In an effort to prove that it isn't all about the sweet stuff on Luv'n Spoonfuls, I present another savory recipe, which just happens to be vegetarian and packed full of flavor. This stuffed pepper leans towards Spanish with a hint of Aleppo pepper (not Spanish, I know), Manchego cheese, and a sprinkling of Marcona almonds. The wild rice mixture provides fabulous texture and chew, while providing a healthy dose of fiber. If you're still struggling, like some of us, with a few left over pounds from the holidays (I'm almost there), this is a delicious and satisfying way to get that healthy eating plan back on track, all the while kickin' it with a fiesta for the mouth!
...then some lovely peppers (not too big or the flesh won't cook through)...
...stuffed with a beautiful wild and brown rice mix. Lundberg Wild Blend was used here. I think it provides a nice balance between the brown and wild rice. Any rice can be substituted here, just adjust the cooking times appropriately. The wild rice blend isn't as heavy as using all brown rice, and provides some nice texture and taste contrasts. Isn't it gorgeous?
The peppers are halved, stems and all, then left whole for a pretty presentation. The seeds and pith are carefully removed. I sometimes shave just a sliver off the bottom of the pepper to help it sit a little flatter while it bakes, which also makes for easier eating. Just make sure not to cut all the way through the flesh. I prefer the red, orange and yellow varieties as they are sweeter and don't have the bite of the green peppers.
A sprinkling of Manchego tempers out the sweetness of the peppers and vegetables with a salty sassiness that I love. Firm goat cheese could be used as well (one of my new favorite things).
The Marcona almonds provide another layer of flavor, crunch and saltiness which is divine. The healthy factor is upped a notch by their heart-healthy goodness.
The peppers bake for 20 minutes, then a sprinkling of chopped nuts and cheese are added for the last 20 minutes of baking. A drizzle of olive oil keeps everything nice and moist.
Some chorizo or chicken could be added to 'beef' these up a bit, but I find they are plenty filling and delicious all on their own. The nuts and cheese provide a healthy dose of protein anyway. Larger peppers, served with a salad and some bread, would make a lovely meal. Smaller peppers make a great side dish or become part of an array of tapas (which is how I first served these).
Isn't it great when eating right tastes so right? Buen apetito!
Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers:
Four medium bell peppers (preferably organic)
1 cup wild rice mix (or rice of choice)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 medium carrots, small dice
2 medium stalks of celery, diced
1/2 cup of diced red or yellow onion
4 medium mushrooms (Baby Portabellas are nice), sliced small
4-5 cloves garlic, minced small
1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese, some reserved for sprinkling on top
2 ounces of Marcona almonds, chopped, some reserved for sprinkling on top
olive oil for sautéing and for drizzling
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated black pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
Over medium heat in a medium saute' pan (with a lid) cook the carrots, onions, celery and mushrooms in a tablespoon of oil until nice and nearly caramelized. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the rice and heat through for several minutes while stirring constantly. Stir in the stock, salt, and peppers. Bring the rice back up to the boil, then reduce to low until gently simmering, then place the lid on the pan and continue to cook for approximately 50 minutes (follow the provided cooking directions if using other kinds of rice). Add a little more broth at the end if the rice has not cooked all the way, and continue to cook in additional five-minute intervals until the rice is cooked through. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand for ten minutes. Fluff with a fork when done. Taste and adjust seasonings, but remember that the cheese and nuts will impart some saltiness.
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F about 15 to 20 minutes before the rice should be done.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the peppers. Carefully slice the peppers in half, including the stem. With a short paring knife, remove the seeds and any pith. Brush the pepper with olive oil (including the inside flesh, cut flesh and stem) and sprinkle the inside with salt. Grate the cheese using the fine grating holes. Chop the almonds into small pieces. Reserve about two tablespoons each of the cheese and nuts for sprinkling on top of the peppers--the rest gets mixed into the rice.
Once the rice mixture is cooked, stir in the nuts and cheese (except for the reserved portions), and mix well. Scoop into the pepper halves, making sure to get rice in all the nooks and crannies. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with the reserved cheese and nuts, and continue baking for an additional 20 minutes until nicely browned on top. Best if served warm.