Monday, September 26, 2011

Quinoa-stuffed Peppers

Today is a very exciting day in the blogger part of my life, because I got three comments! I don't get many of those, it always really brightens my day. So despite the dark, cloudy sky and cold rain outside my window, my day is bright enough and I am feeling verbose so it is a great time to procrastinate and write about food! To be exact, the meal that I have made myself for tonight's dinner, which was really well needed after going out running in this cold, miserable weather! I'm also giving into the baking bug and whipping up some cookies, because I have these apples, too many apples, and I struggle to eat fruit just as it is so I like to turn it into stuff, even though it is then no longer very healthy and guilt-free. Oh well. Later this week I will make apple muffins but for now I am making apple cookies, which I have posted about once before, but that time I used white chocolate, while this time they are chocolate-less (oh no!) and full of sultanas instead. It's not really breaking the once-a-week rule though, because these cookies are for a reason - to make sure that I am in the good-books with my technicians here at work.

While I was stuck in hospital a couple of friends were kind enough to bring me in some decent food to make up for the terrible hospital fare, and now I am stealing one of those recipes to share because it was so amazingly delicious. Sadly I do not have complete instructions so this is only my own interpretation and probably not as wonderful as the original. I had never had quinoa before but it turns out that it's really yummy! It's not really a grain either, although it looks like one; it is more like a seed and is related to leafy vegetables like spinach. It is one of the few full protein sources for us to eat, with all of the essential amino acids that we need to keep functioning properly, and is also high in calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and iron, not to mention lots of vitamins. Although it is not a grain, it is like a whole-grain in that it is a good source of insoluble fibre, which is supposed to be important for preventing problems like gallstones. So I wonder if I had got the health-nut mentality going a bit sooner I would have saved my self so many problems? Still, better late than never, I just wish all of these wholegrains and other healthy things were easier to find here in Galway. Apparently you can use quinoa and all sort of other grains just like oats to make porridge for breakfast - I might have to try this.

So before I get too distracted with my rambling I should mention that the stuffed peppers that I was so lucky to have brought for my dinner that evening were topped with a tomato sauce, which I unfortunately do not know the details of but I do remember that it was sort of tangy and maybe a little sweet, and it definitely had onions. It was probably made with fresh tomatoes, big beef tomatoes and sweeter plum tomatoes, but I am using canned tomatoes because I am lazy and they are cheaper. I was served this meal on brown basmati rice, but this time around I have accompanied it with baked falafel and salad.

In fact, this entire post clearly revolves around my mates who also love to cook because it was with the same people that I got into a discussion about the various colours of bell peppers and now I intend to finish it, and at the same time say that I was right. See, the question was are the different colours due to different varieties or are they different stages or ripeness. To which my response was that they are indeed the different stages of ripeness of the same plant. But then, why do you never see multi-coloured, in-between peppers? That one is easy: you do see them, just not often because they generally only sell the very pretty perfect ones in the supermarket. All of the odd ones are used for commercial products. My very logical answers were just not accepted so here is a picture of the very pretty, multicoloured peppers that I am using today. Also, just so you know, a bell pepper is technically a fruit and the red ones are the best for you, they are the ripest and have loads of vitamin C (more than oranges), other vitamins and minerals and are very low in calories. To get really scientific though, while the fruit does ripen from green to yellow to orange to red, the internet tells me that there are different cultivars of the species that produce different coloured fruit, so it is hard to really know for sure how the ones in the supermarket came to be their respective colours, and thus hard to say who exactly is right. I think I am though.

Quinoa-stuffed Peppers with Tangy Tomato Sauce

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
6 large bell peppers/capsicum
1 onion
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon each basil and thyme
Salt for seasoning

First, rinse the quinoa grains and place in a small saucepan with the water (or stock). Get the water simmering and simmer it for 12 minutes, until the quinoa is sort of tender. When it is cooked little white fibres will pop out of the grains like tails. It's lucky I looked up how to cook quinoa otherwise I would have been somewhat surprised by that last bit.

While the quinoa is simmering chop up the onion and heat the butter or oil in a medium sized saucepan. Throw in the onion along with the brown sugar and cook over a low heat for about 5 or 10 minutes, until the onion is really soft and tranluscent. At about which time the quinoa should be ready and you should probably also turn on the oven to heat, about 180 degrees celsius. So first throw the tomatoes, vinegar and herbs into the saucepan with the onions. Give it a stir and let it simmer.

While the sauce simmers take the quinoa off of the heat and if the water has not been fully absorbed tip the grains into a sieve and let it drain. Slice the tops off of the bell peppers and remove the seeds and pith. Spoon the quinoa into the peppers loosely, and depending on the size of your peppers it will either mostly fill them, or just half fill them. Whatever space is left, spoon in the tomato sauce (take the chunks, not the really watery part) until the filling is even with the cut top of the pepper. Place the tops on, rub a bit of olive oil over the peppers and sprinkle salt over. Arrange them in an oven dish and place them in the oven.

If there is more sauce remaining, let it keep on simmering until it is good and thick and then spoon it over the peppers after you have served them. Bake until the peppers are soft and wrinkly on the outside. This recipe is enough for 3 people, as two is by far enough! Serve with rice and salad, or just whatever you like of course. And be careful, the insides will be absolutely searing hot!

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