My husband suggested we go to Brattleboro, Vermont last weekend to see some performances at the Sandglass Theater’s Festival, Puppets In The Green Mountains: Walking To The Borders. Expecting a lovely day out and some entertainment, I would have been satisfied by a couple of shows and a good meal. Happily, the day was filled with more.
Performers and artists gathered from all over the world to present a series of shows with a unifying theme that would “take a deep look at immigration and otherness”. I've been disheartened by the negativity in the media recently about immigration and refugees, so it was refreshing to be amongst creative people who had the curiosity and courage to get to know one another. Generosity was as abundant at the festival as were puppets, artists and audience members. I was particularly moved by the German Theater Naumburg’s telling of Romeo & Juliet. It’s a story that’s been told countless times in so many different ways―Franco Zeffirellis 1968 film, West Side Story and Shakespeare In Love amongst them. This performance―done without words and set to music by Prokofiev—was moving and heartbreaking. Visually rich, musically astounding―every moment touched me in ways I’d never been touched before. The performance filled me with optimism.
The day was glorious and sunny. The weather and colors were changing as we drove through southern Vermont and back home.
I created this dish of Roasted Bell Peppers with Couscous and Beef in part because it captures the changing colors of the season. Red, green and golden bell peppers are roasted in the oven until they are richly browned and softened. Roasting the peppers also adds smoky aromas and flavors that pair well with beef browned with Mediterranean spices and topped with simple, delicate couscous. This is a perfect meal for a cool fall evening. Add a bottle of wine, some pita bread and a bowl of olives. Simply enjoy.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
Roasted Bell Peppers with Couscous & Beef
Yield: 4 Servings
- 4 large bell peppers, assorted colors
- Olive oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and chopped to small dice
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced finely
- 1 teaspoon dried sumac
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or harissa
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes, canned or fresh
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup couscous
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Handful fresh dill or other fresh herbs
To prepare the peppers:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Rinse the peppers and split them in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and place them on the prepared sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast until the edges of the peppers are a rich brown and the peppers softened, about 45 minutes.
- Remove from oven and keep warm.
To prepare the beef:
- While the peppers are roasting, add 3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil to a large pan. Heat it through then add the onion and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables become translucent.
- Add the sumac, red pepper flakes or harissa and ginger then toss them with the vegetables. Brown the spices lightly. Add the ground beef to the pan, toss them with the vegetables and brown completely. Add the crushed tomatoes, honey, and cinnamon stick and stir them into the beef. Heat all the ingredients to high, then lower the heat.
- Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Cover and keep warm.
To prepare the couscous:
- In a small pan, bring 1 ½ cups of water to a boil. Add the couscous to the boiling water. Cover, bring back to a boil, turn off the heat and let rest for seven to ten minutes.
- Drain off any excess water. Fluff the cooked couscous with a fork and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
- Place the couscous in the center of a large serving platter. Place the roasted peppers to one side of the couscous and the cooked beef on the other side. Sprinkle decoratively with a handful of fresh dill.
- Serve and enjoy.
- For a vegetarian alternative, leave out the beef and double the amount of couscous. Add some hard boiled eggs or chunks of smoked cheese.
- The peppers can be roasted on their own, sliced thinly and served with pita chips for an appetizer.
- The cooked beef can also be cooked on its own and tossed with pasta as a sauce or used as a dip for celery sticks and carrots.