For this dish from Claudia Roden's The Food of Spain (Ecco, 2011), use flat-bottomed bell peppers that will stand up easily while baking. This recipe first appeared in our December 2011 issue along with Betsy Andrew's story Readable Feast
¼ cup plus 3 tbsp. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
2 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored and pureed in a food processor, plus 3 finely chopped
2 ½ tsp. sugar
Kosher salt, to taste
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 tsp. finely chopped oregano
1 ¼ cups short-grain rice
2 ½ cups vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron threads
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 red or green bell peppers
1. Make the tomato sauce: Heat 3 tbsp. oil, garlic, and chile in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pureed tomatoes, 2 tsp. sugar, and salt; cook until sauce is thickened, about 40 minutes. Set aside.
2. Make the filling: Heat remaining oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, remaining sugar, and oregano; cook until liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add stock, rice, and saffron; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until rice is slightly underdone, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
3. Heat oven to 400°. Using a paring knife, cut a circle around top of each pepper, discard seeds, and reserve tops. Stand peppers up in a 2-qt. baking dish. Divide filling among peppers; cover with pepper tops. Pour sauce into dish around peppers; cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour; uncover and continue baking until peppers are soft and browned on top, about 15 minutes more.