Saturday, August 15, 2015

Baker's Corner: Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

My baking ventures have been matching my expectations lately (if I do say so myself!). Last month, I baked bread bowls for a soup (featured previously) which unexpectedly turned out to be a winner. The weekend after that, I was looking to bake something else savoury and ended up making these stuffed peppers which were a bit hit too. My oven has been kind to me and considering I have a few more baking experiments lined up, I hope I'm on a roll here! 

Me and my husband love bell peppers. It is one of those vegetables that has a permanent spot in my fridge. I love that it has the ability to infuse vibrant color and unique flavour into any dish it is added to. I use bell peppers quite extensively in my cooking. However, the only time peppers see the inside of my oven is when I incorporate them in grilled vegetable sandwiches or bruschetta. I haven't tried baking/grilling peppers under any other scenario. So, I thought why not try to bake stuffed whole bell peppers. I browsed through several recipes but didn't find the 'one', so, I developed my own recipe merging ideas from here and there. I didn't have any time to go grocery shopping so I had to make do with whatever ingredients I had on hand. Most of the recipes I saw called for quinoa or brown rice to stuff the peppers with. I didn't have quinoa so I opted for brown rice. I didn't have black beans (which are common in Mexican cooking) either so I settled on red kidney beans. I had grated parmesan cheese and a baking cheese blend consisting of cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella so I incorporated both into my dish. As for the seasoning, cajun spice is something I really like and it is a staple in my pantry. It is a spicy blend of onions, garlic, red pepper, herbs and other spices. I used a combination of cajun spice, cumin powder and red chilli powder to flavour the rice with. Fresh jalapenos would have been a great addition but I didn't have any at the time (boo!). Anyway, after I was done assembling and adorning the peppers, they went into the oven and came out looking quite striking. And more importantly, they tasted delish! I was pleasantly surprised. My husband who isn't the easiest person on the planet to impress, said that they were really good so I was on cloud nine  

I love brown rice in general and in this dish particularly, I felt that the chewy texture of the brown rice went perfectly. The blend of spices complemented each other quite well so the overall flavour was spot on. I added sweet corn kernels, red beans, more bell peppers and cilantro into the stuffing so when it went into the tricolored peppers it was uber colorful indeed. I'm no purist yet I refrained from calling this dish 'Mexican Stuffed Peppers' since I modified the dish to the available ingredients in my kitchen and to suite my taste. But authenticity aside, take my word for it when I say this version is legit.

This is a great dish for parties because you can make the stuffing and prep the bell peppers ahead of time. All you have to do then is pop the peppers into a preheated oven about 20 mins before you want to serve them. It is not only a colorful and hearty dish but it can be made healthy too (if you go easy on the cheese that is). 

Here is my recipe. I have tried to make the recipe as versatile as possible listing all the possible ingredient substitutions.

I really hope you try it out and fall in love with it just like I did!

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Preparation time: 30 min (less if you already have cooked rice)
Baking time: 20-30 min
Total time: ~1 hour
Makes: 4-5 large stuffed peppers
Recipe category: Main Course/Mexican-inspired
Recipe Level: Easy
Recipe source: A mishmash of several recipes

Ingredients:

4 large bell peppers (I used tricolor peppers but you can use any color of your choice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup bell peppers, finely chopped (again, you can use one or more colors of peppers)
1/4 cup sweet corn kernels
2 cups cooked brown rice (refer notes)
1/2 cup canned red or black beans, drained and rinsed (I used red beans)
1/2 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes, chopped along with the juice (or use ripe roma tomatoes that have been blanched, peeled and chopped)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp cajun spice
Salt to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan (or you could use asiago/fontina/pepper jack/feta/ ricotta)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheese blend (I used a baking cheese blend consisting of cheddar, mozzarella & parmesan but you could use a Mexican cheese blend such as Sargento® Authentic Mexican)

Method:

1. Slice the tops of the bell peppers (horizontally). Remove the membranes and seeds inside the bell peppers.

I know there are only 3 bell peppers in the photos but I recommend you to use 4 because I had leftover stuffing at the end


2. Bring a large pot of water with 1 tbsp salt to a boil; cook the bell peppers in the boiling water until slightly softened for 4 min (I turned the peppers upside down after 2 min to ensure even cooking). Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and keep aside.


3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

4. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook and stir onion and garlic in the hot oil until softened and transparent.


5. Add in the chopped bell peppers and sweet corn kernels and fry for 2 min.


6. Mix in the cooked red or black beans and stir for a minute


7. Now add the cumin powder, red chilli powder, cajun spice and salt (if required). Give all the ingredients a good mix.


8. Mix in the chopped tomatoes, brown rice and mix well together. Turn off the heat and sprinkle parmesan cheese. Stir gently until evenly mixed.



9. Garnish with chopped cilantro and give the rice one final mix.


10. Spoon rice mixture into each bell pepper. Arrange peppers in a greased baking dish. Sprinkle peppers with the cheese blend of your choice.



11. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 min until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

12. Serve as it is or with sour cream. A salad on the side would be a good addition to your plate too.  



Notes:
  • Cook the brown rice preferably with stock of your choice for better flavour. If you don't have stock, water will do but stock is recommended. For me, 1 cup raw brown rice yielded 2 cups cooked rice. You can substitute brown rice with quinoa in this recipe for another variation
  • Use bell peppers that can sit upright when placed on a flat surface. If you use peppers that have a convex bottom, it may topple during the baking process and all the contents can spill out. Alternatively, you can slice the bottom ever so slightly so that it is flat (take care not to perforate the pepper)
  • You can use salsa instead of the diced whole peeled tomatoes
  • For more flavour, you can use jalapenos. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't have any so didn't use them
  • While seasoning the brown rice stuffing, keep in mind that the parmesan cheese is salty and the peppers have been cooked in salted water so taste and adjust accordingly


Cheers,

Megha

1 comment:

  1. Nice presentation and looks awesome with all the colors. Also interesting way of pre-cooking the capsicum; want to try the recipe but will most likely end up wanting to start eating as soon as the mexican rice is done!

    btw do you make homemade broth? if so send us the recipe, also do you end up freezing it or make it on need basis? we typically end up shying away from store bought vegetable stock because too many things to look for - no msg, low sodium, no artificial colors etc + some don't taste that good.

    ReplyDelete

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