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Farmers market report: Bell peppers are in season

Farmers market report: Bell peppers are in season
Colorful sweet bell peppers. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

What’s in season: With a season that straddles late summer and early fall, bell peppers are the amazing Technicolor fruits of the produce world, their palette ranging from deep green to bright red, orange and yellow, vivid purple and even chocolate brown. Regardless of color, bell peppers are very similar in flavor, mildly sweet with little to no heat.

What to cook: Julienne fresh peppers and toss with a quick vinaigrette to make a late-summer slaw, or char the peppers over a hot flame to add smoky notes to sandwiches, chiles and soups. Add peppers to pasta dishes or shakshuka, and wrap them around fresh cheese or tuna for a quick appetizer. Or just cut off the tops and fill the peppers with grains, chicken or other stuffings.

What’s on the horizon: Fresh lima beans, generally in season until November, are beginning to show up at farmers market stands.

QUINOA-STUFFED BELL PEPPERS

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Total time: 2 1/2 to 3 hours | Serves 8

QUINOA-STUFFED BELL PEPPERS

8 bell peppers (yellow, red, orange and green)

1 cup quinoa

3 3/4 cups water, divided

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

4 green onions, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/3 cup chopped dried figs

1/3 cup chopped pitted dates

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1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup toasted pistachios or pine nuts

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, pulverized

2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup dry red wine

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 tablespoon paprika

1. Prepare the peppers: Cut off the tops of the bell peppers and set aside. Remove the ribs and seeds from inside the peppers. Turn over on a wire rack to drain while preparing the filling.

2. Prepare the filling: In a large saucepan, add the quinoa to 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, the quinoa is translucent and the germ has spiraled out, 10 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, follow the cooking instructions on the package.) Remove from heat and set aside, covered, until just barely warm. Fluff with a fork.

3. To the quinoa, add the mint, cilantro and basil, chopped green onion, cinnamon, allspice, figs, dates, cranberries and pistachios or pine nuts and mix well with a fork. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper, or to taste. Stuff the peppers with the mixture and replace the lids.

4. Prepare the sauce: Pour the olive oil into a medium, heavy-bottom pot heated over high heat. Saute the onion until golden, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and saute until aromatic, a few seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, honey, remaining 1 3/4 cups water, red wine, basil, oregano, thyme and paprika. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and continue to cook till just thickened, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

5. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour one-third of the sauce in the bottom of a large, wide oven-proof baking dish or pan and snugly place the peppers standing up inside (other vegetables, such as carrots, may be used around the sides of the pan to keep the peppers in place). Pour the remaining sauce around the peppers. Cover the pan with foil and bake until the peppers are tender and fragrant, 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours (the time will vary depending on the size and crispness of the peppers). If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it with a little boiling water.

6. Serve with roasted kale either sprinkled on the peppers or as a side dish.

ROASTED KALE

2 pounds fresh kale

1/3 cup fruity olive oil

Salt

1. Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Wash and dry the kale, stem the leaves and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2 inches each). Place the kale in a bowl and pour in the olive oil, making sure to coat all sides. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment and grease the paper lightly. Add the kale in one layer, and bake. Check for crispiness after 15 minutes. Continue to bake the kale until it reaches the crispiness you desire.

Each of 8 servings: 425 calories; 11 grams protein; 59 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fiber; 19 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 24 grams sugar; 497 mg. sodium.

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