After having meatballs for dinner last Sunday, I was interested in making a meal that featured vegetables this week. I ran through the usual spectrum of meals that I make when I want something vegetarian—frittatas, pasta, soup, stir fry. None of them appealed to me—and then I thought of stuffed peppers. Believe it or not, my first time making stuffed peppers was only a few months ago in culinary school. We made stuffed peppers for family meal (the meal that is provided to the staff and students at school). For family meal, I made peppers stuffed with quinoa, corn, and black beans. The following recipe is also vegetarian, but it features zucchini, pinto beans, tomatoes, and brown rice.
You might assume that these peppers are flavored with Southwestern spices. But in fact, this recipe calls for thyme and parsley, two herbs that remind me of France, and in particular, Provence. I also decided to top the peppers with mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese, so I guess that makes them part Italian as well. I often associate certain dishes and ingredients with a particular country or region of the world. While this is helpful when I am trying to evoke the flavors of that country/region, it does, at times, hamper my creativity. Is there a reason why pinto beans (which I commonly associate with Latin American cuisine) can’t be used in conjunction with traditional French ingredients, or why a taco can’t be filled with Korean braised pork, as some food trucks are doing right now? Breaking the boundaries of traditional flavor profiles can allow us all to be more inventive in the kitchen. With that, I leave you with these peppers, which certainly have some identity issues, but which taste great nevertheless.
Stuffed Peppers with Zucchini, Pinto Beans and Brown Rice Serves 3
- 3 large bell peppers (preferably yellow, red, or orange)
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, chopped
- 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes
- 2 medium zucchini, diced into 1-inch cubes
- 1 can pinto beans (drained and rinsed well under cold water)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/3 cup of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh mozzarella cheese packed in water, torn into small pieces
- Grated Parmigiano cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Rinse your peppers and cut them in half lengthwise, removing the stem, the white pith, and all of the seeds.
- Brush a baking dish with olive oil and spread a half cup of the chopped tomatoes in the bottom of the dish. Place the raw peppers hollow-side up in a baking dish.
- Heat a large sauté pan over low to medium heat and sweat the onion and garlic until translucent.
- Add the mushrooms, increase the heat to medium, and sauté the mushrooms until they have released their water and then reabsorbed it, approximately 5 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and sauté for an additional 3 minutes.
- Add the dried thyme, paprika, and the remaining chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the cooked rice, pinto beans, and fresh parsley and mix everything together with a spoon.
- Taste and season the mixture with additional salt and pepper if necessary (be aggressive about the seasoning or your peppers will be bland!)
- Fill each pepper with the bean and rice mixture. Cover the baking dish with foil and place the peppers in the oven for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese on the peppers. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and a pairing knife comes out easily when inserted into the flesh of the peppers.