Sunday, September 19, 2021

Mixed Pepper Casserole

Slice of Mixed Pepper Casserole
Recipe inspired by Moosewood

Late summer begins the parade of peppers at northern California farmers’ markets. All colors and shapes abound, specific types varying with the weather and farmers’ locations and whims. I love the rich variety of flavor and spiciness. Peppers originated in the Amazon basin, with wild varieties dating back about 18 million years. All wild species are super-hot. Farmers have cultivated 50,000 varieties over the past 5000 years, each with its own color, flavor profile, and level of capsaicin. Thatsa lotta peppers! Choose as many as you like for this dish: the more varieties, the more flavor.

Mixed Pepper Casserole in Serving dish
Luscious Layers of Peppers, Savory Custard, and Cheese
The original recipe, published in the original 1977 Moosewood Cookbook, calls for red and green bell peppers. Starting with those, I incorporated as many other types as I could find, and increased their quantity. One combo was Jimmy Nardello sweet reds and a semi-spicy Anaheim along with red, green, yellow and orange bells. Another time, I used semi-spicy Hungarian waxes, earthy half-hot poblanos, sweet Jimmy Nardellos with red, yellow, and green bells. Sometimes I’ve added minced jalapeno to zip up the spiciness.

Note that if you slice the peppers by hand, this recipe can take about 2½ hours, including hands-off baking time. A food processor (or human chopping helper) could speed things up. Bake time is about an hour. I like to slice up all the veggies, grate the cheese, and measure out the spices and flour the night before. The next day while sautéing the veggies I whip up the egg mixture (which I also changed from the original recipe) and butter the baking dish. Then I make my layers, pour on the egg mixture, sprinkle on the paprika, and bake.

Autumn is coming, and typically the pepper harvest continues through November and sometimes later here. Vary the types of peppers and cheese to serve variants of this dish throughout the fall. Leftovers taste even better, as the pepper-ish flavors intensify.

Variety of Bell Peppers, Wax Peppers, Sweet Peppers, and hot peppers
For Best Flavor, Use a Variety of Peppers
Mixed Pepper Casserole
serves 12 – 15

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1½ tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground red pepper (or to taste)
  • 3 lbs. mixed peppers, sliced thinly
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2½ cups thinly sliced or chopped onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 6 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup Icelandic or other thick yogurt
  • ½ cup cream or half and half
  • ~1 tsp. paprika for sprinkling

Heat olive oil over medium heat in an electric or other large skillet.

Meanwhile, combine salt, cumin, coriander, mustard, black pepper and red pepper in a small cup.

When oil is hot, lower heat to medium low. Add sliced or chopped onions and sauté till softened, about 5 minutes. Add combined spices. Stir till well coated, then sauté until golden, a couple more minutes.

Add peppers. Stir to coat with oil. Turn heat to medium and sauté about 12 - 15 minutes, stirring frequently, till softened. Sprinkle in flour. Mix well until any liquid is absorbed.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Spread half of the peppers in the bottom, followed by the shredded Cheddar cheese. Repeat the layers, ending with Gruyere cheese.

Beat the eggs with an electric mixer. Add the yogurt and cream or half and half. Beat till uniform and smooth. You can whisk this by hand, but it will take considerably more time and effort.

Pour the custard slowly and evenly over the casserole in a zigzag motion. It will sink down into the casserole. Sprinkle heavily with paprika.

Cover casserole and bake at 375 degrees F. for about 50 – 55 minutes.

Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes before serving to allow any liquid to reabsorb into the cooling casserole.

Sauteing Onions, Garlic, and Peppers in Skillet
Preparing the Peppers and Savories
Mixed Spices in Cup
Preparing the Spices
Layer of Prepared Peppers in Casserole
First and Third Layers: Pepper Mixture
Layer of Cheese over Peppers in Casserole
Second and Fourth Layers: Cheeses
Baked Casserole Partially Served
Completed Casserole, with Savory Custard and Paprika Layer on Top

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