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Any bell peppers will do in this dish

Recipe: Pepper steak with a California twist -- cherry tomatoes

Pepper steak
Cherry tomatoes and wine add complexity to this
pepper steak stir fry. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Bell peppers don’t have to be perfect for pepper steak. They can be lopsided, sunburned or under size. Trim off any bad spots and thinly slice the rest.

Pepper steak is a Chinese American staple. This version has a distinctly California twist; cherry tomatoes and wine add complexity to the sauce. (Chopped full-size tomatoes can be substituted.) For this recipe, yellow cherry tomatoes were used, adding some extra sweetness.

Two tips: Start with a frozen steak, slightly defrosted. It’s much easier to slice crosswise, very thin. (For this recipe, a bistro filet – teres major or shoulder cut – was used, but other cuts work well, too.)

Chop first, then cook. Prepare vegetables before starting to stir fry. It may seem like there will be plenty of time for chopping while cooking, but stir fry demands constant attention (and stirring).

Want a spicier pepper steak? Substitute some sliced Anaheim or similar peppers for part of the bells.
Pepper steak Makes 4 servings
Green bell peppers
Imperfect peppers work just fine in pepper steak.


1 pound beef steak


2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons wine or sherry

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon ginger

For stir-fry:

4 tablespoons oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup onions, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

2 cups bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup chicken broth


Bowls of chopped ingredients
Prep all the ingredients before starting to cook.

Slice steak across the grain into thin slices, trimming off any fat.

Prepare marinade. In a glass or ceramic bowl, combine cornstarch and sugar. Whisk in soy sauce, wine and vinegar. Add pepper flakes and ginger.

Add beef slices to marinade. Cover each slice well. Set aside.

In a large wok or frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, sauté another 2 minutes. Add bell peppers, sauté another 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables from wok and set aside.

Return wok to heat and add remaining oil. Swirl oil around wok to cover as much of surface as possible. Remove beef slices from marinade, retaining soy mixture. Add beef slices to wok, working quickly and distributing evenly around wok surface. Stir fry beef until lightly browned on both sides, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes to beef, stir and cover wok; cook 2 minutes.

Return vegetables to wok and stir into beef-tomato mixture. Add chicken broth and any remaining marinade. Stir, then cover for 2 minutes.

Uncover and stir, scraping up any brown bits into sauce. Adjust seasoning and consistency, if necessary.

Serve hot over rice.


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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