in the kitchen. Please enjoy Vincent's beautiful memories of his grandfather and delicious recipe below.
Memories of Vincent’s childhood in Puerto Rico linger in this plant-forward dish that came to him via his grandfather. He rediscovered it in The Food Shift Kitchen.
“Back in the day, as a kid growing up, we grew a lot of bell peppers, and my mother used to cook them for special occasions in our wooden oven. She stuffed the inside with white rice, vegetables, and just a little meat because meat was hard to come by.
My grandfather has been gone a long time, but this dish always brings him back. I cared and cooked for him because he didn’t have legs and his bedroom was right across from the kitchen. He used to yell instructions, telling me, “Add this! Add that!”. My grandfather got me started cooking and from there, I’ve created my own versions of dishes.
Food to me is very important because it brings me happiness to create in the moment and gets everyone talking all along the table about what you cooked. A person can be so mad, but if you fix them up a good plate, they can be so happy. It’s like peace. Peace on the table.”
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Stuffed Bell Peppers
(serves 4 people)
- 2 medium to large bell peppers
- 3 Tbsp oil, divided
- 1 onion (any color), diced small
- 1 clove garlic, minced or ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 2 cups mixed vegetables sliced or diced roughly in the same size so that they take about the same time to cook*
- Optional: 1 tsp chili powder or other spices, like cumin or taco seasoning
- 1 can or 1½ cups of cooked beans or lentils, rinsed and drained (if beans are already seasoned, use less salt)
- 1 can or 1 ½ cups canned tomatoes with juices or diced fresh tomatoes, divided OR use tomato sauce or salsa
- ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 cup cooked grain (rice, barley, quinoa, etc.)
- Optional Toppings: thinly sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, or Vincent’s favorite, sliced black olives
Preheat the oven to 400oF.
Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, from bottom to stem. Remove the core and seeds. Lightly coat the peppers with 1 Tbsp oil and sprinkle with salt. Arrange them in a baking dish cut-side up.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once your skillet is warm, add 1 Tbsp oil. Add onions with a pinch of salt. Saute for about 5 minutes until onions start to become translucent.
Add your vegetables of choice and continue to saute for about 5 more minutes. (If you are using greens, wait to add them). Stir in spices, beans/lentils, ½ cup + 2 Tbsp tomatoes and with ½ tsp salt. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender. If you are using greens, stir them in now. (Remember the vegetable filling is going to cook again in the oven, so they will have a bit more time to soften). Remove from heat and stir in the grain/rice. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.
Fill each pepper with the grain/rice and vegetable mixture, depending on the size of the peppers, about a ½ to 1 cup of filling each.
Season the remaining diced tomatoes and juices with the remaining 1 Tbsp oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of the baking dish, then cover tightly with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or until peppers are soft and browned on top.
Remove from the oven, spoon the tomato sauce over the peppers and serve as is or with the optional toppings listed above.
*Mixed vegetable ideas:
thin sliced mushrooms
zucchini and/or carrots cut into small cubes
greens like spinach or collards, cut or torn into small pieces
Plan for leftovers:
Leftover filling can be used with tortillas to make a taco or burrito, as the base for chili, in a salad or on its own.
More recipes, cooking tips, and videos from Food Shift:
Learn more about Food Shift and their programs to rescue surplus food that would otherwise waste away in landfills and utilize it to fuel their social enterprise kitchen.