Stuffed peppers are an old Italian standby. Usually it involves fatty ground beef and white rice, maybe with some cheese crammed into a bell pepper. It’s delicious homestyle comfort food that’s easy to prepare.
The problem is that they’re awful for you. It’s ground red meat with tons of fat, and the cheese doesn’t make it any better. So I did some experimenting. I tried it with ground turkey. Brown rice instead of white rice. It’s come out ok — a little better each time. I ran into a great dish at the Tavern way over in Westfield once. They make their peppers with turkey, too, and their recipe shows that you can do it healthily and still deliciously.
The best way to do it is by baking the peppers with a chunky homemade red sauce. Of course, a good Italian red sauce takes all day to prepare. In a pinch, you can use canned peeled tomatoes or, gah, a jar of sauce.
Then a friend who works at Whole Foods turned me on to Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), a wheat free, gluten free, high-protein, organic grain that can be used as a rice substitute. That, combined with some crushed unsalted tops saltines, and POOF, I had it!
Dish #7 — Turkey and Quinoa stuffed peppers
About an hour and a half — About $25 — Serves 2-4
Get the Quinoa going first. Add a half cup of Quinoa to a cup of water and a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium or whatever lets the water simmer without boiling over. Cook until the water is absorbed. Add an ice cube and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
You start with some bell peppers. Doesn’t matter what color. I like green and red, but you can do orange, yellow, whatever.
Rinse the peppers and lay them on a cutting board. Using a butchers knife, slice off the tops of each pepper and pull out any seeds. You’ll be left with something that looks like a weird tropical cup.
Place your pepper cups aside for now. (By the way, you can and should eat the scrap tops of the peppers. Raw veggies are healthy, and they taste good.)
Open up a pack (a little more than a pound — which will fill four to six peppers) of ground white meat turkey and place it in a large mixing bowl. Crack two eggs (or use liquid egg whites) over the meat. Add a half cup of water, a third of a cup of breadcrumbs, and five finely crushed unsalted saltines. Shake in some ground black pepper, some red pepper, a dash of salt, a teaspoon of dried oregano and the same amount of dried basil. Then dump in your Quinoa.
Make sure the Quinoa is cool or it will burn your hands!
Also, make sure your hands are clean.
Mix it all up with your hands. Comeon, get your hands in there. Mix it until there is a consistency to the meat/crumb/egg/grain mess.
Using a table spoon, scoop the mixture into each pepper, filling each to the brim and sliding off excess with the back of the spoon.
Coat a deep baking pan with cooking spray. Place the peppers on the pan, on their sides, with the meat sides facing each other. Now pour your sauce or your can of tomatoes over the tip and sprinkle some parsley over the top. You can also sprinkle some parmigiana on top too.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Then uncover the pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
The dish goes great with some whole wheat angel hair. The peppers also freeze very well and will last you a few months. Just take them out the night before and reheat in the microwave or oven.
Tasty and healthy!