Get Stuffed

Ayse Uras whips up a tasty Turkish treat from her homeland
Photograph by Joe Vaughn

Ayse Uras of Ayse’s Café in Ann Arbor says this dish is typical of Turkish home cooking, and one she remembers from her childhood in Turkey. “As I grew up in a small town, we ate only seasonal food, and so when bell peppers were not in season, my mother would frequently make this dish with peppers dehydrated from the summer before. Both the stuffing and yogurt sauce are versatile. The stuffing can be used for many vegetables (zucchini, grape leaves, tomatoes, Swiss chard), and the yogurt sauce is a staple of Turkish cooking.”

> Red Pepper Lamb Dolma (Etli Biber Dolma)1 pound ground lamb

1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup long-grain rice
1-1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes (with more on hand, as needed)
2 tablespoons dried mint
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 medium bell peppers, preferably red or yellow
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 cups warm water

> Garlic-Yogurt Sauce (Sarimsakli Yogurt)

1 cup plain yogurt, preferably at room temperature
1/4 cup water
2 cloves crushed garlic

Place lamb in a large mixing bowl with the chopped onion, rice, crushed tomatoes, mint, salt, and pepper. Knead well. The mixture should be soft and loose. If it appears dry, slowly incorporate more canned crushed tomatoes, as needed.

Wash and cut the tops off of the peppers, removing the seeds and pith. Stuff the peppers with the meat/rice mixture. Place the peppers side by side in one row in a medium saucepan.

Dissolve the tomato paste in the warm water, add salt and pepper to taste, and pour the water over the peppers. (The water should reach the middle of the peppers.) Place the pan without its lid over high heat, cooking until the water starts boiling. Cover the pan with the lid and reduce heat. Cook peppers about one hour, until rice is fluffy and cooked.

For the sauce: Combine plain yogurt with 1/4 cup water and crushed garlic, mixing until smooth and creamy.

To serve: Place one or two peppers on a plate. Pour 3-4 tablespoons of the tomato sauce from the pan over the peppers. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the yogurt sauce over peppers, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.

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