Want a chance to provide me with feedback about Spice Wife? Now is your chance, until February 4, 2016 at Spice Wife Readers Survey 2016. Thank you, readers, for those of you that have filled out the survey. So far, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback and great ideas and I look forward to sharing the results with you once I have summarized all the responses.
Today’s recipe is inspired by the Balkan-style Stuffed Peppers in The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur. This meal has Eastern European origins, and stuffed peppers were a traditional dish that my mother made when I was growing up.
Funny, with all the recipes in an Israeli cookbook, I was not going to make old-fashioned stuffed peppers. I remember my mom’s stuffed green peppers with fond memories, filled with ground beef and rice. However a good friend who wanted me to try them out for her sake did not want all that rice. Was quinoa okay? Yes! And on that one word response, I updated the recipe.
It’s important to me that food is appetizing visually. Instead of only green peppers, I used all the colours that were available at the supermarket. Vibrant shades of red, yellow, orange and a couple green peppers, why not?
Quinoa has double the protein as white rice and 5 times the dietary fibre. Calorie-wise, they are not much different — in fact, a cup of quinoa has 222 calories and the white rice has 205 calories.
Cooked quinoa is light and fluffy. A cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of dietary fibre. One cup of uncooked quinoa in two cups of water provided me with three heaping cups of cooked quinoa.
The original recipe called for a Middle Eastern spice blend – Baharat – which has a warm palette of cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and pepper. I made it fresh because I had all the individual spices at home . It can be bought pre-made at middle eastern supermarkets. However, an additional amount of paprika (regular or smoked) can be substituted for the Baharat spice to the beef and onion stuffing.
After frying up a chopped onion, then adding the extra-lean ground beef, I added 1/2 cup of strained tomatoes (passata), 1/3 cup of chopped parsley, the baharat spice and paprika, and finally the cooked quinoa, along with some salt and pepper.
Stuffing all prepared and ready to fill — one pound of beef and 3 cups of quinoa will fill 8 large peppers to the brim.
A little garlicky tomato sauce is prepared and a tablespoon drizzled on each pepper filling before baking and the rest poured into the bottom of the baking dish. They are done when the peppers are softened…and the remainder of the sauce can be spooned on the filling before serving. Enjoy!
Stuffed Sweet Peppers with Ground Beef & Quinoa
8 sweet peppers, any colour
2 onions, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1/2 cup passata, i.e. strained tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. Baharat spice blend (Janna Gur’s website – Baharat Spice Mix), or 2 more tsp. of paprika, regular or smoked
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup white quinoa – to be prepared separately and added to stuffing
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of water
Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
- Cut the tops off the peppers and keep aside to use as lids. Remove the seeds and white membrane inside each pepper.
- Prepare the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff up the cooked quinoa with a fork. Keep aside until ready to add to stuffing.
- Sauté the onions in the oil and once they are softened, add the ground beef and cook until there is no pink visible and crumble the meat with a spatula or fork. Turn off heat and add the passata, parsley, spices and the cooked quinoa and mix thoroughly.
- Fill each pepper to the with the filling.
- For the sauce, blend the tomato paste, garlic, salt & pepper in the cup of water and put a tablespoonful over the top of each pepper filling. Pour the rest in the bottom of your roasted pan. Arrange the hollowed peppers in the pan and put the pepper lids back on — choose a pan that snugly fits all the peppers so they are supported by the surrounding peppers.
- Bake covered with a lid or aluminum foil for 20 minutes. If the sauce has dried in the bottom, add another 1/2 cup of water. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 30 minutes until the peppers have softened.