We recently invited some old friends, who have a new baby, over for brunch. The baby is lovely – a deliciously plump little guy with the kind of cheeks you want to snack on and a soul-deep gaze that makes you realize how rarely we adults really look one another in the eye. And he actually slept through the considerable racket of me cooking and of our son playing/screaming so he's clearly a keeper.
The food I had at hand did not exactly say "brunch" to me – a ton of cucumbers from our garden, a bunch of sweet peppers from our CSA and some leftover grilled corn and quinoa from dinner the night before. Nothing was coming to mind.
Just as I was beginning to think I'd have to fall back on something traditional, like pancakes, I happened to glance at the cover of the excellent Deborah Madison's cookbook, Vegetarian Suppers sitting on my counter. Lo and behold, here was something I could make with sweet peppers, corn, and quinoa!
I am a huge fan of Deborah Madison (more details about why here). Her recipes are always delicious and inspiring. So I ran next door to raid my mom-in-law's garden and came back with a big bag of tender, beautiful spinach and some herbs. I sautéed some onions, garlic, and jalapeno before adding in the spinach and the herbs. Then I tossed in the quinoa, corn, and the feta cheese and mixed it all up.
Deborah's recipe calls for you to simmer the peppers in boiling water for a few minutes but I have also substituted microwaving them for a few minutes and that works, too, if you're in a rush. Then I stuffed them and put them in the oven. Twenty-five minutes later it was showtime. I served these along with a green salad topped with roasted beets and a really nice cucumber yogurt soup that I hope to recreate soon so I can share it with you all. We all chowed down, baby included, though he's still on an all-liquid diet.
Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers with Corn, Feta & Herbs
Lightly adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion or 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno chile, finely diced, seeds removed (if you like spicy food, you can double this – I'm just a wimp about heat so I cut it in half)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Roughly 2 cups (3 ears) of corn kernels – they can be fresh, frozen or cooked
1/2 cup chopped cilantro or fresh sage
1/4 pound feta cheese, cut into small cubes
4 Bell peppers
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Bring the water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil then add the quinoa, stir, cover and simmer over low heat until the grains are tender and you see the little curly "tail" of the germ appear, roughly 15 minutes.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F., and put another good-sized pot of salted water on to boil – this will be used to soften the peppers (see step 3 below) so make sure you can fit them all in.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onions or scallions and chiles over medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic, cumin, corn, and spinach and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Then add the cilantro, quinoa, and feta and toss it all together. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
4. Slice the peppers in half lengthwise without removing the tops or stems, then remove the membranes and the seeds. Simmer them for 4-5 minutes in the salted water until they are tender to the touch of a knife or fork but are not too soft. Arrange them in the baking dish (or dishes) and fill them with the quinoa mixture – don't skimp! Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil over the peppers and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned on top. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Related post on The Garden of Eating: Roasted Peppers & Butternut Squash with Rosemary, Garlic & Parmesan