Since I’m not always crazy about meat, when I eat out at nicer restaurants I’m always curious to try their vegetarian option. At many restaurants it’s simply a salad, or a standard veggie burger or eggplant parmesan. Not my favorites. To me, the vegetarian option is a great test for a restaurant, because I think it can really show their level of creativity and willingness to showcase certain ingredients.
The more creative menus are starting to have more complex vegetarian dishes involving some more interesting components. I think one of the downfalls that I have encountered, however is the level of complexity. Often an unscale vegetarian option might have two or three times the number of ingredients of most of the other options on the menu. In my opinion this level of complexity often takes away from the overall success of the dish because there are more variables that might not succeed.
That being said, there was one relatively simple vegetarian dish I tried at Salt Creek Grille (no longer on the menu) that inspired a recipe that I not make fairly regularly. The dish at the restaurant was quinoa stuffed bell peppers that were simply red peppers filled with quinoa mixed with peices of mango, and covered in cheese. Even though it was pretty simple, it just worked. It was filling, fresh, healthy, and slighlty indulgent all at the same time.
In creating my variation on this dish I decided to bring in the veggies that I like the most. I stuck with the concept of stuffing a bell pepper with quinoa, and topping it with cheese, but I added some other simple goodies. It’s a great side dish and very easy to stick in the fridge and grab for a snack or a quick meal.
Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers
- 5 medium bell peppers (1 diced, 4 with the top sliced off and the inside cleaned)
- Olive Oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 tsp italian seasoning
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz)
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa
- 1 cup broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
- handful fresh spinach
- 2 cups grated parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 375 and bake the 4 bell peppers with the tops cut off for about 15 minutes until they are slightly softer but not too flimsy.
- Heat up a large saute pan on the stove over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and saute the diced onion. After onions begin to get translucent, turn down heat slightly and add the minced garlic, diced bell pepper, and Italian seasoning.
- Allow to cook for about 5 more minutes, then pour in the can of diced tomatoes and a cup of water. Return heat to medium and allow the mixture to heat up, then add the uncooked quinoa.
- The quinoa will take about 15 minutes to cook through. Towards the end of this process add the broccoli and fresh spinach. When the quinoa is cooked through stir 1 cup of grated parmesan to the mixture.
- Turn the oven up to 400. Portion the filling into the 4 bell peppers and top each with the remaining cup of parmesan. Bake in the oven about 15-20 minutes until the cheese on top is melted and golden brown.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes and enjoy!