meatless . #42 {stuffed bell peppers}

Well, last week completely got away from me. It seems like every October is incredibly busy; this year is no different. Between house repairs that continue, amping up my training again {yeah, my foot is finally not hurting bad enough to keep me from running. notice I didn’t say it was ‘healed’?}, and all of our fun gatherings scheduled with friends, I’m rolling in hyper speed. Normally on Sunday I’d make some big comforting dinner but decided to go healthier tonight. And to make up for missing a meatless meal last week, I’m going to post two recipes, tonight’s and one in a couple of days. Pretty sure the second one will be some kind of soup since, after all, it is fall. And nothing says ‘fall is here’ to me than a great, filling bowl of soup. Tonight we had these stuffed peppers that I totally winged by cruising up and down every aisle in the grocery store. Truth be told, I wanted to old-school ‘give me some beef’ peppers but seriously, these Italian inspired ones rocked! One pepper {two halves} served with a salad and/or light soup makes a full meal. But they are equally great as side and can even be served room temp as a starter, for which I would maybe suggest that one half be served per person, a top a bed of arugula drizzled with a simple vinaigrette. Normally when I make ground beef + rice stuffed peppers, I steam them but I think that roasting these particular ones bring out more sweetness that works so wonderfully with the crunchiness of the quinoa, pine nuts and saltiness of the feta. For an extra dose of flavor, serve with a simple marinara sauce spooned over them or on the side. 

Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers
serves 4 as a main, 8 as a starter

1 small Japanese eggplant {or 2 small globe eggplants}, cut into ½ cubes – about 1 ½ cups
Kosher salt
3 tbsp. pine nuts
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup roasted tomatoes {1 small tomato or pre-roasted from the deli’s olive bar}
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced, about ½ cup
vegetable oil
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
¾ cup feta, crumbled
freshly ground black pepper
4 medium bell peppers – each about 4″ in length, halved w/seeds removed {I used yellow but any will work}

Place eggplant into a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle eggplant with Kosher salt and let sit to remove excess moisture while you’re preparing the rest of the dish.

In a small dry sauté over medium heat, toast the pine nuts shaking the pan frequently until pine nuts are lightly browned; about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to a large bowl.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and blanch spinach for 1 ½ minutes, removing immediately and placing in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. When cooled to the touch, drain the spinach. You may need to gently pat the spinach with paper towel to remove excess water.  Add to the bowl with the pine nuts. 

In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and stock. After bringing to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for 20 minutes. While the quinoa is cooking, add spinach, roasted tomatoes, oregano, 1 tbsp. of the parsley to the bowl. Using the same saute pan, add 1 tbsp. of the olive oil and sauté garlic, eggplant and onion over medium high heat until onions are translucent; about 3-4 minutes. Add to the bowl. 

Heat oven to 400°. Grease the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ with vegetable oil. 

In a small bowl, combine panko, parmesan and remaining tbsps. of parsley and olive oil. Stir to combine, forming a loose crumble. Set aside. 

When quinoa is cooked, add to the vegetable mixture. Add feta, stir and salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pepper half with the mixture, gently pushing the stuffing into the pepper to make sure it is packed in.  Set in baking dish forming one layer. Top each pepper with the panko parmesan topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes until peppers just start to lightly brown and get soft. Serve immediately as a side or main or let get to room temp to serve as a starter with arugula and simple vinaigrette. 

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