Almost Turkish Recipes

Oven-Baked Vegetarian Stuffed Red Bell Peppers (Fırında Zeytinyağlı Kırmızı Biber Dolması)

Dolmas, stuffed bell peppers, in Turkey are almost exclusively green; however, the green bell peppers there are tiny and beautifully thin, that's perfect for stuffing. I never even attempt to stuff green bell peppers in US. Now and again I come across at farmers' markets and at grocery stores smaller bell peppers, usually red or purple, and I immediately jump over them with joy. I especially like the red ones, because the sweetness from the red bell pepper comes out beeautıfully when baked. These peppers are approximately as big as my fist.  

This recipe is for 8 bell peppers

8 bell peppers
1 big onion, ~1 1/2 cups finely chopped (you can use a food processor)
1 1/2 cups white rice
1 big or two medium tomatoes, grated
1 tomato (this one is for covering the tops of bell peppers after stuffing)
1/4 - 1/3 cup pine nuts (I love them so I go for 1/3) 
1/4 cup currants (most people who are not fond of sweet in their food skip this ingredient) 
1 tbsp allspice
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp mint flakes or ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped finely
1 tsp white sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups boiling water

-Wash all the bell peppers. Take out the top part and the seeds. With a tip of a sharp knife pierce them at the bottom once or twice. (Save the tops if you want to cover your dolmas as the one in the picture. If you prefer to have tomato covers as in the first picture, discard the tops. Tomato covers keep the dolmas more juicy and the pepper tops look very cute) 
-Mix all the ingredients except for peppers, one tomato that we will use as a cover, and water. 
-Stuff the peppers with the stuffing rice. Don’t go all the way up to the top, leave almost 3/4 inch to an inch, because the rice will cook and rise. 
-Cut big enough rounds from the tomato the cover the tops. Press the tomato slice down a bit to ensure that it'll stay there. (If you opt to use the tops, do the same)
-Place the dolmas in a stove and oven safe dish or pot as high as them. 
-Pour 2 cups of boiling hot water. 
-First bring to a boil on the stove and cook for 5 minutes and then bake in the oven uncovered at 390-400 F for 35-40 minutes, until rice is cooked. (If you're not sure, check the rice with a fork). I really like my oven-baked dolmas to be charred on top just a bit so I make sure they do. They're delicious that way. 
-Take them out and let them cool down to room temperature. Oven-baked vegetarian dolmas, just like all other Turkish olive oil dishes, are best when eaten at room temperature and the day after they're made. 
Enjoy with yogurt on the side!    

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