Whenever we think of an appetizer, we limit ourselves to using quick-fixes like Bruschetta or Fritters, or Dips and Spreads. However, we ordered the Chile Relano at a Mexican restaurant as a side dish, and I instantly knew that this could be modified to become an appetizer using Bell peppers, and would fit with any party menu. I was excited to try the Stuffed Peppers recipe, and tough I make it often in the form of a curry called Bharwan Shimla Mirch, this time, I was aiming for a pretty yet filling appetizer recipe. [Photo courtesy of Rita Maas, via Woman’s Day.]
This recipe uses large green bell peppers, but you are free to use the yellow and red ones, as they are more nutritive, as well as add color to the table. We use a vegetarian filling, along with cheese ad some rice. But you can easily adapt it to include any meat combos if you want.
Another unique twist would be to use a combination of mashed potatoes, peas and paneer along with rice and cheese, and it would yield a brilliant recipe perfect for the Indian palate. For something more interesting, try using some cooked pasta, like macaroni as a filling, add an Italian sauce to the veggies in the skillet and you can have an Italian appetizer ready in no time!
Stuffed Peppers with Veggies Rice & Cheese
4 medium bell peppers, tops cut off just below stem, seeds removed
1 tsp oil
1⁄2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 small zucchini, diced
1 can (14 1⁄2 oz) whole tomatoes in thick purée
1⁄2 tsp Italian seasoning
3⁄4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 cups cooked white rice
1⁄2 cup shredded 4-cheese blend (or Mozzarella)
1⁄8 tsp pepper
Preparing the Peppers
Before baking the peppers, we need to prep them so they are steamed a little, without being over-cooked, so they can bake well in the oven. slice off a thin piece just from the top of the peppers to make a cavity. Remove the pith and seeds from inside, then place them cut side down in a Steamer or you can use a double boiler. I have also tried this in a microwave. Just add 1/2 cup water to a microwave-safe bowl, add the peppers and heat for about 5 minutes. Be sure to see that the peppers are not overcooked, just the outer skin should become a little soft. The rest of the baking should happen in the oven.
Prepare an 8-inch baking dish and keep ready.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté just until onion softens. Stir in zucchini, tomatoes, seasoning and 1⁄2 tsp salt. Break up the tomatoes to remove the juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the corn kernels.
Heat oven to 375°F. Stir rice and 1⁄4 cup cheese into the vegetable mixture in skillet. Place the peppers in the baking dish, and fill them with the veggie mixture, leaving 1/2 inch on the top. keep the remaining veggie mixture in the skillet – this will be used to make a sauce later. Cover with an aluminum foil and let it bake for about 15-20 minutes.
Once done, remove the foil, sprinkle the remaining cheese on the peppers, and use BROIL setting on your oven for another 2-3 minutes, until cheese melts, and the outer skin of the peppers starts to char.
Meanwhile, purée the reserved vegetable mixture in a food processor or blender. Pour into the skillet, add 3⁄4 cup water, 1⁄4 tsp salt and the pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Before serving, place the Stuffed Peppers in a dish, then drizzle the vegetable sauce all over and around it.
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