One of the things that I miss about working at my recent job was coming into the office on Monday mornings and finding a harvest of vegetables picked from the gardens of my fellow colleagues. A few of them, like my friend Jim, would set aside some of their spoils just for me because they know I like to cook. Lucky for me that Jim was thoughtful enough to bring me three green peppers from his garden last week, inspiring me to make stuffed pepper.
Being unemployed, I am trying to make better monetary decisions around my food consumption. As such, I reached back to an old Food Network show that aired in the late 1990’s for inspiration—Door Knock Dinners, hosted by Gordon Elliott. The premise for the show was that Elliott and a celebrity chef would show up at the home of a regular, busy family and cook them dinner with solely the items available in their kitchen. What I liked about Door Knock Dinners is that it really emphasized the notion that a great meal is within reach with simply the ingredients in your kitchen, and a little creativity. Of course, you have to stock your kitchen with substantive ingredients. I remember an episode where the guest chef was truly dumbfounded over the lack of food items beyond spices and instant mashed potatoes in one family’s home.
I took the Door Knock Dinners concept as the foundation for the stuffed peppers but cheated by augmenting the ingredients I had on hand with some additional ones from my local grocery store. Among the ingredients that I had in my pantry and fridge that formed the basis for the stuffing were red quinoa, fresh mint, parmesan cheese, panko bread crumbs, crush red pepper flakes, baby carrots, leeks, garlic, salt and pepper. I purchased ground turkey, ricotta cheese and additional peppers in bright, primary colors of red, orange and yellow. The result was a flavorful and vibrant meal born out of simple inspiration.
Turkey-Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
1 lb. of ground turkey
1 tablespoon, olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, cut lengthwise, sliced thinly and washed of the grittiness
1 cup of baby carrots minced
2 garlic cloves sliced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
I cup of red quinoa, prepared according to package
16 ounces of ricotta cheese made with skim milk
½ cup of mint leaves, minced
8 large bell peppers, preferably in an assortment of colors, tops cut off and deseeded
½ cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons of melted butter
- Move oven rack to the center and preheat oven to 350°
- Prepare the quinoa according to the instructions on the package.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the ground turkey and brown for three minutes.
- Add the leeks and sauté for three minutes.
- Add the carrots and sauté for an additional two minutes.
- Add garlic slices and sauté for one more minute.
- Season with crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine the minced mint with the ricotta cheese.
- In a large bowl, combine the meat mixture and the quinoa together. Fold in the ricotta cheese.
- Place the bell peppers in a rectangular Pyrex® baking dish and fill the peppers with the filling.
- For the topping, combine the panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and melted butter in small bowl.
- Top each bell pepper with the bread crumb mixture.
- Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
If you were to ask my son, he would tell you that I am bad about giving names. This is in part because he hates his own name. But then again, I did name my cat Israel, after a Cuban musician. A great tribute, but is it really a good name for a cat? Needless to say I was stumped on coming up with a name for my stuffed peppers. I started with Kitchen Sink Stuffed Peppers. Then I went with Inspired Stuffed Peppers, until settling with the overtly obvious, Turkey-Quinoa Stuffed Peppers.