Wednesday, September 26, 2007

couscous and feta-stuffed peppers

couscous and feta-stuffed peppers

I spent six hours on a train yesterday to and from my old stomping grounds, Washington D.C. I lived there for six years and haven’t been back in just as many, so you can imagine how crazy it was to only see twenty minutes of it, from a cab. With every turn, I jumped, remembering how we used to hang out legs out from that window above Dupont Circle over the sign for what used to be a hair salon, or that turn that always unnerved me to make from California to Connecticut and that block on Massachusetts Avenue not far from NPR where a hooker once flashed me everything as I gripped the steering wheel and willed the light to turn green already, PLEASE.

It was like confetti flitting around in a fan, all these pieces I had entirely forgotten about, like sanitized subways and the escalator at the zoo that is no less than a mile long, but others I couldn’t stitch together before we waded through the traffic to the next block. There are people who always remember things badly–high school, that terrible layover where we tried to fix our hangover in an airport bar, some years in a city others couldn’t wait to leave–but its all rose-colored glasses for me. Things are always best the way I remember them, which sometimes comes in handy when I’m in a pissy mood, or you know, trying to figure out what to eat for dinner.

zucchini and summer squashcherry tomatoeschickpeassaute

We loved these stuffed red peppers when I made them last year, and like my last recipe refresh, all of these foods are actually around in the farmers markets right now, unlike the first time around. Alex picked up these mega-huge red peppers (hoping I’d pickle them again but, no, haha) on Friday, and they were screaming to be stuffed. Unlike the last time I made these stuffed peppers with couscous, summer squash, cherry tomatoes and feta, I only had a smidgen of filling leftover, leading me to suggest that if you make this and you only have regularly-sized bell peppers, you’ll probably want five instead of four. I also used a commenters suggestion to prebake the pepper shells rather than boiling a big pot of water. It was a great suggestion, and saved at least one dish. Although I didn’t do this, it also occurred to me that this would be really delicious with some uncased, broken-up sausage sautéed in with the vegetables. Either way, it was exactly as delicious, filling and wholesome as we remembered it, and very much a one-serving meal.

Lastly, I think one of the greatest things about this dish is that it reheats really well, so if it is just the two of you, you automatically cook two dinners instead of one, which is quite brilliant if you’re going to be out of town all day and itching for a home-cooked meal when you get back. It works even better if you eat it, and not, say, a brownie for dinner instead when you get home at 9:30 p.m. But let’s not get crazy, okay?


One year ago: Fougasse Provencale and Rustic White Bread

Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from Epicurious

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1 1/4 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth
2/3 cup couscous
4 extra-large or 5 large bell peppers, mixed colors
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 oz zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced across thinly
6 oz yellow squash, quartered lengthwise then sliced across thinly
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
15 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz crumbled feta cheese (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons tomato paste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray. Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan, add the couscous, cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Cut the stems and top half inch off the bell peppers and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Place peppers upright in a baking dish and roast them for 15 minutes or so, until they soften, then remove them from the oven until the filling is ready. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onion, zucchini, yellow squash, fennel seeds, oregano, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas and tomato paste. Using a fork, scrape the couscous into the skillet and toss with the vegetables. Stir in the crumbled feta. Fill peppers with the couscous mixture. Bake 15 minutes. Serve immediately.


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