While we still lack the chill of autumn, the season nevertheless inspires comforting baked dishes where flavors can meld and soften luxuriously into a meal that looks a little rough but offers comfort like no salad ever. Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa, Squash and Eggplant is this type of comforting dish and it highlights the best of the autumn farmers market.
Peppers are still in abundance in markets near us in the full array of autumn colors. While peppers are just fine raw, I think roasting brings out the very best flavors. Red and yellow bell peppers become sweet with a silken texture. Even the less popular green pepper loses its often perceived bitterness when roasted with olive oil in a hot oven and I think is an excellent contrast to the stuffing within. I like stuffing large bell peppers with a seasoned quinoa, instead of a more traditional bread or rice filling. Quinoa offers a light texture and flavor that doesn’t overwhelm or compete with the flavors of peppers.
With these mild temperatures, I still see zucchini and tomatoes dotting the market so they are featured in this dish but their days are numbered. Delicata squash is a lovely substitute for the summer squash varieties. Delicata, like its name suggests, has a delicate peel that does not need to be removed and a light flavor that lacks the sometimes cloying and dominant sweetness of acorn or butternut winter squash varieties.
The oven bears the brunt of the action today as I put in and pull out sheet pans full of vegetables. While it all roasts in the oven, the quinoa is sautéed and simmered until softened, which takes only abut 15 minutes.
This recipe is really more of an outline as you may decide to add some cooked and crumbled sausage, cooked black or cranberry beans, or additional roasted vegetables. (roasted mushrooms would be great, too!) Today, the quinoa is tossed with some chopped parsley and parmesan cheese and baked until it all softens together into a glorious melange.
The leaves outside my window seem to be turning yellow by the hour so the summer temperatures must be coming to a close, as well. Looking forward to warming casseroles and stews makes the winter months ahead seem so much more tolerable, even, I dare say, enjoyable.
- -2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for roasting
- -4 large bell peppers
- -1 cup quinoa, rinsed well in a fine mesh strainer and drained*
- -1½ cups boiling water
- -1 teaspoon salt
- -1 medium red or white onion, peeled and chopped
- -2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- -1 serrano (or other small spicy pepper), minced
- -1/2 cup tomato puree (or 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped)
- -1 small delicata squash or 1 medium zucchini
- -1 small eggplant, peeled
- -1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- -1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- -Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the bell peppers in half lengthwise and set aside.
- Cut the eggplant and squash into ½-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Spread out in an even layer on a baking sheet.
- Roast squash and eggplant until softened and starting to brown, about 15 minutes.
- Remove squash and eggplant to a large bowl.
- Place halved peppers onto the sheet pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Roast for 10 minutes until just beginning to soften. Place roasted peppers in a large shallow casserole dish that has been drizzled with olive oil.
- Reduce heat to 350 degrees.
- Meanwhile, place the 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and serrano pepper. Saute until onion begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the quinoa and stir until the grains are coated with the mixture and quinoa begins to toast. Add the tomato and simmer for about 2 minutes.
- Add the water and salt and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. (Check occasionally. Quinoa cook times can vary a bit and stir in a little water if still uncooked but dry. Tomatoes can vary in the amount of water they contain.)
- Add the parsley and cooked quinoa to the bowl with the squash and eggplant. Toss to combine and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper, if desired.
- Fill the halves with the quinoa mixture and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Bake until heated throughout, about 20 minutes.
- Serve immediately if you must, but for even better flavor, let sit for about 30 minutes and serve warm.
Optional add ins or substitutions:
-Cooked and crumbled sausage
-Roasted chopped mushrooms