I finagled my way once more to Tunisia this winter, itching for sun, (relative) warmth, and food that fills belly and heart. On this trip I managed to exceed even my own expectations of guesthood—I couldn’t have been lazier, slept more, eaten more, or endeavored to fewer accomplishments. I believe I successfully vacationed, for the first time in a long time, and thanks entirely to my hosts.
This time ’round, I wanted to at least attempt to document a few of the dishes in which we indulged daily—the quotidien feasts of Neila and company laid out in her beautiful apartment overlooking the city of Tunis. I scribbled recipes in my notebook, smudging paper and phone screen while trying to take photos and rush from stove to table to sink to follow along. Here’s one of those recipes, for stuffed peppers, potatoes, and artichoke hearts, as dictated and prepared by Neila:
- Big bunch of parsley, washed, thick stems removed
- 5 green peppers, washed, stemmed, and de-seeded (ready to be stuffed!)
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1.5″ slices
- 5 whole artichoke hearts
- 1 white onion, chopped
- A few cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 slice of bread, soaked in water (mushy!)
- Tomato paste (or fresh chopped tomato)
- 200-300 grams of ground beef
- 3 eggs
Put oil, tomato paste (or fresh), and minced garlic to simmer in a large pot. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix chopped onion, parsley, mushy bread, and 2 eggs together in a large bowl with ground meat. Season with salt and pepper.
Add more parsley if it doesn’t look forested enough, and another egg if it needs to be wetter. The only way to know is to make this dish dozens of times over your life and adjust as needed. You could add some chili powder too, if you’re feeling zesty.
Absolutely cram this mixture into your empty pepper vessels. Go at it.
Somehow make deep lengthwise cuts into your large potato hunks, and cram more filling into the crevices. Using Mom Magic or Chef Magic, it will stay put.
Excavate the artichoke hearts from the top, digging a sort of crater. Stuff more meat mixture into that crater, so it’s overflowing and doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Add 1 to 2 cups of water to the tomato mixture and bring to a boil.
Add the stuffed peppers to the pot in one layer. Add the artichokes in a second layer.
Add the stuffed potatoes in a third layer. Add more water to the pot until the top layer is almost covered.
Cover and boil over high heat for 10 minutes. Then check to see if the peppers are tender and cooked through. There may have been some adjustments happening inside the pot as its residents got friendly. That’s fine, should look something like this:
Once the peppers are tender, the meat should be cooked through. Plate the stuffed vegetables with plenty of sauce.
Serve with salad and utterly perfect fresh bread from the boulangerie a mere block away, and atop the only tablecloth that has ever whet my appetite.