Stuffed Peppers

Yield: 4-6 servings

Half-way between a recipe and a technique tutorial, this is the basic “skeleton” to build a great variety of pepper fillings on.  In parentheses, there are the ingredients that the photographs reflect, but as you’ll see, the theme is quite flexible and allows for lots of improvisation.  If peppers aren’t so much your thing, then the filling can also be used to stuff tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash or winter squash.  It also makes good sandwich fare in a pita pocket with a bit of Veganaise and some sprouts.

What you need for the stuffed peppers:

  • 4-6 organic bell peppers, depending on size
  • 2 cups cooked beans (black chickpeas shown)
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked whole grains (combination of rice and amaranth shown)
  • 1/4 chopped toasted nuts or seeds, coarsely ground (walnuts shown)
  • 1 carrot, beet or parsnip, finely grated (carrot shown)
  • 1/4 cups raisins, dried cranberries, currants, chopped dried apricots or chopped dates, soaked in a bit of water to rehydrate and drained (raisins shown)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped, 2 cups
  • 1 large rib celery, finely diced, 3/4 cup (or omit and up the mushrooms to 8 oz.)
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced, 2 cups
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried savory
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley, or up to 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon, up to 1 teaspoon, paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon, up to 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon, up to 1 teaspoon, marjoram
  • or, for a different but equally pleasant flavour, replace the paprika, mustard, oregano, marjoram and savory with 2 to 4 teaspoons of Herbes de Provence
  • 2 tablespoons besan (chickpea flour, or regular flour, or barley flour)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1/4 cup water or unsalted vegetable broth or unsalted mushroom broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

What you need for the tomato sauce:

  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes (home-canned if you’ve got them)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper

What you do:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and celery and sauté until translucent.
  2. While the onions are cooking, either mash the chickpeas coarsely in a large bowl with a potato masher or pulse them a few times in a food processor. There should be large chunks evident.
  3. Add the cooked grains, ground nuts or seeds, dried fruit and grated root vegetable to the bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  4. At this point the onion and celery should be looking good. Add the celery seed, savory, dry parsley (if using fresh, add it to the bowl in step 3 above), paprika, mustard powder, oregano and marjoram and toss a few times to spread them around evenly.
  5. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring once in a while, until the mushrooms are juicy and reduced somewhat. Sprinkle with the besan and stir well so that it absorbs all the mushroom juice.  Sprinkle in the tamari and mix again.  Add the water or broth and mix again, it should thicken into a sauce that clings to the vegetables almost instantly.
  6. Turn off the heat and transfer the cooked mixture to the bowl with the beans, grains, nuts and grated vegetable. Mix well.  Taste for salt, adding the additional 1/4 teaspoon (or more) if desired.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  8. Cut the tops of the peppers and clean out the innards. Stuff them, packing the stuffing in and mounding it up on top.  Place the stuffed peppers upright in an oven-safe baking dish.
  9. Mix the crushed tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper together and pour it into the bottom of the baking dish.
  10. Cover the prepared dish and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover, and bake for another 15 minutes, until the filling is very hot and the peppers tender-crisp.
  11. Serve, dividing the tomato sauce evenly amongst the peppers, spooning it overtop the filling. A green salad works nicely alongside.

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