Whether you use quinoa frequently, or have a bag of the stuff gathering dust in your cupboard, then this recipe is for you. Despite the persistently warm (hot!) weather, I have been itching to make some cozy, comfort food to get me in an autumn frame of mind.
These peppers came together after a long day of work at the computer. I had neglected to make a (much needed) trip to the grocery store, so it was a make-do-with-what's-on-hand kind of night. I had to teach my spinning class at 5:30, so I had to get things prepped in short order before I left. With Nick in tow, I perused the pantry, but found no inspiration. But a peak in the refrigerator reminded me of the pretty peppers my neighbor had delivered--fresh from her garden--the day before. Stuffed peppers! That was it.
I was momentarily torn between quinoa or couscous for the filling, but opted for the former; although couscous is quicker, quinoa is easier overall because protein and carbohydrates in one. Some chipotle salsa and cilantro swiftly solved my flavor conundrum, and before I knew it, I had dinner underway.
You can vary this basic recipe as little or as much as you like. In the end, I topped the peppers with some crumbled queso fresco (feta or goat cheese would be yummy, too) and a squeeze of lime juice just before serving; next time I may add some crumbled tofu or cooked chicken. But quite frankly, I loved the simplicity of flavors with the short list of ingredients. The flavors are clear and bright, and a good balance of hearty and fresh to transition into fall.
Quick Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
Makes 6 servings
3 large bell peppers (preferably red, orange or yellow, but green is fine, too)
1-1/2 cups quinoa
1-1/4 cups bottled chipotle salsa (or favorite salsa of choice)
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Topping suggestions: crumbled cheeese (e.g., queso fresco, feta, goat cheese), roasted pepitas, squeeze of fresh lime juice, dollop of plain Greek yogurt
1. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise through the stem end and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Put the peppers in one layer on a baking sheet. Spritz with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Bake peppers 20-25 minutes until just tender.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 11-14 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add the salsa and cumin; cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro; season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Spoon quinoa mixture into the baked pepper halves. Return to the oven for 15 minutes, until the tops are slightly browned. Serve straight up, or sprinkle with toppings of choice.