Today I came home from work plagued by a serious case of buyer’s remorse. Not from the two new Club Monaco dresses I convinced myself I needed for occasions that have yet to present themselves, but from bell peppers. TWELVE DOLLAR bell peppers. Okay, it was $12 for 6 of them, but seriously?? No wonder Rocco’s Dinner Party chef-testants shop at Garden of Eden – it’s on Bravo’s tab.
But all of that guilt vanished with a bite of these stuffed bell peppers. The quinoa filling was delicious enough to be a satisfying lunch on its own, but when warmed inside of the sweet, slightly crunchy peppers it became a company-worthy meal.
The recipe below also allows for plenty of flexibility. Armed with the basic quinoa and pepper preparation, feel free to swap spinach for arugula, feta or mozzarella for goat cheese, and walnuts for almonds.
The next time I find peppers for less than $2 a pop, those vibrant, natural serving dishes are getting a Southwestern twist: cheddar cheese, black beans, and tomatoes.
Tips: Toasting nuts brings out their natural oils, enhancing their flavor. Spread them in a dry skillet and place over low heat. Tossing every minute or so, toast until the nuts are fragrant and start to turn golden. This usually takes 5-10 minutes, but keep an eye on them – they burn fast!
For the quinoa, I use Nature's Earthly Choice because it doesn't require rinsing like other brands. Plus, 'Gluten Free & Wheat Free' is plastered across the front of the bag, which never hurts.
1 cup quinoa
6 large bell peppers
½ large carrot, diced (about ¾ cup)
¼ large onion, diced (about ½ cup)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 ounces crumbled goat cheese
2.5 cups baby arugula, plus extra for serving
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set a large pot of water over high heat.
In a smaller pot, add 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water. Set over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and let simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the pot from the heat, fluff the quinoa with a fork, and dump it into a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and set aside.
Prepare bell peppers by cutting off the ends with the stem, and carefully removing the cores and ribs. Once the large pot of water is at a rolling boil, drop peppers into water. After 5 minutes, remove peppers from pot and let them dry on a paper towel.
Coat the bottom of a large pan with olive oil, and place over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add carrots, onions, salt and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Carrots will begin to soften and onions will become translucent. Add garlic, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in arugula, until the leaves begin to wilt.
Pour the sautéed mixture into the large bowl with the quinoa and toss with a fork to combine. Add the almonds and about 4 ounces (approx. 1 cup) of the crumbled goat cheese. Toss once more.
Stand all of the peppers up in a glass baking dish, and pour enough water in the dish to just cover the bottom. Stuff each pepper with the quinoa filling, then crumble the rest of the goat cheese on the top of the peppers.
Place the dish in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until peppers are warmed through and cheese starts to melt.
Serve the stuffed peppers over a bed of baby arugula, lightly dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper.