Quinoa & Chorizo Stuffed Bell Peppers

I put this dish together to use various tidbits that I had in the fridge. It turned out delicious, and beautiful too! The colors really popped and the flavors married together to create a savory, hearty dinner.

You can use any color bell pepper for this dish. It will of course affect the look of the dish, but the different colored peppers have different flavors, too, so it will affect the taste as well. Red bell peppers are the sweetest. Yellow and orange ones are slightly sweet. Green ones have a little more crunch and “green” peppery zing. Go with whatever looks and sounds best to you! (Or whatever you have in your fridge!) My pepper was Enormous, so I used just one and it was more than enough for the 2 of us. If you’re really hungry and you have smaller peppers, or to serve 4 people, use two medium/large peppers.

I served some garlicky sauteed greens on the side. I used some of the chard stems in my stuffing. If you serve chard on the side, feel free to do the same. If not, you’re welcome to leave it out. I’ve marked it as optional in the recipe.

Another note… I used two colors of Quinoa since I happened to have them both on hand. I measured out 1/2 cup of each black and white Quinoa cooked them together. It gave the stuffing kind of a confetti look which was really fun! Don’t feel you have to go out and buy two kinds of Quinoa though – go with what you like or what you have!

You’ll probably have some extra stuffing mixture left after filling the peppers. That’s a good thing! You can use it for lunch the next day, or just eat some of it straight from the pan like I may or may not have done… Shh!

Quinoa & Chorizo Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 2-4

For the Peppers:

1 very large or 2 medium Bell Peppers

Olive Oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Stuffing:

Cooked Quinoa (1 cup dry, prepared per directions on the package)

2 Chorizo sausages (the crumbly kind, not the hard, cured Spanish kind)

3-4 Scallions, thinly sliced – separate the white parts from the green parts

Stems from 1 bunch Chard, thinly sliced (optional)

1 medium Tomato (a nice juicy, ripe Heirloom one is tastiest) – roughly chopped (don’t discard any juices that come out while chopping – you can use them in the dish!)

1/3-1/2 Cup Salsa

1-2 Tbsp Chevre (Fresh Goat Cheese), crumbled

Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste

Preparation:

1. Preheat your broiler. To prepare the pepper(s), cut them in half vertically (from top to bottom), then rinse them and remove the seeds. You can leave the stem on or take it off – it’s not edible so it’s a purely aesthetic choice. (I took mine out.) Drizzle the peppers with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Broil the peppers, turning half way through, until the skins are slightly blackened in spots, and the peppers are just firmer than al dente – about 10 minutes. (To be honest I didn’t write down how long I had them under the broiler, so this is pretty approximate. Just keep an eye one them after about 5 minutes on each side.)

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. You don’t need to add any oil because the sausage will release its own oils/fats as it cooks (yummy!). Slit the chorizo sausage casings and crumble the inside of the sausages into the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes until the oils start to render out and the sausage starts to brown. Add the white parts of the sliced scallions, and the thinly sliced chard stems if using. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring a couple times, until the scallions and chard stems start to soften. Next add the chopped tomato (plus any collected tomato juice!) and the cooked quinoa, stirring to combine. Add the salsa a bit at a time, until the quinoa sausage mixture is completely coated, but not swimming in sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 more minutes, until everything is combined, tomatoes have melted, and sausage is cooked through.

3. Fill the partly cooked pepper halves with the stuffing mixture. Top with crumbled chevre. Place stuffed peppers back under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is slightly browned.

4. Sprinkle the green parts of the sliced scallions over top, and Serve! If you have some of the stuffing mixture left, you can spoon a bit of it around the pepper halves on the plate. This goes really well with simple, garlicky sauteed greens, or a nice crisp salad.

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Thai-Inspired Basil Buffalo

Last week at the Farmers Market I purchased some beautiful deep purple, super fragrant basil which the farmer told me was Opal Basil. Isn’t it lovely?

I knew immediately that I wanted to make one of my favorite dishes, Basil Beef, which is a great way to show off the flavor of a very fragrant basil such as Thai Basil, Holy Basil, etc. The next day, I was at Whole Foods and I spotted a lovely looking Buffalo (Bison) steak. I really enjoy buffalo because it has a nice clean “beefy” taste but it is a lot leaner, lower in calories and higher in iron. (Read more about buffalo meat here.) So I decided to make Basil Buffalo instead!

As with many of my dishes, I won’t provide an exact recipe here, because I never really make the same thing twice and my measurements are not exact. But I will provide the ingredients and an outline that you can follow.

THAI-INSPIRED BASIL BUFFALO

Feeds 2-4

For the Buffalo:

2-3 Tbsp Oyster Sauce

2-3 Tbsp Fish Sauce

Ground White Pepper about 1/2 – 1 tsp, to taste

Fresh Basil, chopped (about 1/2 bunch – reserve the rest of the bunch to add in later) – Note: Italian (Sweet) Basil does not work well for this dish because it does not have as strong of a flavor and does not hold up as well to the high heat of a stir fry

1 Buffalo Steak (or a lean Beef steak), about 1/2 lb

Other Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Coconut Oil (or other neutral flavored oil that will stand up to high heat)

1-2 Thai or Serrano Chiles, minced (depending on the level of heat that you want)

2-3 Cloves Garlic, Minced

Fresh Basil, chopped (the rest of the bunch that you did not put with the meat)

2 large or 4 small Japanese Eggplant, cut into chunks (Optional)

Fresh Chile Paste (Such as Sambal Oelek) about 1-2 tsp, to taste (Optional)

Fish Sauce & Ground White Pepper to taste

Lime wedge, to garnish

1-2 Thinly sliced green onions, to garnish.

