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The Hogueras de San Juan (Bonfires of St. John) is distinguished on the Costa Blanca coastline in Spain as a festivity filled with fireworks, parades and a bonfire. It is the Alicante region’s biggest fiesta of the year, highlighting one magical night during the summer solstice in June.
This ancient ritual concentrates on the shortest night of the year when the rays of the sun triumph over darkness with a fiery red confrontation. "Pimientos rellenos" is a dish that typifies the bright red flame of the sun’s battle. This dish year is served year-round in restaurants all over Spain but during the Hogueras de San Juan in Alicante, even street vendors supply it as their main fare.
Prior to the festival, a Fire Beauty is elected from among the local ladies, the streets and balconies are decorated with foliage and neighborhoods vie to create the best hoguera (an enormous figure of paper mache or wax). On the last evening, the hogueras are paraded through the streets and thrown into giant bonfire, designed for memory only. One will be a survivor though, and that is the model selected as the winning entry (known as the Ninot). It then is added to the collection the local museum and can be viewed.
The practice Hogueras de San Juan not only exists in Alicante, but also in some Latin American countries. Many believe that that the tradition origins began in pre-Christian times, when people worshiped the sun by performing fire-based rituals. In Alicante, the festival tends to steer towards a religious belief, thus the festival is dedicated to the saint, St. John the Baptist.
Since pimientos rellenos is a dish that typifies the bright red flame of the bonfires, it is now the perfect time to serve the dish in your home. Although it calls for pimento-style peppers which are thinner and triangular in shape, you can use instead 6 red bell peppers. Rice may be added as a side to the stuffed peppers and allow the sweet juices from the tomato sauce and pepper blend in.
The sauce can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
· 12 red pimento-style peppers
· ½ lb ground veal
· ½ lb ground pork
· 1 onion chopped finely
· 1 clove garlic
· 5 tbsp virgin olive oil
· 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 can of tomato paste
· 3 tbsp parsley
· 1/3 cup white wine
· 2 slices bread crumbled up
· thyme, cinnamon and ground nutmeg
· 2 eggs
· Salt and pepper
1. Cut off the stem ends of the peppers and scrape out the inner membranes with a teaspoon.
2. Roast the pepper under the broiler/grill until slightly charred.
3. Season the meat with the garlic, thyme, cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Let stand for 15 minutes.
4. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan and sauté the garlic and 3/4 of the onion until tender.
5. Add the tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes.
6. Add 2 tablespoons of parsley, ½ cup white wine, salt and pepper to taste and cook until sauce is reduced in approximately 15 minutes.
7. Sieve or puree in the blender.
8. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and add the meat and the remaining onion, frying until brown.
9. Soak the bread in warm milk or water until the mixture is spongy.
10. Squeeze out and add the bread to the meat in the frying pan, using the back of a fork to blend together. Add more seasoning of salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, and slowly add the remaining wine and cook the mixture for several minutes. Stir to prevent sticking.
11. Remove from heat and stir in one beaten egg and the balance of the parsley.
12. Fill the prepared pepper, taking extra care not to split them.
13. Dip the stuffed pepper in a beaten egg, then place in flour and fry in the hot oil until browned.
14. Place the peppers in an ovenproof dish and pour over the sieved sauce.
15. Bake for 20 minutes in medium heat of 200ºF.
Be gentle when adding the mixture to the peppers.
Other recipes by Veronica:
Swordfish Alicante Style
Torta de Nueces y Zanahorias (Carrot and Nut Cake)
Canelones Rellenos con Gambas
Pinchos de Gambas (Shrimp Skewers)
Sopa de Crema de Ajo (Cream of Garlic Soup)
Vieiras a la Gallega (Galician Scallops)
Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet)
Albóndigas de Arroz y Espinaca (Rice and Spinach Meatballs)
Crema Catalana (Catalonian Custard)
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