There was an over abundance of bell peppers at the store the other day. Rainbow colors of red, orange, yellow, and green decorated the produce display. Perfect timing because these peppers were already on my grocery list to make this week. Red peppers are the sweetest of the variety and contain the most vitamins, nutrients, and lycopene which is the antioxidant also found in tomatoes. Sweet red bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, tomatoes, zucchini, and butternut squash is a super power food dish in my opinion. The basil gives a wonderful aromatic flavor and scent, and the feta…well just makes everything taste better.
The original recipe comes from the Giada’s Kitchen cookbook and is made with orzo pasta, mint, and pecorino cheese. I’ve made it exactly by the book a couple of times and prefer the quinoa and addition of some roasted butternut squash and feta. There is something about quinoa that is just darn good. Maybe it’s the texture or the fact it’s a great source of protein. You could even add some garbanzo beans to the mixture for even more protein and really make it a complete vegetarian meal. As you can see, I had only 3 peppers on hand and ended up with enough quinoa stuffing for 4 peppers. You will see in the recipe below it calls for 4 peppers. The filling is just as good on its own too.
The zucchini is tossed in the mixture raw because it will cook when you bake the peppers. Also, you can see a small amount of tomato juice at the bottom of the bowl. I roughly drained the can of tomatoes…meaning I used a spoon and scooped out the tomatoes. You want about a 1/4 cup of the juices…just enough to coat the quinoa mixture so it doesn’t dry out when baked. While the squash is roasting, go ahead and make the quinoa. Multi-tasking at its finest.
Cut the tops off the peppers. Then use a paring knife to scrape out the ribs and seeds. Add just a tad bit of water to the bottom of the baking dish to steam the peppers in the oven. Once you cut into these peppers packed with veggies and quinoa, your face will light up from all of the happy colors inside.
Quinoa Stuffed Peppers with Feta
adapted from Giada’s Kitchen
I roughly drained the can of tomatoes…meaning I used a spoon and scooped out the tomatoes. You want about a 1/4 cup of the juices…just enough to coat the quinoa mixture so it doesn’t dry out when baked.
2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup quinoa
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (reserving 1/4 cup juice)
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup crumbled feta, plus more for sprinkling
1 garlic clove, minced
4 large red bell peppers
Arrange the squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until slightly tender, but still firm. The squash will finish baking in the peppers. While the squash is roasting make the quinoa.
In a small saucepan, bring 1 1/4 cups water to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa, give it a quick stir, and cover with a tight fitted lid. Simmer for 15 minutes over low heat. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa to steam covered for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. All of the water should have absorbed.
In a medium bowl, add the tomatoes and reserved 1/4 cup juice, zucchini, basil, feta, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add the cooked quinoa and butternut squash. Gently stir to combine. Set aside.
Fill a baking dish with enough water to cover the bottom. The water will help steam the peppers when baking. Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove the ribs and seeds with a paring knife. If the peppers don’t stand up on their own, barely trim the bottoms so they sit flat in the baking dish. Spoon the quinoa mixture into the peppers. Arrange the peppers in the baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil. Sprinkle the peppers with feta and continue baking for 10 minutes until cheese is slightly melted. Garnish with basil and more feta if so desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.