On those days of the year when there is nothing I'd rather than literally stay stuffed in my bed all day....it seems only natural that my food should emulate my fantasies. I seriously can't believe how freaking cold it is...my nose froze SHUT this morning while waiting for the bus (which, thankfully, actually did show up; score one for OC Transpo). Anyway, tomorrow we're on to colder and more asphyxia-inducing lows (yay for -28C tonight....seriously!).
I needed something hot and stuffed. Since turkey wasn't exactly a realistic weeknight undertaking, I knew I had to resort to other, perhaps healthier fare.
Stuffed peppers. Sweet peppers are one of the most beautiful veggies out there.....such brilliant colour, great taste.....the only caveat seems to be that mid-winter, they cost more than a lot of meats do. But such is the price to pay for vitamins, health, long life and all that jazz. So I paid (but only in one colour.....has anyone yet been able to figure out how my grocery store can sell 4 kinds of sweet peppers at four different price points? does this actually make sense to someone?).
The recipe I used tonight is very versatile, adaptable, etc.....very easy to take a flavour inspiration and just incorporate it into the peppers. I was thinking Italian tonight. Past iterations have visited texas, morocco, spain, etc. Sky's the limit. And there's no need to stop at peppers - the intrepid soul could also apply this filling to such veggie superstars as zucchini, tomato (not in January in Ottawa though - holy pallid orange crappiness) and portabello mushrooms. And also, while this particular pepper recipe is vegetarian, you could add crab, beef, shrimp or whatever protein source happened to turn your crank. Very versatile. :)
And with no further ado....
Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers all'italiano
6 medium bell peppers
1 1/3 cups orzo pasta (or other tiny pasta)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, chopped
12 oz veggie ground round (or meat or shrimp or tofu)
1.5 cups pasta sauce (make it or fake it, it's your choice)
1/4 cup fresh basil
1. Set a medium pot full of water to boil on the stove. Meanwhile, core the peppers and cut in half, removing the white from the insides. Arrange cut side up on a baking sheet (again, I LOVE my silpat!). (Whenever your water gets to boiling, cook the orzo to your desired doneness and then drain/rinse).
2. In a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until they start to smell fragrant. Add the zucchini and cook until softened (you could also add mushrooms, but I was both lazy and impatient).
3. Add the veggie ground ground and stir to break it up. At this point, add in your orzo, the pasta sauce and the fresh basil, and stir until well-combined.
4. Preheat your oven to 350F. Gingerly scoop the hot filling into the waiting peppers, being careful to NOT:
a) burn your fingers, like I did,
b) fling your spatula (and moderate amounts of filling) across the floor, like I did, and
c) knock over half your peppers and cause even MORE filling to go across the floor....also like I did.
Battin' 1000 today, I tell you....
5) Top the filled peppers with some slices of mozzarella, and some grated parmesan. I like to be rather messy in grating the parmesan, because a secret indulgence of mine is the browned crispy parmesan that sits on my silpat when the peppers come out of the oven. Better than chips! But uh.....don't tell hubs. ;) I just bought another $10 slab of parm today! EEEk!
6)Bake the peppers for 25-30 minutes. Try not to overbake too much, because at a certain point, the peppers that you didn't already upend will lose their structural integrity and will send the last vestiges of filling cascading gently across the silpat (and hence ruining your browned parmesan).
After all the drama, the peppers were totally worth it. And even better, there's so much leftover that I froze six halves for a future night when I'm feeling grouchy like I am tonight, but less ambitious.....
Cheery today, aren't I? :) Thank you so much for reading - I love getting your comments and emails!!!!!!!!!
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