Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vegetable and Ricotta Stuffed Pepper Boats

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Until a few years ago, I just couldn't stand peppers. At all.  They were one of the few vegetables that just didn't work for me. I tried to love them. After all, they were so very very pretty. I'd try them every year or so when I saw some lovely slices on someone's vegetable tray. And every year I thought, "Nope, still not working for me." It got to the point where I thought they were destined to be picked off of my supreme pizzas forever. And then one summer, it happened. We were at a friend's house, she had a plate of red, yellow, and green pepper slices. I was starving. I pulled off a red, gave it a bit of dip. It was sweet--sweeter than I remembered. I had another and another. I tried a yellow. Soon enough I was porking out on them dip-free and I was eager to get more. I started buying them after that--just occasionally when I was in the mood. And then, one day, they made their way into my garden. There's no going back after that. It's too much work not to love them. (I'm feeling a marriage analogy coming on, but I'll try to limit my marriage analogies to my discussions involving brownies, and maybe cookies.)

I still love the reds best. And although the greens and I have made peace, we're still not, like, BFF. Not this year at least.

This summer I've been using my lunches to try to work my way through some of summer's bounties. In the midst of eating my way through a large zucchini and more than a windowsill full of garden tomatoes, my friend gave me some of the prettiest banana peppers ever--some were still pale, some had turned orange, and some were red enough for party lipstick. Would that we all aged as well as peppers do.

So I made stuffed peppers. Only these couldn't possibly stand upright, so I laid them down and made pepper boats. I know; I know; I'm completely brilliant. I just can't help myself sometimes.

Seriously, though, there are several advantages to the banana boats as opposed to the average stuffed pepper:

1) They take less time in the oven because they're skinnier.
2) They're less messy to cut up and eat.
3) When you sprinkle cheese on the top, you have more surface area for more cheese. I ask you, do you need more reason than this? I don't.

Vegetable and Ricotta Stuffed Pepper Boats
Makes 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: Guys I'm struggling here as most of my vegetables have been free, so this is a bit of a guess: $1.57
(zucchini: .15, tomato: .35, onion: .02, peppers: no idea really; I've honestly never purchased them; let's say: .40, ricotta: .50, feta: ..15)

Note: One of the great things about stuffed peppers is that you can substitute whatever you have. (In fact, I kept mis-typing this to read 'stuff peppers' which can be uncannily accurate.) You can use whatever fresh veggies you've got. You can sub cottage cheese for the ricotta. You can sprinkle it with any cheese that milks your cow (although I like something with some punch like sharp cheddar, Parmesan/Romano/Asiago, or feta). You can use couscous, rice, or quinoa in place of some or all of the ricotta. You can add bacon or sausage or ground beef if you wish to de-vegetarian this. Bread crumbs, sure. Paprika on top, why not? Hot peppers instead of banana; you're brave, but go for it. And, yes, you can even use just a regular old bell pepper. The point is that, if you like peppers, these babies are tough to mess up. They're even tough to uglify. Who doesn't love that in a food?

Another Note: I prepare the filling and just make one pepper at a time for lunch. So I make my pepper and then I put the leftover filling in the fridge so I can use it the next day to stuff another pepper for lunch.

One final note: While I'm preparing the filling I like to throw the (de-stemmed, de-seeded) pepper I'm going to use into the oven while the oven heats and while I prepare the filling on the stove. This way it cooks a bit before I put the fillings in and the whole thing cooks a bit faster.

Okay, this is really really the final note: It is possible you could skip sauteing the vegetables and just mix everything up, stuff the pepper, and then cook it a little longer in the oven. I think it goes faster with the stove to oven method, but if you've got plenty of wait time for things to cook and less hands-on time to be standing at a stove, this might be a great option for you. I've got to warn you, though, that I haven't tried it. If you do and it works as well as I think it would, let me know, would you?

4 banana or other long peppers
1/2 C diced zucchini
1/8-1/4 C sliced onion
1 tomato, diced
1 C ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Lay your peppers down and cut a generous sliver our of the side facing up. (Leave the stem in tact so your filling doesn't leak out.) Cut out the seeds and any ribs that are in your way.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a frying pan. Add zucchini and onion to hot oil and saute until the onions are clear and tender. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cook another minute more until tomatoes are warm.

Put this vegetable mixture into a bowl. Add ricotta. Taste and adjust your seasonings. Stuff the peppers and sprinkle with feta cheese.

Bake in oven at 400 for 10-15 minutes.


No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...