You can substitute the ground beef with whatever ground meat you like. (Or for vegetarian, switch to lentils that you’ve soaked and cooked to where they still have texture, but are soft.) I still had some CSA ground beef in my freezer, so I used that. As always, I’m leery of meat that came from a multitude of animals, some no doubt not in the picture of health prior to arriving on the cutting room floor. But, use what works for you.
I chose to go with quinoa, because I really don’t like rice all that much in my stuffed peppers. It very much says, “tasteless, mushy filler” to me. (You will notice that all my previous stuffed pepper recipes have been entirely grain-free! — I used veggies for tasty AND nutritious “fillers”.) I’m really picky about rice — the rice I like is Asian sticky rice, or Thai brown rice, or those Indian basmati rices. (Or wild rice, but that’s another species entirely.) What I prefer about the rices I like is their textures – sticky, or at least, solid — as well as some inherent flavor that Western rice seems to lack. Let’s not speak about soggy risotto! And I’ve never cared for the generic rice that typically gets stuffed into stuffed peppers — this may just be me. Perhaps I’d like rice-stuffed peppers if I used sushi rice instead? I don’t know yet, but I’ve decided to experiment instead with quinoa. Quinoa holds onto texture well, and has a pleasantly “nutty” flavor, and that was a given before I began this experiment.
Quinoa is so versatile, and cooks up readily in a rice cooker. It has a pretty good nutritional profile, and as it turned out, worked very well in the following recipe.
Feel free to adapt any or all of the extra flavor profile I used. Garlic scapes are highly seasonal, and tree ears are not readily available — even my local Asian market stopped carrying them, and I had to resort to ordering them from Amazon last winter. In a one pound package that as it turns out, will probably take me about five years to consume! I will note a few tree ear fungi go a LONG way. But they are far less expensive than the pricey dried Porcini which are also a tasty alternative.
I added the turmeric / ground pepper for nutritional reasons — I’ve been eating severely unhealthily in the last two or three months, due to time constraints (at least compared to my general eating habits). You can taste a mild turmeric flavoring, but it is not overpowering. Of course, this recipe could go towards a full-tilt Indian-style flavor panel if you choose, even if quinoa is not in and of itself used much (or at all) on the Indian subcontinent.
Quinoa and Ground Meat-Stuffed Peppers
Prep time: I do this while the quinoa is cooking.
Cook Time: about 30-40 minutes for the quinoa and the skillet; plus 25-40 for the baking
Rest Time: 5 minutes
Serves: Approximately 4 stuffed bell peppers — one per person
For the Quinoa:
3/4 cup quinoa
1 and 1/2 cups water, chicken broth, or veggie broth. I used broth from a boxed package of “organic chicken bone broth”, although making my own is my preferred route.
Two or three dried tree ears (tree fungi), or perhaps 5 dried porchini — broken up. Optional, but adds a nice change.
Put into rice cooker and let ‘er rip. I use the brown rice setting. I let the cooking soften the dried mushroom matter, but you can pre-soften them in warm water first.
For the ground meat:
1/2 lb ground beef or whatever.
Cooking oil (I used grapeseed oil).
5 Garlic scapes, chopped (these are seasonal — sub with a shallot or two, or perhaps half an onion.
2 teaspoons soy sauce (I like San J’s low sodium-gluten free soy).
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Optional red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Let cooking oil heat, and add the meat, breaking it up and browning it, cooking it through. Use a spoon to remove/discard grease, if any. Add the seasonings and continue to mix.
When the quinoa is cooked, add in the quinoa and mix.
The stuffed peppers:
Approximately 4 bell peppers (this will depend on bell pepper size. Aim for peppers with flat bottoms if you plan to bake the peppers on their bottoms.
The stuffing mix, as made above.
Optional chunks of cheese, preferably meltable. Say, a couple ounces. (I had some spare cheddar to hand that needed using up)
1 – 2 teaspoons of butter. (Kerrygold this time.)
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
Clean, and using a paring knife, cut out the stem and leave a hole large enough to scoop out the seeds and excess ribbing.
Add the stuffing, occasionally putting in a chunk of cheese at whim. Fill in gaps with the stuffing. Fill to the top. Add a dab of butter to the top of each of these — less than half a teaspoon — to keep the exposed surface of the stuffing from drying out.
Cook for 25-40 minutes in the oven. This will depend on the size of the peppers, and on how au dente you like your peppers. I prefer mine on the crispy side, but I know in this I am a minority. However, I did get distracted, and mine began to roast up a little — they were still quite good! (Maybe, for stuffed roasted peppers, this is the best way to do them??)
This post has also been linked to Real Food Friday, another great way to find healthy and fun real food recipes, as opposed to food-oid substances.
PS: No, I’ve never eaten congee yet. But I worry about its sogginess — maybe the rice they use for that would redeem the food for me; I do like other non-rice soggy foods!