Monday, February 7, 2011

A Recipe: Pepper Soup

Everyone's got those special dishes that their grandmother, mother, uncle, or whoever makes that are a staple in your family and that remind you of that specific relative. For me, that's pepper soup. When most people hear "pepper soup" they usually think "black pepper" and yes, that sounds weird/gross! No, pepper soup is not just black pepper in some sort of broth, it's more along the lines of a thick, almost stew like, soup that kind of tastes like a stuffed pepper! All while I was growing up, pepper soup was one of my favorite meals. My grandma would usually make it in the summer when peppers are fresh (aka cheap) and my mom and I would go nuts for it...eating bowls and bowls at a time. It's one of those comforting dishes, the smell of it alone time warps me back 15 years and takes me instantly to my happy-place!

Last Wednesday was my grandparents 65th wedding anniversary and in honor of that I decided to make a giant pot of pepper soup! Pepper soup was always one of those dishes that only my grandmother would make...her signature dish. And no one else was trusted to get it right. That is, until I graduated from High School! For my graduation party (reminder: I was/am kind of nuts) I wanted to serve pepper soup. Forget the fact that it was June and soup isn't the most practical thing to serve at an outdoor graduation party...that's what I wanted. So, just before my party, my grandma taught me how to make pepper soup. And since the recipe had never been written down (she had always just winged it, you know, since it was tattooed in her brain) I decided to write down the recipe as she made it. I remember that day clearly, my mom and I standing beside my grandma at the stove watching each move she made, wide eyed and intrigued.

I took that recipe that I scribbled down as she cooked with me to college. And once I got an apartment (aka a stove) and moved in with Amanda I could finally make it for the two of us. And I did throughout the many years we lived together! I altered the recipe slightly to accommodate Amanda's taste, adding more peppers and onions. Then when Antoine and I started dating I made it for him, and again adjusted the recipe because Antoine like more ground beef and less peppers.

Here it is, in all it's glory:

Pepper Soup (handed down from my grandma June Bruce)

3 large green peppers
1 large vidalia onion (or 2 medium onions)
1 1/2 cups white rice
1 lb ground beef, seasoned (w/ salt & pepper), browned and drained
65 to 75 oz tomato sauce (I always use Hunts)
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp dill weed

Fill a large stock pot about 1/3 the way full with water and place over high heat. Season water with a pinch of salt. Chop green peppers and onions into bite-size pieces (about 1" x 1"), then pour into boiling water.

While the peppers and onions are simmering, brown the seasoned ground beef. I like to us a lean ground beef and then I drained it of excess grease (you could easily use a ground turkey or a meat substitute, but I do suggest draining off any residual oil/fat). Once the peppers and onions are slightly tender (the peppers will change from a bright green to a more muted tone) pour or ladle out some of the water so that the peppers, onions, and water only fill the pot half way (you will need plenty of room in the pot for the rice, ground beef and tomato sauce). Then add in the rice and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Then stir in the ground beef, tomato sauce, parsley, celery seed, dill weed, salt and pepper (to taste). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for another 10 minutes. You will need to keep an eye on it, because without frequent stirring the tomato sauce will stick to the bottom of the pan. After the 10 minutes, reduce heat to low. Continue to occasionally stir and check on the soup. It is done when the rice puffs slightly and is completely tender.

This recipe yields an entire stock pot full of soup, and it makes for great left overs! If you are like Antoine and like things extra meaty then I would use a pound and a half of ground beef. If you are like Amanda and love green peppers, add an extra one to the recipe.

Sorry I couldn't supply you with a better visual, but I just never got around to taking a decent picture, so you'll have to settle for an iPhone picture of my leftovers!

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