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Did you know that as bell peppers age, their nutritional qualities and flavor characteristics change as well?

For example, red peppers contain nine times more beta carotene than green bell peppers and twice the amount of vitamin C, but a serving of green peppers still provides over 200 percent of your suggested daily intake of vitamin C.

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.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 4 to 6.

1½ to 2 c. cooked white rice (starting from about ¾ to 1 c. raw white rice)

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

1 to 1¼ lb. of ground beef (ground chuck, 16 percent fat)

6 large fresh basil leaves chopped (or 1½ tsp. dried basil)

½ tsp. dry summer savory

½ tsp. ground marjoram (or 2 tsp. of fresh chopped)

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ c. olive oil

Paprika

If you haven't already made the rice, start cooking the rice following the package instructions (usually 1 cup of raw white rice plus 1½ cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt), bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.)

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Cut the tops off of the bell peppers. Remove and discard (compost) the stem 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 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, basil, summer savory, marjoram, salt, several turns of black pepper and rice.

Remove bell peppers from steamer pan. Place cut side up in a Pyrex or other oven-proof 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 35 to 50 minutes, or longer, until the meat is cooked through.

Serve with marinara sauce.

Pair these stuffed bell peppers with Lucas & Lewellen’s 2016 Santa Barbara County Hidden Asset.

You won’t believe how well this 2-year-old wine is drinking right now! Choice lots of lesser-known malbec, merlot, syrah, petite sirah and cabernet franc, all grown in their premium Santa Barbara County vineyards, were blended for harmonious complexity in a rich, silky, elegant wine.

These varietals are their “hidden assets." Aromas and lush flavors of raspberry jam, red fruit and pomegranate with a hint of spiciness are balanced by velvety chocolate tannins and a long finish.

Enjoy!

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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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