Antoine Augustin Parmentier, the French 18th-century pharmacist and agriculturist, was a champion of the humble spud. He campaigned for decades trying to convince his fellow Frenchmen that the potato wasn't poisonous; it was the antidote to starvation. Thank goodness Europeans finally listened to Antoine and other advocates of the starchy tuber. Otherwise McDonald's may have resorted to supersizing Dahlia tubers; another edible tuber, but not nearly as tasty.
Potatoes are easy to prepare, inexpensive, nutritious and delicious -- especially when enhanced with herbs. Pair this preparation with a grilled steak; the potato-stuffed peppers can be made ahead of time and baked while the steak is grilling.
If meat isn’t in your diet, how about serving the potatoes with a salad featuring green beans instead lettuce? Or, since this is Top Tomato week in the Food section, a platter of home-grown, sliced tomatoes sprinkled with salt and pepper.
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the peppers
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves (see NOTE)
- 1 tablespoon oregano (see NOTE)
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 2/3 cup low-fat milk
- 2 medium jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 large red bell peppers
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have a baking pan at hand large enough to hold 8 bell pepper halves in a single layer.
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat; add 1 tablespoon of the oil and the onion; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onion has begun to soften. Add the garlic, thyme and oregano; cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until fragrant. Remove from the heat.
Place the cubed potatoes in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan and cover with 5 cups of cool water. Add the teaspoon of salt and stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium; partially cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender.
Drain the potatoes in a colander, then return them to the saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until dry, shaking the pan to keep them from sticking.
Remove from the heat; use a potato masher to coarsely mash the potatoes. Add the milk, 1/4 cup of the oil, the onion-herb mixture, the jalapeño peppers, if desired, and the grated cheese; mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stem the bell peppers, then cut them in half from top to bottom and discard the seeds and ribs. Arrange the halves, cut sides up, in the baking pan; use a little oil (about 1/2 tablespoon total) to lightly grease the edges and interior walls of the peppers, then season the insides with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 10 minutes; the peppers should slightly softened but still look firm.
Transfer the pan to the stovetop (off the heat; leave the oven on); use all the potato mixture to fill the 8 pepper halves. Use the remaining tablespoon of oil to lightly drizzle the tops of stuffed peppers. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted in the potato stuffing and the tops of the stuffed peppers are just golden brown.
Transfer to a platter or individual plates; if the peppers' skins turn dark on the bottom or have loosened, just discard the skins.
NOTE: The herb mixture can be changed to suit your taste. Try rosemary, parsley, chives or basil.
From Cynthia A. Brown, Smithsonian Gardens education specialist.
Tested by Cynthia A. Brown.
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