As I have learned more about cooking over the years and gotten more comfortable with the world of pulses, I find that I am more and more satisfied with jettisoning meat in a given meal. Not that I’m going to leave it behind entirely, because hello! Duck is meat! I’m just saying that I’m perfectly happy going without if there is some other source of protein in the meal. And in this house, with my stash of beans, we don’t have to worry about that. (Seriously, if you’re ever over at my house, ask to see the stash. It would be a stash of shame to rival my yarn stash, except this is edible and delicious.)
I love making these stuffed peppers because, like a frittata, they are exceptionally flexible. You can throw whatever you have on hand into this dish and it is likely to come out quite deliciously. So this is not really what one would call a hard-and-fast recipe because it comes out differently every single time I make it. That’s a good thing for me though, since I can get stuck in a tasty-rut and need things to challenge my creativity. I hope you have the same fun I do experimenting with this healthy, delicious, and satisfying stuffed veg dish!
Lentil-Stuffed Red Bell Peppers
A Jitterbean Original
- This is more of a guideline than a recipe. Feel free to add or subtract ingredients or make substitutions willy-nilly (e.g. Italian sausage or heirloom beans for lentils, summer squash for the tomatoes or roasted bell peppers, etc. Heck, you could even use poblanos instead of bell peppers if you wanted to!).
- Because this dish is so lean, if you omit the feta (as I have to these days), try to find another fat to squeeze in there to improve the mouthfeel. I’ve thought about experimenting with nuts (like toasted pistachios or pinenuts) but haven’t actually tried it yet.
You will need:
- 3 large red bell peppers (really, only one need be red. The other can be any color you like)
- Small handful of cherry tomatoes
- 1-2 cups of 4-grain pilaf or cooked rice or rice blend (leftovers do splendidly)
- About half a cup dried lentils (any variety except red, though my favorites are beluga and french du puy lentils), picked through and washed
- Water, to cover the lentils
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika, curry powder, and/or cayenne
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- About a tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 small leek (white and tender green parts only) or onion, chopped
- Several cloves garlic, minced
- Several leaves of kale or about two handfuls of arugula, washed and torn or chopped into bite-sized pieces
- A couple ounces of feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
- Fresh herbs of your choosing, such as rosemary or thyme, minced (optional)
- Avocado vinaigrette, for drizzling, or chunks of avocado (optional)
- Roast a bell pepper: turn on your broiler and position a rack about 6 inches underneath it. Line a small sheet pan with foil and place one of the bell peppers on it. Put it under the broiler, turning it after every 5-7 minutes, until the skin is blackened all around. Put the bell pepper in a heat-proof bowl and seal it with a lid or plastic-wrap. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel and seed the pepper (most easily accomplished with your bare hands instead of a knife). Chop the roasted bell pepper into bite-sized pieces.
- Roast the tomatoes: while the pepper is cooling, put the tomatoes on the same pan used for the bell pepper and broil them until the skins are slightly charred and they start to pop, 1-3 minutes. Remove them from the oven and set aside.
- Cook the lentils: Also while the peppers are cooling, in a small saucepan, bring the lentils, water, cumin, and salt & pepper to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Prepare the stuffing: When the lentils are done, heat the oven to 400F. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion or leek and saute until it is starting to turn translucent, about five minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stirring until fragrant, a minute or two. Add in the rice, lentils, roasted bell pepper pieces, and roasted tomatoes, stirring to combine well. When the mixture is heated through, stir in the kale, feta, and herbs, if using. Remove from the heat.
- Stuff the peppers: Halve your remaining bell peppers from top to bottom, and remove the stem, ribs, and seeds. Line another small baking sheet or dish with foil and lay the bell pepper halves on it. Scoop your filling into the peppers, filling to the desired level (you can heap it on, if you like). Drizzle with olive oil and put the pan into the oven.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the filling is hot and starting to get a tad crispy and the peppers are starting to show signs of losing their raw-ness. Remove from the oven and serve with additional feta. Alternatively, drizzle the peppers with avocado vinaigrette or with chunks of fresh avocado.