Stuffed vegetables are common in the world's cuisines, both as a side dish and as a light meal. In the Middle East, they are almost an entire cuisine unto themselves. One of the most common vegetables for stuffing is sweet bell peppers, which are both naturally hollow and compatible with many other ingredients. The peppers are usually stuffed with a meat- or grain-based filling, and the choice of filling dictates appropriate side dishes.
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Peppers with a stuffing composed primarily of grain are typically used as a side dish in America, though they can also serve as a main dish. They can be stuffed with cooked barley, wild rice or bulgur wheat, but the most common choice is steamed or par-cooked rice. The stuffing can be seasoned lightly or heavily with spices and herbs, depending on the recipe. Appropriate accompaniments include light portions of grilled or skewered meat, fish or poultry, when serving the peppers as a main course. Steamed or roasted vegetables are also appropriate.
Bell peppers are often stuffed with meat as well, either as the main ingredient or in conjunction with grain as the primary flavoring ingredient. Ground beef, lamb and pork are all common choices, but stewed meats or sausage pieces are also appropriate. Meat-filled peppers tend to be richer and more heavily seasoned than grain-filled peppers. A crisp salad, a slice of crusty bread, or a plate of steamed baby vegetables are all suitable sides with this type of peppers.
Strongly Flavored Fillings
Sometimes peppers are stuffed with fillings that are more powerfully flavored than the simple meat or grain versions. These might include peppers stuffed with a tomato-based Ragu or Bolognese sauce, a curry, or some form of chili. Accompany them with a suitable bread, such as garlic bread or focaccia, naan or chapati, or flour tortillas. Salads and cool vegetables, such as sliced tomatoes or cucumbers, are appropriate accompaniments. So are dips and dressings based on yogurt or sour cream.
What to Drink With Stuffed Peppers
An important consideration for many cooks is what to drink with the meal. Peppers can be a difficult meal to match, because the fillings are so variable. A cold lager beer or India Pale Ale will work with most stuffed peppers, no matter what the filling. South American cabernet sauvignon often has a faint bell-pepper overtone, making that an appropriate choice for meat-filled peppers. Chianti and Valpolicella go well with peppers containing Italian flavors, and ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueurs are appropriate for peppers seasoned with Mediterranean or Middle Eastern flavors.