Our family brunch this weekend was delightful but that doesn't mean it took us hours to prepare it. I had ready-made blueberry blossoms (individual free-form fruit pies) that I had stored in the freezer, so my only additions were a quiche and quinoa stuffed bell peppers on a bed of roasted bell pepper coulis.
I especially loved preparing the quinoa dish. It was colorful, flavorful and nutritious. I cooked the quinoa slightly longer till it became slightly clumpy, so when I seasoned it with a basil vinaigrette, sun-dried tomatoes and blue goat cheese, the quinoa mixture was easy to fill into the bell pepper "cups". The bell pepper sauce added brightness, thanks to the addition of tomato paste and freshly squeezed lemon juice, and contrasted really well with the sharpness and pungency of the cheese.
Servings: 8 servings
1 cup quinoa
1 (14-ounce) can vegetable broth, + ½ cup for the sauce
8 raw bell peppers (any color)
8 ounces blue goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
½ cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 roasted red bell peppers (see tips), chopped
2 tablespoons white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper, freshly ground
Pour the vegetable broth into a saucepan. Add the quinoa and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes, until the liquid evaporates. Fluff the quinoa with a fork. It should be on the soft side. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Cover and let cool to room temperature.
Prepping the bell pepper "cups":
Stem the bell peppers using a paring knife. Remove the stem "hat" and hollow the cavity, discarding the seeds. Trim the bottom so the "cups" are stable. Set aside.
For the vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, combine the mustard, honey, half the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons basil and 3 tablespoon olive oil. Whisk well, season with salt and pepper.
Seasoning the quinoa:
Once the quinoa is at room temperature, add the sun-dried tomatoes, then season it with 4-5 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, adding as much basil as possible. Sprinkle with the goat cheese. Toss well and set aside.
For the roasted bell pepper coulis:
In a small pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Cook the onions. Once slightly golden, add the remaining basil, chopped roasted bell pepper, tomato paste, the reserved vegetable broth and the remainder of the vinaigrette. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes, then transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth. Pass through a sieve and discard any solids.
Using a small spoon, stuff each bell pepper cup with the quinoa mixture. Spoon a few tablespoons of the roasted bell pepper coulis on to your serving platter and top with the bell pepper cups. Serve at room temperature.
If you don't have quinoa, you could use semolina (coarsely-ground durum wheat), bulgur (wheat grains that are partly cooked), regular couscous (tiny pasta made from semolina), Israeli couscous, farro or even cooked pasta such as orzo.
For easier assembly, you could serve this dish as a quinoa salad and incorporate coarsely chopped bell pepper.
For a vegan version, simply omit the goat cheese.
I bought blue goat cheese at a local market. Cayuga Blue or Bleuet Goat cheese are great choices of blue cheeses. They have subtle, briny taste and earthy flavor.
You could replace the bell pepper "cups" with any vegetable that you can hollow, such as zucchini or mushrooms.
Little reminder on how to roast bell peppers: Wash the bell peppers and pat dry. Place them on the grill of a stove burner and char all the skin. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Wash under running water and the skin will come right off. Seed and coarsely chop, drizzle with oil and season with salt; set aside until needed.