As fresh vegetables continue to roll into our local farmers markets and our own gardens, let’s reach for some bell peppers.

Bell peppers are not only an excellent source of carotenoids, like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin, but also contain vitamins C and E. Red and yellow bell peppers have a very different flavor than green bell peppers. The red ones, especially, are much sweeter. Any bell pepper can be used for this recipe; use the type you like the best.

Recipe

Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/2 to 2 c. cooked white rice (starting from about 2/3 c. raw white rice)

1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided

4 to 6 bell peppers (red, yellow or green); use 4 large or 6 medium-sized

1 to 1 1/4 lb. ground beef (ground chuck, 16% fat)

6 large fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 1/2 tsp. dried

1/2 tsp. dry summer savory

2 tsp. fresh chopped marjoram or 1/2 tsp. ground

(You can substitute other herbs or blends such as an Italian herb mix)

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 c. olive oil

Paprika

Rinse rice with water to remove excess starch. Dump starchy water and add 1 1/3 c. water and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.

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Cut the tops off the bell peppers. Remove and discard (or compost) the stem, pith and seeds. Place bell peppers cut side up on a steaming rack over an inch of water in a large covered pot. Bring to boil, let steam for 10 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl mix together the ground beef, basil, summer savory, marjoram, 1 tsp. salt, several turns of black pepper and rice.

Remove bell peppers from steamer pan. Place cut side up in a Pyrex or other oven-safe casserole. Gently stuff the peppers with the ground beef rice mixture. Drizzle olive oil over the stuffed peppers, along the outside of the peppers, and into the pan. Rub the oil over the outside of the peppers; it will help with browning. Sprinkle the tops generously with paprika.

Place on middle rack and cook for 40 to 50 minutes, or longer, until the meat is cooked through. 

Serve with marinara sauce.

Pair this with Rusack’s 2013 Santa Barbara County Sangiovese, Ballard Canyon Estate. This great grape of the Chianti region of Italy, grows exceptionally well on the hillside slopes of Santa Barbara County's Ballard Canyon vineyards. This sangiovese is a great example of a California-style version of this Italian gem and their 2013 sangiovese is their last vintage of this alluring Italian style wine. Fruit forward and well balanced with aromas and flavors of black cherries, raspberries and black tea. Crafted from fruit grown in their Ballard Canyon Estate vineyard, this 100% sangiovese was aged for 16 months in 100% French oak, 22% new. Unfiltered.

Enjoy!

John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook, "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at sacredmeals@comcast.net.

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