I have to admit that I miserably failed at updating my blog in the last few weeks despite almost daily cooking adventures in various kitchens visited during holiday season. If you haven’t given up on me yet and still visit my site occasionally, thank you! One of my new year’s resolutions is to publish one recipe per week so there is a chance I might do better in the future. No guarantees though as I am finding it difficult to have any sort of routine during busy travel periods when you have to rid your fridge of any inhabitants (except those in glass jars) before their lifetime is over. Then, upon return, next challenge is to figure out how much food I can buy and take home without hiring a camel or a donkey because, as you can imagine, I want more than a lonely head of broccoli to feed my starving fridge (and belly). Plus, they key to maintaining healthy and balanced diet is to consume wide variety of ingredients and thus nutrients. This is where stuffed peppers come in. They rescue me when I am faced with dilemma of putting together quickly a healthy dish using only one or two fresh vegetables and no specific ingredient list.
I have long admired the Mediterranean cuisine where vegetables get stuffed with all kinds of goodness. Tomatoes, courgettes, mushrooms, peppers, squash – all serve as excellent vessels for filling consisting of whole grains, herbs, spices, cheese and nuts. These vegetables contain soft flesh that can be easily scooped out to create hollow space while adding flavor to the filling. Plus, anything served in a pretty tomato or pepper looks delicious, even if it’s loaded with chunks of yesterday’s bread. That’s another great thing about such recipes — it’s versatility allows you to use whatever ingredients you have around so no shopping list needed. I always have some quinoa, bulgur, or couscous in my pantry that I can quickly cook, mix with some olives (or capers), add fresh parsley, basil, mint (or dried oregano), crumbled feta cheese (or moldy Parmesan that’s been living in the fridge for months), toasted pine nuts (can be swapped for sunflower or pumpkin seeds), and finally some olive oil to bring everything together. Sturdy vegetables such as peppers need to be roasted separately first to ensure they have a chance to cook before adding filling, whereas softer vegetables such as mushrooms can go in already pre-loaded.
Stuff a Pepper
Serves 1 [hungry] person or 2 as a snack
– 1 bell pepper (red or yellow preferred)
– 1/2 cup uncooked millet (quinoa, bulgur, couscous are also delicious)
– 4-5 olives (kalamata are my favorite)
– 1 small fresh tomato (or use 3-4 sundried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and drained)
– small handful of pine nuts (or any other nuts or seeds)
– grated Parmesan (or other type of cheese)
– small bunch of dill or another herb or spice
– pinch of smoked paprika, optional
– 1 tsp olive oil
Toast nuts in the oven at 180C/350F for couple of minutes or until fragrant. Cut the bell pepper in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle black pepper inside, and bake cut side up for 15-20 minutes at 200C/375F until the bottom is slighly charred and edges become soft. In the meantime, prepare millet (or grain of your choice) using instructions on the package. If using millet, you’ll need about 1 cup of water and 15-20 minutes. Chop the tomato, herbs and olives and add to cooked millet along with paprika and olive oil. Mix thoroughly and scoop inside the pepper halves once cool enough to handle. Grate cheese on top and send back into the oven for approximately 5 minutes, just enough to warm through the ingredients and allow cheese to melt. (note: if using fresh cheese such as feta, instead of grating it, mix it in with herbs and olives). Feel free to add salt, pepper, or garlic as to your liking.
P.S. Looking at the photos of stuffed peppers made me think of wooden shoes I saw in Holland earlier this year. Given that majority of bell peppers purchased in European countries are supplied by the Netherlands, it only seemed appropriate to think of that comparison. Imagine all the Christmas presents that could be stuffed into those giant shoes!