It's that time of year again. Looking out of my apartment window, it looks more like winter than fall. My bike is propped up by the trainer, aimed right at the TV, and I've chosen the gym over riding at least once in the past week. With apologies to the die-hard cyclocross racers, I think it's fair to say that the off-season is firmly upon us. With it comes a welcome paradigm shift: with recovery in mind, my on-bike hours thin out in direct correlation to my in-bed hours, red wine and the occasional beer make their happy return to routine, and the food I eat becomes heartier. A light, crisp salad is a thing of beauty, but looking out the window at cascading snow and slushy sidewalks inspires thoughts of shepherd's pie, stroganoff, and the recipe that I'm going to share with you here, stuffed peppers.
Here's what you'll need:
- -4 Medium to large Peppers
- -1 Onion, doesn't matter what color
- -3-4 cloves of Garlic
- -2 Carrots
- -1 Big bag of Baby Spinach (10 oz)
- -2 stalks of Celery
- -1 package Tempeh (8 oz)
- -2 15 oz cans of Diced Tomato
- -1 15 oz can of Beans: black, pinto or blackeyed peas
- -1 TBSP Cumin
- -1 cup Pearled Couscous
- -2 TBSP Olive Oil
First things first: Preheat your oven at 350. May as well get this going before anything else.
Also in the interest of preparedness, get the pearled couscous going on a back burner. Pearled couscous, or Israeli couscous, is essentially typical couscous on a larger scale. In its absence, feel free to use regular old couscous, quinoa, or rice, but having tried all these combinations, these peppers are definitely best with pearled couscous.
You'll need a big skillet. Mine is 12"x4" (Or, you know, 30cm x 10cm, this is after all a cycling website). Get the olive oil going at medium heat. First into the pan: the onion & celery, both of which finely diced. Dice up the tempeh & garlic as well, add those 5 minutes after the celery/onion, immediately followed by the tablespoon of cumin. Let that simmer for a minute, then add the spinach & tomatoes. Now, you don't want to just dump the contents of the cans of diced tomatoes in. Instead, use a fork to take only the tomato bits from the can, leaving the juice behind. It doesn't matter if you leave some chunky bits behind. Put the juice aside, you'll use it later. Cook this mix for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
At this point, you can add your black beans, couscous, carrots (which you're going to want to very finely grate), and a cup of water. Here's a good point to season it as you see fit. It's pretty adaptable. I like to add a little hot sauce, salt, pepper, and paprika. Turmeric would be nice, as would Garam Masala or Marjoram. You can add habañero, jalapenos, etc if you wish, as well. Once it's nice and seasoned, let it simmer until the water heats off.
While all that's going on, wash & half your peppers, removing the ribs & seeds. Take a baking dish (or two) and coat the bottom with the juice from the diced tomatoes. When the water is gone from your skillet, fill each pepper half with the mix, setting in the baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and put into the oven. After 35 min, remove the foil & continue to bake uncovered for another 15 min. This would be a good time to put any sort of cheese or Daiya on top, if that's your style. It really doesn't need it, though. I usually use this time to make some guacamole for on top.
Here's the recipe for that:
- -3 ripe Avocados
- -Salsa to taste
- -Garlic powder to taste
- -Salt to taste
This is super easy. So easy that you'll feel like a sucker every time you buy guac from here on out. Cut up & de-skin the avocados. Put them into a big bowl. Spoon in some salsa, I'd guess that I usually use around 1/4 cup. Use a big fork to smoosh it all together, keep going 'til it's uniform & without any noticeably inconsistent chunks of avocado. Add some garlic powder - maybe 1 TBSP but start out smaller, since I tend to like a little more garlic than some folks - and salt, 1/4 tsp. Mix it all up, and have some tortilla chips handy to taste. Adjust as needed. Seriously, this takes about 5 min.
So now you're ready to take the peppers from the oven. Get 'em plated, cover with guac, and enjoy!