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Peppers & Tomatoes Stuffed with Couscous…and a Drizzle of Lemon Olive Oil

It’s a common Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culinary habit to stuff vegetables with a variety of grains such as rice or couscous as well as ground meats or nuts like pistachios. That said, this dish is amazingly versatile. If you don’t have peppers, you can substitute zucchinis or eggplants instead; if you don’t have couscous, try cooked rice or meat as a filling.

What made this dish taste so wonderful to me was the incredible fortune I had to drizzle it with a lemon flavored olive oil by a very cool company called Nudo. Not only do they provide some of the very best olive oil I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve tasted a lot), but they have an amazing program behind their business.

Small scale, artisanal farmers in Italy produce Nudo’s olive oil. They take great care in ensuring that the life cycle of the olive tree is a sustainable form of agriculture, resulting in healthy, pesticide-free olives to make the oil.

They aren’t privy to sitting on the process of oil production, either. For example, the olives are pressed as soon as possible after harvest. This gives you, the consumer, a healthy (non-rancid) product that is packed with flavor. I can explain it only so far with words; until you try it yourself, you may not realy grasp how amazing a lemon or mandarin-orange flavored olive oil can be. Nudo’s is so refreshing, not bitter like others I’ve tried. I’m using it like crazy in salads this summer (more recipes for those soon, inshallah).

Another amazing thing about Nudo is their Adopt an Olive Tree program, of which I’ve never seen anything else of its kind before. You pay for a tree and get a certain amount of olive oil shipped to you from that tree (and others in its grove) each year. The best part? Should you ever desire to actually visit that tree in person, you can do so–and actually water it, hug it or sit by it for a while. I just love that idea!

Some people may argue that if you don’t live nearby the grove, then you aren’t actually supporting local agribusiness and that you’re buying into the large carbon footprint dilemma of mega-consumerism by having the oil shipped. To that I would respond that for one thing, very few folks are afforded the virtue of living close to any type of climate that supports the growth of olives, so if we want olive oil (and who doesn’t, considering all of its health benefits?), then we have to support some business out there. I like this one because there’s a real story, real people, hard-working farmers dedicated to the art of great olive oil production. And if you don’t believe it, why you can just visit the trees yourself…

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ yellow onion, minced
  • 1/3 cup golden and red raisins
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous (quick-cooking variety)
  • 1 cup water
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large green peppers
  • 1 large, round yellow or red tomato
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • 6 fresh mint leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven at 350°
  2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm the butter. Add the carrots and onions and sauté in the butter until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the raisins and sauté until plump, then add the couscous and water, salt and pepper. Cook for the amount of time according to the couscous package instructions. When it is done, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Wash and dry the peppers and tomato. Cut each in half, removing all seeds. Pat the insides completely dry.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place peppers and tomatoes face up on the baking sheet, a couple of inches apart.
  5. Fill each half of the peppers and tomatoes with couscous mixture. Place one basil and one mint leaf on top of each pepper or tomato.
  6. Drizzle each pepper and tomato with a bit of lemon-flavored olive oil.
  7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the couscous has begun to brown somewhat, but not dry out. Allow to rest a few minutes, uncovered, before serving.

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