Equipment:

Large wok or other relatively thin, large saute pan (I say thin because you want the pan to heat up quickly and stay very hot for the quick cooking method of stir frying)

Method:

1. Slice buffalo very thinly, against the grain, and combine in a small bowl with oyster sauce, fish sauce, chopped basil, and ground white pepper. Mix to combine the ingredients, and make sure the meat is generously coated with the sauce – add more of the sauces if necessary. Allow to marinate for about 30 minutes. (Note: I find the marinating step is well worth it because it really makes the meat more flavorful and makes the flavors in the dish really “pop”. Don’t skip it unless you absolutely must save the extra minute or so it takes to combine the ingredients – while it’s marinating you can do the rest of your prep which you would have had to do anyway! If you don’t marinate the meat, you will need to add the oyster sauce, fish sauce and white pepper when you add the meat to the pan in the next step, and then add all the basil at once in the next step.)

2. While the meat is marinating, prepare the remaining ingredients. Place your wok over medium-high heat until “screamingly” hot. Turn heat down to medium and add oil to pan (be careful of splatters, since pan will be very hot). Add meat (including the sauce & basil from the marinade) and cook for about a minute, stirring. Add chiles and garlic, continuing to stir. Cook for another minute. Add eggplant chunks (if using) and remaining basil. Stir and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is cooked through and eggplant is cooked but not mushy. This won’t take long, about 5 minutes or so. It depends how hot your pan is.

3. Taste for seasoning. Add fish sauce and white pepper to taste, if necessary. At this point you can add a touch of chile paste, if using. I like it because it adds a slight vinegary tang as well as the spice, which helps balance out the dish.

4. Serve! I like to toss in some cooked wide rice noodles at the last minute and make it into a noodle dish (this time I used some beautiful yellow Turmeric rice noodles which I had in my cupboard). You can also serve it with rice or whatever you desire! To get some more veggies, I served some dark leafy greens (sauteed with coconut water, a touch of oyster sauce, and shredded dried coconut) along side. Garnish with 1 or 2 lime wedges, which you can squirt over top of the dish to taste, to add a little acid to balance out the saltiness and spice. Sprinkle green onion bits over, for a little bit of fresh, bright flavor.

Please excuse the blurry photo of the finished dish!!

Have you ever eaten Buffalo meat before? How did you have it? Did you enjoy it? If you’ve never tried it, I hope you will be inspired to do so – it’s super tasty and good for you!

A Romantic Dinner for One

While I love cooking for others and experiencing and sharing the pleasures of food with my friends and loved ones, I have realized that some of the best meals are those that I make just for me, to eat by myself. When cooking for me, I usually cook very simply, and can “get away” with eating all the things I am craving or don’t eat very often, even if they don’t technically go together or would never show up on a restaurant menu. This is not to say that my friends and family have demanding palates, but when I am cooking for even one other person I like to keep in mind their tastes, and what they may be in the mood for, as well as keeping things interesting by not cooking the same thing over and over again.

Now, as much as I love food and crave interesting new tastes and dining experiences, I find that the foods I crave regularly are fairly plain and not tremendously varied! A recurring theme when I treat myself to a solo meal is Mac and Cheese with sliced avocado, seasoned simply with garlic salt. Often I’ll have some sort of salad or veggie with it (favorites are Mache [lamb’s lettuce], corn on the cob, or artichoke) or top it with a boiled egg or two, but in general I keep things pretty simple. Yet sometimes, those meals are the ones I look forward to with the most anticipation! And I can eat the same thing (or a variation thereof) for days at a time when my boyfriend is out of town or for whatever reason I find myself solo for dinner.

I think my intense enjoyment of these meals is partly because I’m an introvert, and relish the opportunity to spend time with me, treat myself well, pamper myself with some of my favorite foods, and relax and curl up with a good TV show, book or magazine. It allows me to center myself, gather my thoughts, and have some selfish time thinking only of myself and what I want to eat and how I want to spend my evening.

Here is a picture of a recent Romantic Dinner for One (please excuse the grainy iPhone photo… I couldn’t wait too long to dig in):

I made two beautiful sunny side up organic eggs, with two pieces of toast made from homemade white bread (a post on that will be coming soon) – one slice with melted sharp Irish Cheddar cheese and the other with Marmite (see here and here to learn about Marmite). I plopped a handful of Mache (lamb’s lettuce) along side, and served with HP Sauce (another British item, learn more here), and an ice cold Boont Amber Ale. I lit some candles, turned on a food show, and dove in! I can safely say that that was one of the tastiest and most enjoyable meals I have had in a while.

Do you enjoy eating alone and cooking dinner for yourself? Why or why not, and what do you enjoy most?