Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers, Heatlhy and Vegan!

In my effort to understand the tradition of stuffed vegetables I need to throw myself in. I tried stuffed mushrooms recently. This curiosity comes out of a lack of respect I have for stuffed veggies, I think perhaps I don't understand them. Logically I know there is no need to be prejudiced against stuffed veggies, especially as a mostly vegetarian myself. So I am going to try and expand my horizons!
I found some beautiful organic poblano peppers at the farmers market. And now seemed the time to give it a try. Recipes are split over technique, should the stuffing be cooked before or inside the pepper. I figure that if I am going to bother stuffing a pepper, there better be something special about cooking the stuffing inside of it. Most of these recipes did call for par-cooking the rice before hand. This seems like a good idea, like insurance that it will all get cooked at the same time.
I wanted to use quinoa, for a protein rich meal. And to lighten up the quinoa, zucchini, onions and tomatoes. Plus some spice. I served them with hot black beans, lime cabbage slaw and plenty of salsa alongside them. 

Review: My current thoughts on stuffed veggies, especially stuffed peppers:
- Portions are already defined and make nice plated meals. 
- They create a play in textures, the crispy toasted crust vs luscious insides vs silky pepper outside. 
- They are a novelty, and therefore more interesting to eaters.
- More effort and time than making a pot of quinoa pilaf and sauteing some peppers.
- Personally I don't really like peppers much, except in hot sauce
- The flavor of the peppers was irregular, some were sweet, one was very bitter and we had one crazy spicy one. This variation radically changes the dish.

Pros and Cons are tied. If you have thoughts one way or another, please comment!

Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers

  • 6 poblano peppers
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 cups zucchini
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup diced tomato
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1-2 teaspoons oregano  

Briefly grill the whole poblano peppers. This develops the flavor and makes them easier to stuff. Turn up your grill to high heat, throw the whole peppers on it, stems and all. Let them cook for a few minutes on each side, so nice black grill lines develop. The peppers will soften a bit, but still hold their shape. Remove them to cool. 
Heat olive oil in a 4 quart pan, saute the zucchini and onion with salt for 5 minutes until softened. Add the quinoa on top. Stir, toasting the quinoa and coating it, for about 30 seconds. Add the water, scrape the bottom. Add the cumin and oregano. Bring to a boil before turning down to a bare simmer for 15 minutes. The quinoa will be undercooked at this point. Stir in the tomatoes. Set aside to rest.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, make a slit up one side, without cutting the thing in half. With your fingers, remove the stem, seeds and ribs (the ribs can be quite spicy or taste bitter.) Hold the pepper pocket you have made in the palm of one hand. Using a spoon, scoop quinoa filling into the pepper till it is full. Place it snugly onto a baking sheet. Repeat with all peppers. 
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350° and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. The quinoa will cook through, the peppers will soften and blacken on the edges and the best part is the crunchy quinoa on top. 

  • Modify by adding black beans into the quinoa...
  • ...or cheese in or on top
  • Tofu or meat could be incorporated but there is plenty of protein in the quinoa to make a hearty meal.
  • Serve with salsa and something crunchy like cabbage or sliced radishes.
  • If there is quinoa filling left over, stuff more things, or cook it for another 5 minutes to fully cook it.)
  • REHEATING: Place under a broiler for 5 minutes or less, they will be hot through and crispy again on top. It is by far the best way.
  • MAKE AHEAD! I tried it, you can fill the peppers, keep them snuggly wrapped in the fridge for 2 days before baking them!  

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