I spent the majority of this past weekend lounging in sweatpants trying to convince myself that being sick was not a good enough excuse to procrastinate. Well, I managed to get some stuff done. Sadly, no incredible or delicious culinary feats. With a runny nose and a pounding head, I slurped soup a good portion of the weekend.
But as I was sitting at work today, I decided that I needed to cook something exciting, colorful, and flavorful. It was cold today. And gray. And windy. I needed color, and warmth, and spice. I was thinking of what I had in the fridge, and in my cupboard (my mini pantry), and then I remembered…my cousin had given me some bell peppers that he wasn’t going to use. I also had some leftover cooked quinoa sitting in the fridge. Aha! I would make stuffed peppers!
To be honest, I have never actually made stuffed peppers. When I ate stuffed vegetables as a kid, the veggies were usually filled with rice and meat, or just meat. I’m thinking of dolma, stuffed grape leaves, or shijar, which is meat-stuffed eggplant, zucchini or tomatoes. I’ll get around to making them eventually.
Basically what went into this recipe was some mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, black beans, tomatoes, onion, parsley, and chipotle peppers…topped with cheese, and lots of it! I have to say that these stuffed peppers came out fantastic. In retrospect, I realized that I forgot to add garlic. I’m going to add it to the recipe, because if I make these again, I would definitely add some minced garlic. I decided to mix feta with some shredded cheese, because I love the salty kick from feta. If I had some Mexican cotija cheese on hand, that would have been fantastic, but alas I did not. Also, I had enough extra filling to fill at least two more bell peppers. But that’s no problem, the leftover stuffing will be my lunch tomorrow. Yum!
SIDENOTE: On a more serious note, I felt a little guilty about using quinoa in these stuffed papers. It’s definitely a grain that has surged in popularity in recent years, but not without some consequences. As the demand for quinoa increases in America and across Europe, the super grain has become too expensive for many Bolivian farmers, who once ate it as a staple in their diets. If you’re interested more, you can read some articles from the NY Times, the Economist, and NPR. The reason I bring this up is not to cause a stir, but just to rethink food ecology, conscious eating, and global markets. Interesting food for thought, right?
3 bell peppers, sliced in half
1/2 tomato, diced
1/2 zucchini, chopped in quarters
1/2 onion, diced
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup black beans
1 cup cooked quinoa
2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce
2 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese + feta for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a pot, bring 2 cups of chicken stock to a boil. Add the quinoa, and cook on medium-high heat. The quinoa will be done cooking when the small grains begin to unfurl what look like little strings.
While the quinoa is cooking, heat about 2 tsp of oil in a pan. Add the chopped onion and let it cook until translucent. Add the garlic, black beans, mushrooms, chopped chipotles, cumin, and tomatoes, allowing them to cook for a few minutes. Add the spinach and parsley (I almost forgot that I had spinach in the fridge, so I didn’t end up cooking mine as you’ll see in the pictures. I mixed the raw spinach with the quinoa, but it still turned out alright!). Let the mixture cook on low-medium heat for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat off, and add the vegetable mixture to the quinoa. Incorporate the ingredients.
Place the pepper halves on a baking sheet. One by one, fill the peppers with the quinoa mixture. Don’t be afraid to pile on the filling! Bake the peppers for about 20-25 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Remove from the oven, and generously sprinkle with cheese. Place the tray back in the oven for about another 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Enjoy!