Monday, February 20, 2017

Get stuffed

Lately I've been eating a lot of bell peppers. Well, I always have done so, in the warmer months when they don't cost a million dollars each at the grocery store, but this past year I've been buying the 4-pack of multicoloured ones at Food Basics regardless of the cost, every week. (Some weeks I buy two packages. Luxury!) The bottom line is that I love them. They're by far my favourite vegetable, and as luxuries go, it's a small one.

This week in lieu of putting them in my scrambled eggs each morning, or into a stir-fry or a soup, I elected to stuff them. This is a dish I used to make a lot back when we first moved into the house, ten years ago now. But it fell off my radar for a few years, for whatever reason, and this week it occurred to me that it deserved resurrection. Chris had mentioned wanting to cook himself some quinoa sometime soon, and despite my former dislike and subsequent banishment of it from my kitchen, I relented and bought a package at the store. I did some reading and discovered that in all likelihood I had not been rinsing it thoroughly enough years ago, and that's why it tasted bitter and soapy to me. I rinsed it for a full two minutes tonight, swishing it around with my hands, and then cooked it in chicken stock.

Then I mixed it with some ground pork that I'd browned quickly with some corn kernels, green onions, and spices, added grated cheese and some fresh cilantro, stuffed it into pepper halves and baked them until slightly browned and crispy on top. Both of us took one bite and then basically alternated bites with compliments to the food we were eating. It was totally delicious - healthful and rich all at the same time. A great balance. This one's a keeper.


Quinoa and pork-stuffed peppers
Serves 4

4 large bell peppers, any colour
3/4 cup dry quinoa, rinsed very well, cooked according to package directions in salted water or chicken stock (recommended)
300 grams ground pork
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper
cumin and smoked paprika
3 scallions, sliced, white parts discarded
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, washed, dried, and chopped
1 cup grated cheddar (I used old)
1 can corn kernels, drained, or 1 cup frozen corn, thawed

Preheat your oven to 375 F and start the quinoa cooking. Wash and dry the peppers. Cut them in half carefully, cutting closely around the stems. Remove seeds and white pith. Place pepper halves in a microwavable container, add an inch or two of water, cover and cook on high for five minutes to soften. Drain and arrange in a single layer in a baking dish, ready to be stuffed.

Heat the oil on high in a large skillet. Brown the pork until no pink shows. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and smoked paprika to taste. Add the corn and green onions, and cook three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

Once quinoa is cooked, stir in about 2/3 of it with the pork mixture. Add half the cheese and stir well to combine. Stuff the mixture into the pepper halves, pressing in tightly and mounding in the centre. Sprinkle each pepper half with remaining cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and tops are lightly browned, or to taste. Serve two pepper halves to each person. Sigh with delight.

This can easily be made vegetarian by substituting veggie ground round or lentils cooked in vegetable stock until soft  for the pork.

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