Mix-and-match stuffed veggies

July 5, 2012

Somewhere along the way, stuffed bell peppers and zucchini became more like bad eggplant parmesan and less like roasted veggies. Let’s correct that, shall we?

The best part about stuffed vegetables is that they’re perfect for improvisation (even for a recipe-follower like me). Don’t have any tomatoes? Toss in some corn instead. Have some leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge? Toss that in there too. And if you don’t have any vegetables for stuffing, you can just throw everything into a Pyrex dish and bake until bubbly.

Step 1: Choose a container

  • Bell peppers. I usually serve this as a main course, so I do one pepper per person. Yellow, orange and red peppers are all great. Green ones are fine in a pinch.
  • Zucchini. Ever wondered what to do with those gigantic summer zucchini? Now you know.
  • An 8×8 casserole dish

For bell peppers, slice them in half lengthwise (through the stem) and remove veins and seeds.

For zucchini, leave the peels on and slice them in half lengthwise. Using a melon baller or a spoon, scoop out the centers, leaving about 1/4″ on the edges and bottom. (For a great visual tutorial, see this post.) Set the centers aside; you’ll need them later.

For both bell peppers and zucchini, preheat an outdoor grill or preheat your oven to 375°. Brush veggies lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (or herbed salt, which is what I started using recently and LOVE). Bake (cut side up) or grill (cut side down) for 5 minutes or so, until they start to look tender inside.

For the casserole dish, preheat your oven to 375° and spray your dish with a little nonstick spray.

Step 2: Choose your fillings

First of all, you’re going to need cheese. I usually use the Tillamook Italian cheese blend, but just about anything works. Use what you have on hand, and plan on around 1/4 cup per zucchini or pepper.

Now, pick a few vegetables, and dice them all the same size:

  • Grape tomatoes (or any other kind of tomato, but if you use big ones, you’ll want to seed them first)
  • Zucchini. If you’re stuffing zucchini, dice up the centers that you scooped out. If you’re stuffing something else, peel and dice a medium-size zucchini.
  • Onion. Red is my favorite, but use what you like.
  • Corn (frozen or canned, or fresh if you have it)
  • Diced green chilis
  • Bell pepper. If you’re stuffing bell peppers, I wouldn’t put extra peppers inside, but if you’re stuffing something else, it’s tasty.

Optionally, include a starch or two. I only include these if I’m doing a casserole, but more traditional stuffed peppers always have rice in ‘em:

  • Brown rice (Trader Joe’s frozen rice is perfect for this), cooked
  • Black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Breadcrumbs (I find these unnecessary, but they can help hold things together; plan on 1 tsp. per zucchini or pepper)

Next, choose a meat — or don’t, if you’re going meatless:

  • Turkey sausage, browned
  • Lean ground beef, browned
  • Shredded chicken

And last, choose your seasonings and sauces:

  • Pesto
  • Fresh basil or other herbs
  • Garlic
  • Seasoned salt
  • Sour cream or plain greek yogurt (not recommended for zucchini)
  • Salsa (not recommended for zucchini)

Step 3: Assembly

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. It’s time to cook your veggies! You want them to be just tender, since they’re still going into the oven to hang out for awhile. I start with the onion, letting it cook for 3-4 minutes, and then I add the garlic, cooking for no more than a minute. Then comes the zucchini, green chilis and/or bell pepper; cook for a few more minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in tomatoes, corn, pesto and/or fresh herbs. Also sprinkle in some seasoned salt and pepper. Add breadcrumbs and/or sauces, if using.

Add your cooked meat and/or starch(es) to the pan; stir to combine. Stir in cheese. Divide filling evenly between vegetable halves, or transfer to baking dish.

For the zucchini, place on the grill, close the lid, and cook for around 6 minutes or until tender. If you’re baking them in the oven, they’ll likely take a couple extra minutes.

For bell peppers, place on the grill, close the lid, and cook for 12-15 minutes or until tender. If you’re baking them in the oven, they’ll take closer to 20 minutes — or longer, if you prefer softer peppers.

For the casserole, bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly.

Favorite flavors

To get your brainstorming started, some of my best-loved combinations — a fresh and summery combo, for zucchini or bell peppers:

  • Red onion
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey sausage
  • Fresh basil
  • Garlic
  • Herbed salt
  • Italian cheese blend

For a Tex/Mex inspired bell pepper:

  • Brown rice
  • Red onion
  • Corn
  • Green chilies
  • Ground beef
  • Monterey jack or pepper jack
  • Optional: combine one part salsa with two parts sour cream or greek yogurt and spoon/pour over peppers before popping them in the oven

For a quick casserole (that happens to use up leftover odds and ends from other meals):

  • Brown rice
  • Onion (whatever you have leftover from last night’s dinner; scallions are great)
  • Bell pepper
  • Fresh herbs
  • Leftover shredded chicken
  • Italian or Mexican cheese blend

For a casserole that tastes like a baked Chipotle burrito bowl:

  • Brown rice
  • Black beans
  • Corn
  • Green chilies
  • Shredded chicken
  • Cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend
  • Sour cream (or greek yogurt) and salsa
  • Fresh cilantro, avocado, and tortilla chips, for garnish

Filed under:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>