Shockingly enough, I have yet to share with you my biggest secret to eating well on a busy schedule. Here it is: spend a weekend day cooking. Or even a weekend evening. If you spend a few hours prepping certain ingredients you can guarantee a tasty and healthy series of meals for the week ahead--even if the week ahead is a crazy one. These stuffed peppers are a great intro to that technique.
It's a soothing and fun dish to cook, too. You get to work with crisp bell peppers and fill them with a homemade pasta dish. Not to mention, the end result is spectacular. Think about pulling this out of the oven on a Tuesday night. Enticing, isn't it?Spicy Orzo-Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from Miranda Agee @Haute Headquarters, by Alexandra Rogers
2-3 Tablespoons oil (whichever kind you like, just not e.v.o.o.)--enough to coat a large pan
1 medium red onion, diced
2 small zucchini, diced
1 (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup orzo
6 small bell peppers, any color you like
1 cup vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons minced/torn basil
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Pour vegetable broth into a pan that will fit all of your peppers, standing up, with room between them. Usually a cake pan works for this.
3. Wash your peppers and cut off the stem, discard the seeds, etc.--basically get them ready to be stuffed. Lightly salt & pepper the bell peppers and set them aside.
4. Combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and basil in a small bowl and set aside.
5. Place a large saute pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add enough oil to coat the pan and toss in onions. The onions should sizzle a bit as they hit the pan. Cook the onions for 2-3 minutes until they are translucent. Once onions are translucent, add the zucchini (this should come out to about 3 cups of zucchini.) Give the whole mixture a stir or two and let cook for 5 minutes, until zucchini has shrunk down and the mixture is beginning to caramelize and brown. Do not stir frequently, as this will disrupt the caramelization process. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another 2 minutes. Throughout the process, salt and pepper each layer lightly.
6. Pour the entire can of diced tomatoes and juices into the pan and thoroughly combine with the zucchini and onions. Bring the mixture in the pan to a simmer, over medium-high heat and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture has reduced and is no longer soupy. (You'll know it is ready when you move some of the mixture aside with a spoon and no liquid comes rushing in to fill the void.)
7. While your tomato mixture is simmering away, bring water to boil in a small pot. Cook the orzo for no more than 2 1/2 minutes. The orzo should be undercooked, since it will cook more while it bakes inside of the pepper. Once your orzo is drained, set that aside.
8. When the tomato mixture is ready, add orzo into the pan. Stir to combine, and add salt and pepper to taste. Your filling is now ready!
9. Fill each pepper to the brim with filling, then top off with a heart handful of the breadcrumb/parmesan/basil topping. Place the peppers in the pan with vegetable stock on the bottom and cover the entire thing securely in aluminum foil. This step is very important, because without it you'll have dishearteningly crisp peppers at the end of the cooking time.
10. Bake for 45 minutes without opening the oven. The peppers should be tender and pierced easily with a fork. Serves approximately 6, depending on the size of the bell peppers.