Weeknight recipe: Leftover-stuffed pepper(s)


As mentioned previously, I grew up (and spent the last two summers) with a more or less continually refreshed giant container of brown rice in the fridge, which formed the basis of many meals. Okay, sometimes it was pasta, but usually it was rice, and sometimes your dinner arrangements need a little fancying up. Thus, even though my leftover brown rice paella is really delicious and I don’t feel the need to change it (except for slicing in a few small tomatoes or half a bell pepper before microwaving), I thought I’d try stuffing some inside half a bell pepper, just to see how it went. After all, the composition of my paella isn’t so very different from my Greek-style stuffed pepper filling from this summer. Since everything except the pepper was already cooked to start with, I decided to pre-cook my pepper half in the microwave for a few minutes while the oven pre-heated, then scoop some paella inside, top with grated cheese, and stick it in the oven while I ate the other pepper half dipped in mustard. (…I like strong flavors, okay?) I only filled one half, but two halves might be a more appropriate serving size, so adjust the amount of filling you’ll need accordingly.

Half to snack on now, half to stuff later!
Half to snack on now, half to stuff later!

The results: pretty good! I mean, it would have been hard to go wrong with paella (I swear I’m not trying to brag about my mad cooking skillz, I just happen to like what I cooked last Sunday), a fresh bell pepper, and cheese. It had  flavor of the freshly-cooked dish with the added bonus of a slightly crispy top from baking. I felt a bit silly sticking things in the oven that I had just microwaved, and that I had eaten straight out of the microwave all week, but the wonderful browning and slight dehydration that happened because of the oven time made it all worth it. It also looks/feels a bit fancier than microwaved leftovers, so if you have a ton of appropriate leftovers in the fridge but want to have a few friends over, these plus a simple salad and ice cream or cookies for dessert would make an easy dinner party menu.

Stuffed, topped with cheese, and ready to go on a sizzling hot baking sheet.
Stuffed, topped with cheese, and ready to go on a sizzling hot baking sheet.

Speaking of “appropriate leftovers”, I imagine this would work pretty well with any kind of rice-based dish, or a combination of leftover cooked rice and chopped up cooked vegetables with some kind of sauce. Mixing together some Asian stir-fry or curry with rice and stuffing the pepper with that could be pretty fantastic…though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend topping it with cheese in that case! Just make sure there isn’t anything that would react badly to drying out a bit, like fish or tough cuts of meat. If you’re worried about the filling drying out, you can stir some thinned tomato paste, lemon juice, wine, stock, or other flavorful liquid into your filling before stuffing the pepper.

My cheese browned, but didn't really melt properly  (probably because of its relatively low fat content and the small grater I used). Still delicious.
My cheese browned, but didn’t really melt properly (probably because of its relatively low fat content and the small grater I used). Still delicious.

Leftover-Stuffed Pepper(s)

Adapted from my Greek-style stuffed peppers recipe.

Yield: 1 serving (easily scaled up).

Olive oil for the pan
1 bell pepper, any color
1-1.5 c mixed leftover vegetables, meat and rice
Parmesan or other cuisine-appropriate cheese, grated

Get out your leftovers out of the fridge so they can start warming to room temperature. (Ideally, put an appropriate amount in a bowl and stick the rest back in the fridge.) Set oven rack in middle of oven. Lightly oil a baking sheet or other oven-safe pan/tray to prevent sticking. Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C with baking sheet inside (tried it based on this post from The Kitchn).

Remove the stem and seeds from the bell pepper. Cut it approximately in half so that it will (a) hold your desired amount of filling and (b) sit cut-side up on the baking sheet. (I generally prefer cutting top-to-bottom, but sometimes they will sit better in the pan if you just cut the top off and stand it up like a bowl. You do you.) Remove ribs. Microwave pepper on the medium-high setting for 1-2 minutes at a time, until slightly soft (mine took 3 minutes).

If your leftovers aren’t mixed up already, mix them. If your filling is still really cold at this point, microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly warm. Stuff the pepper with the mixed leftovers and top with grated cheese. Place on hot baking sheet and stick it in the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned and pepper is soft and skin is wrinkly.

Serving suggestion: any way you like it! I had mine with a mug of tea.

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