Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes
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© Paden Reich
For years, I made this with ground beef or turkey, but I took them out of the equation in order to have a go-to for my vegetarian friends. I love green bell peppers, but only because of my gumbo. (You must have green peppers in gumbo—at least I believe you do.) But for stuffed peppers, I prefer to use the red, yellow, or orange variety. They are sweeter than the under-ripened green, equally healthy as sources for vitamins A and C, and much prettier on the plate, especially when I think about dining al fresco on the patio on a warm summer night. Getting the stuffing mixture just right involves a number of steps, but once you have it down, which means eventually experimenting to your own taste, it’s worthwhile. I also surround these with fresh vegetable sides, like string beans, broccoli, or cauliflower, and a good Caesar or garden salad.
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut 1/2 inch from the top (stem end) of each bell pepper and tomato. Finely chop the tomato tops to measure 1 cup and reserve, discarding the tomato stems, if necessary. Discard the bell pepper tops. Scoop out and discard the pulp and seeds from the bell peppers and tomatoes.
2. Place the bell pepper shells, cut sides up, in a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bake until the peppers begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and set aside. Increase the oven temperature to broil with the oven rack 5 inches from the heat.
3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium.
4. Add the onion, fennel bulb, oregano, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water and reserved 1 cup chopped tomatoes to the skillet; cook, stirring often, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the quinoa, olives, feta, fennel fronds, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.
5. Stir together the panko, Parmesan, and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley in a small bowl. Add the melted butter, and stir to combine.
6. Add the tomato shells to the baking dish, alternating with the bell pepper shells. Sprinkle the cavities evenly with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Divide the quinoa mixture evenly among the tomato and bell pepper shells. Top evenly with the panko mixture.
7. Broil until the panko mixture is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
4 small bell peppers
4 small beefsteak tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup finely chopped fennel bulb (fronds reserved)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons water
1 (9-ounce) pouch microwavable quinoa (about 11/2 cups)
1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fennel fronds
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon salted butter, melted
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