Monday, April 23, 2012

Stuffed Bell Peppers w/ Hot Turkey Sausage (If You Want)

(I cut the pepper in half so you can see the yummy goodness inside)

Lately on Twitter my favorite foodies have been tweeting great vegetarian recipes for “Meatless Mondays.”  I am far from a Vegetarian these days but I used to be one, and I am always preaching about healthy eating in general.  So I decided to participate in “Meatless Mondays” and try to cook a vegetarian entrée at least once a week.

These peppers are my latest vegetarian experiment, and they are easy, tasty, and pretty. However, after posting the pictures of this dish online, I got a lot of people asking me what they should make to go with it. Basically they were implying that 1 or 2 peppers does not make a complete meal. So to address this concern, I suggest making these without meat and serving them as a side dish for chicken, steak or fish OR adding meat into the filling. When I made this a second time, I sautéed the meat of 3 Hot Italian Turkey Sausages and added it to the filling.  I found that the meat gave the peppers even more kick, flavor, and heartiness.

But whether you make this with meat or meatless, know that you are getting lots of great vitamins and minerals from the veggies!  Also, this dish is GREAT for entertaining! They’re vibrant and colorful and everyone gets their own pepper filled with everything they need.  And if you have just 1 or 2 vegetarian friends, you can leave meat out of some.
As you can see, this dish is VERY versatile, I hope you give it a try and make it your own!

4 Bell Peppers
3-4 Hot Turkey Sausages (If you want...)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Small Onion (or 1 large shallot)
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Bag of Fresh Baby Spinach
2 Plum Tomatoes (seeds removed)
4 tablespoons Parsley (divided)
3 cups Cooked White Rice (basmati or jasmine work best)
Cayenne Pepper (to taste)
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
3/4 cup Breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Butter
3-4 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile you can cut the tops off of your bell peppers and remove the seeds and ribs. (see pic) You may have to cut the bottoms off a bit for them to stand.  Then chop your onion, garlic, tomatoes and parsley, and reserve them separately on your cutting board.
By this time your water should be rapidly boiling.  Add a couple tablespoons of salt, then add the bell peppers and boil for 3 minutes.  Using tongs remove the bell peppers from the water and place them top down into your casserole dish to drain and cool.  Next you can cook your rice following the directions on the package.  I suggest using the success rice packets because you can throw them into the same water you boiled your peppers in or use precooked microwavable packets of rice (I used Trader Joe’s microwaveable Organic Jasmine Rice).

While the rice is cooking, heat olive oil over medium high heat, add the onion and sauté, for about 5 minutes, until softened.  Then add the garlic and spinach and stir to combine.  Once the spinach has begun to wilt, sprinkle with salt and a bit of cayenne pepper and continue to stir.  Once the spinach is cooked, add the tomatoes and cook until they are heated through (about 2-3 mins).  Pour the veggies into a medium sized bowl.  Once rice is cooked, add the rice to the veggies and add a bit more salt and pepper, 3/4 of the parsley (reserving about a tablespoon), and stir to combine.  If you are choosing to add meat, you can sauté the turkey sausage until browned and using a slotted spoon, add the meat to the rice and veggie mixture as well. 

Next, turn the peppers over in the casserole dish and sprinkle the inside of each with salt and pepper.  Fill each pepper to the brim with the filling.  Then, in a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter, final tablespoon of parsley, and parmesan cheese and top each pepper with a generous amount.

Cover the peppers and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Then, remove the cover and switch the oven to broil.  Broil them for 3-4 minutes or until the breadcrumb topping has a nice golden color.  Remove peppers from the oven and serve immediately.

Note: When I made this, I saved and baked the tops of the peppers for decoration (see pic above). Feel free to do the same or simply discard them when prepping the peppers.

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