Friday, January 8, 2016

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Last Year's Post: Miso-Glazed Scallops with Quinoa and Grilled Pineapple
Two Years Ago:  Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Smoked Mozzarella

I remember disliking stuffed peppers as a kid - bland ground beef stuffed in a green pepper, then baked until the pepper was gray-green and mushy.  Bleh.  This is definitely not that recipe.  Quinoa is combined with kale, spices, pepitas and your choice of protein (spicy, mild, or vegetarian), then quickly baked to heat everything through.  The result is a crunchy , bright blend of flavors and the pepper is basically warmed through but still retains its own crunch.  It's served with an tomatillo avocado sauce for even more flavor, and I added some sour cream on the side because my protein of choice was Mexican chorizo and I needed a little something to tame the spice.  The whole thing is very healthy, delicious and colorful.

I prefer red quinoa's color and think it's slightly more crunchy than white quinoa, but you could certainly substitute white, or even farro or barley or rice.  After cooking the quinoa, you cook your protein - spicy Mexican chorizo, or mild ground turkey.  (If you used tofu of course you don't have to cook it.)  Add in some kale, the quinoa, and some pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds).  If you can't find pepitas, use toasted pine nuts.

While everything is cooking, the peppers are cut open and seeds removed.  I like this method of cutting them open on their side rather than from the top because they're less likely to tip over and they're easier to stuff.  Top the stuffed pepper with a little panko/Parmesan mix for crunch, then bake.

For the tomatillo avocado sauce, you start by roasting the tomatillos. Tomatillos look like little green tomatoes covered in paper - they should be firm to the touch with no soft spots.  Remove the outer papery layer and wash them because they're sticky.  After roasting, throw them with the rest of the ingredients in the blender and puree.

You could easily stuff the peppers and make the sauce in advance, then just bake right before serving so this makes a great weekday meal or a gift meal for someone special.

 print recipe
Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Serves 4

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup red quinoa (or white quinoa)

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey, Mexican chorizo, or diced tofu
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove minced garlic
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
2 large red bell peppers
2 large green or yellow bell peppers
2 cups lightly packed stemmed and julienned kale leaves
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (or pine nuts)
1 1/2 cups finely ground panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Roasted Tomatillo Avocado Sauce, recipe follows, for garnish
Fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Roasted Tomatillo Avocado Sauce:
6 medium tomatillos (about 8 ounces), husked
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 jalapeno, coarsely chopped and seeds removed
1/2 sweet onion, like Maui or Vidalia, rough chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

For the quinoa: Over medium-high heat, bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. As the broth is coming to boil, add the quinoa, then stir and cover. Reduce the heat to a simmer and steam the quinoa until the grains pop, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

For the peppers: Set a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and add the turkey or chorizo, crushed red pepper flakes and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes, while stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking up the pieces. Deglaze with the wine. While the turkey or chorizo is browning, rinse the peppers and pat dry. With the pepper lying down on its side, cut off the top and remove the seeds and membrane. Repeat for the remaining peppers. Leave the stem on the top for presentation. Set aside.

Once the meat is browned, shut off the heat and fold in the quinoa, kale and pepitas (add the tofu at this point, if using). Mix to incorporate all ingredients thoroughly. Check for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper if required.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the panko and Parmesan. Add a drizzle of olive oil to lightly moisten and season with salt and pepper. Set the peppers on a roasting tray cut-side up and stuff each with filling. Top each pepper with 1-2 tablespoons of panko-Parmesan topping. Cover loosely with foil, place in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove the foil and turn on the broiler. Cook under the broiler to brown and crisp the panko breadcrumbs, 1 to 2 minutes, watching carefully so they don’t burn. Remove the peppers from the oven and allow to rest before serving.

Place 1/4 cup of Roasted Tomatillo Avocado Sauce on each plate and place the roasted, stuffed pepper halves in the middle of sauce. Garnish with parsley sprigs and an optional dollop of sour cream.

Roasted Tomatillo Avocado Sauce:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the tomatillos onto a baking sheet. Toss the tomatillos with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place into the oven. Roast until nicely charred, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Combine the tomatillos, 1/4 cup water, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, avocado, garlic, jalapenos, onions, lime juice and cilantro in a blender and puree until completely smooth. Place in the refrigerator and allow the sauce to settle before serving, so it is smooth.

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