(WASHINGTON POST) - Stuffed peppers have a homey, old-world appeal but with a healthful update that makes them an even better fit on today's table.
They are built on the same tried-and-true foundation of sweet bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of seasoned meat and grains, baked in a tomato-y sauce. But they have more colour, nutrition and fresher flavour because brightly hued (more vitamin C-rich) red, yellow and/or orange peppers are used instead of green, and generous helpings of chopped spinach and fresh herbs enliven the stuffing.
Also, rather than ground beef and white rice, like my grandma used, these stuffed peppers are made with leaner ground turkey and more-nutrient-packed quinoa.
To get the peppers to the right relaxed softness without overcooking the filling, you give them a head start in the baking dish and then let them cool as you prepare the rest of the ingredients. The result is a complete family-friendly meal that my grandma would definitely approve of.
Tip: It's helpful to have an instant-read thermometer for this recipe.
Assembled, unbaked peppers can be covered and refrigerated up to two days in advance.
4 medium bell peppers (red, yellow, orange or a mix) (about 170g each)
One 411g can diced, no-salt-added tomatoes, strained, juices reserved
One 283g package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, with excess moisture squeezed out
1/2 cup minced onion (from 1/2 medium onion)
3/4 cup cooked quinoa (from 1/4 cup uncooked)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsps chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
2 tsps chopped fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 3/4 tsp dried thyme)
3/4 tsp sea salt, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
450g ground turkey (92 or 93 per cent lean)
One 425g can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
2. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove their cores and ribs. Place them cut side up into a 22-by-33cms baking dish. Cover the dish with aluminum foil; bake for 20 minutes, until the peppers are slightly softened, then remove from the oven, uncover and let cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, spinach, onion, quinoa, egg, the 2 Tbsps of parsley, the thyme, 1/2 tsp of the salt and 1/4 tsp of the pepper in a mixing bowl until incorporated. Add the turkey and mix with your hands until just combined.
4. Stir together the reserved juice from the tomatoes, the tomato sauce, the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt and the remaining 1/4 tsp of pepper in a medium bowl to form a thick sauce.
5. Fill the pepper halves with the turkey-quinoa mixture, then spoon some of the tomato sauce mixture over the peppers; pour the rest on the bottom of the dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the filling reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
6. Serve with some of the sauce (from the baking dish) spooned on top. Garnish with a little extra parsley.
Serves four to six.