Such stuff as dreams are made of: Stuffed baked peppers

In my world, there are certain flavors that just belong together. Mint and chocolate. Peanut butter and chocolate. Basil and garlic. Sage and onion.

The last one evokes something particularly visceral in me; I think it is related to the fact that sage and onion are major players in my favorite food of all time, Pepperidge Farm’s bread stuffing (yes, I know, prefab, processed blasphemy. But it was an important part of my childhood!). As far as comfort food goes, for me it’s the absolute tops. However, as woman cannot live by bread alone (even delicious, herbed, buttery bread), I have to find ways to introduce the flavor combination into different dishes so as to avoid my inevitable butter-induced coronary just a little bit longer. One of my favorite ways to do this is to use it in stuffed peppers.

peppers

I made my first stuffed peppers when I was still in college and had no idea what I was doing. The filling was some sort of terrifying, flavorless TVP monstrosity, and the peppers themselves were incinerated at the top and still raw at the bottom. Which was, you know. Fine (in that they weren’t poisonous), but they were certainly a confusing state of textural affairs. No, actually, let’s be brutally honest here: the great pepper fail of 1999 was so extreme that I didn’t end up trying them again until, oh, last year, whereupon I stumbled across The Smitten’s adventures in peppers, and her absolutely genius, genius tip that revolutionized my life: pre-bake the peppers. Not long, just enough to soften them up a bit, but not so much that they lose all structural integrity. It was just the stroke of genius my poor peppers needed.

stuffing

After that, making it happen was a snap. Find a grain! Saute some onions with mushrooms and sage! Combine! Toss in some parmesan cheese! Bake! It’s fairly forgiving; I use whatever grain I have on hand, and sometimes I don’t even bother with the mushrooms. Or, if I’m feeling tremendously adventurous, I’ll use thyme and greek yogurt instead of sage and parmesan. Basically, this business will take whatever you throw at it; it’s an easy weeknight dinner that tastes like nostalgia, is easy on the wallet, and is mighty pretty to boot.

Baked stuffed peppers

4 peppers
1c brown rice (or whatever grain you have handy; I’ve been very into quinoa of late)
10 oz mushrooms, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2-3 tbsp fresh sage, minced
½ cup grated parmesan, plus some for sprinkling on top

salt, pepper, olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray (or olive oil). Cut the stems and top half inch off the bell peppers and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Place peppers upright in a baking dish and roast them for 15 minutes or so, until they soften, then remove them from the oven until the filling is ready.
  2. To prepare the filling, start by preparing the rice according to package instructions. Then, sauté the onions on a medium heat in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When they’re translucent, add the mushrooms and the sage; continue sautéing until the mushrooms are brown and meaty-looking. Add the mixture to the prepared rice. Stir in the cheese. Stuff the peppers with the mixture; sprinkle extra parmesan on top. Bake for 15 more minutes and serve immediately.
In budget, grain, healthy, low fat, mushrooms, peppers, sage

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