Green Bell Pepper with Cream Cheese and Caramelized Onions

I've been holding out on posting this recipe for a while because whenever I make them, I forget to write down the quantities - it's more of an "a little of this, a little of that" approach to cooking. I got back into stuffed bell peppers while visiting my parents in Mexico City over Christmas last year - we've had them often over the years, mostly because they're good but also because they're a very easy (and, cutting excepted, relatively fuss-free) starter to large dinner parties.

Because they really are that convenient - this is pretty effortless as far as cooking goes - I made about ten of them for the goodbye lunch I threw when I left Mexico last January. It was my first attempt at cooking for fourteen people, and I'm proud to say it didn't go too badly. Planning was a big factor, and the great thing about these (like many other recipes I like to include on my list for dinner parties) is that you can make them ahead. And you probably should, too, at least a little. When planning for these, take into consideration that they'll need to be refrigerated for one to two hours when you're done making them.

Green Bell Pepper with Cream Cheese and Caramelized Onions

Ingredients (makes 2 peppers):
2 medium-large green bell peppers, washed
500g cream cheese (plain)
1 medium size onion
1 tsp sweet chili powder (paprikapoeder for the Dutch)*
1 tsp cumin powder*
cube of butter

* 1 tsp translates to roughly 5mL in metric measures (for such small quantities, volume is a better indicator than weight)

1. Finely chop the onion, and sautée in a non-stick pan with a cube of butter until glazed (just glazed, not browned). Turn off the heat and stir in the cumin and sweet chili powder.

2. Add the cream cheese and stir until evenly mixed. Stir in the cream cheese and make sure it is evenly mixed. Season to taste with additional chili powder/cumin (watch out, don't overdo it with the cumin).

3. Wash the bell peppers and carefully, slice off the bottoms (the part with the stem). Remove the seed lists from the inside without cutting open the pepper itself.

4. Fill the bell peppers to the brim with cream cheese, and put the top back on. You will probably have some of the cream cheese mixture left; I always prefer to aim for a little too much rather than come out short. Keep it, it comes in handy when you serve and is lovely on sandwiches, too.

5. Cover the peppers with foil and refrigerate for one to two hours (longer or overnight is fine too) to allow the filling to firm up.

6. When you're ready to eat, remove the bell peppers from the fridge and slice into rings about 0.8 cm (or 1/3 inch) thick. This is the difficult bit - you have to try to do this without the filling separating from the outer ring of pepper that holds it. The less firm the cheese, the harder this is. But don't worry if you fail; this is what the leftover cream cheese is for - you can use them to top up the rings on the plate as needed.

Tidy up, wipe the outsides of the pepper rings clean, arrange on a plate and serve. Bon appetit!

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