Bell Peppers … Beyond Sardines! In Portugal, bell peppers are inevitably green, roasted and twinned to grilled sardines. They aren’t used much besides that, curiously. And they have a reputation for being of difficult digestion, which further discourages their consumption.
I wasn’t very interested in them until I started reading international cookbooks. Peppers were appearing in other colors than green and in completely different situations from the roasted pepper salad – which I love, by the way, much more than the sardines themselves.
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My (almost) fanaticism for healthy eating has led me to explore peppers more closely. After all, their vitamin A and vitamin C content is a strong enough motivation.
About being indigestible … it’s true that it requires habit. The first few times I ate peppers I would spend an entire afternoon being reminded of the fact, but it passed with time.
It also helps that I don’t swallow my meals without chewing thoroughly. In that aspect, I was a pioneer of “Mindfulness” – small amounts on my fork and 30 chews at least
But How Do I Cook Them?
The taste is strong and tends to overlap the rest of the dish. Therefore, you have to choose the right moment and pairing to eat bell peppers.
In my (modest) opinion, peppers are fantastic for a vegetarian meal, where their dominance is welcome, in a universe of softer flavors.
I also think they can get along with fish, even beyond the dear sardines (hmmm, now I’m missing them …). I don’t usually eat peppers in a meal with meat, I’m not sure why.
Given I have an infinite respect for the risks associated with using the stove, I don’t burn peppers directly on the flame, as you would for the sardine salad. I use the oven where the peppers also find a nice smooth consistency, along with a sweeter and softer hint of smoke than if they were roasted on the stove.
When I just want to bake the peppers, either alone or as part of a mixed vegetable bake, I’ll do it like this:
Preheat the oven to 180º C.
Wash the peppers and dry them. I cut them in half, I take out the inside “stem”, all the seeds and some whitish parts that they may have (it’s not very photogenic). At this point, I choose whether I want it in strips or cubes and cut them.
I place them on a lined tray, season with salt, pepper, and some herbs – it can be thyme, oregano or even the “herbes de Provence” blend. Spray with olive oil or melted coconut oil.
I bake them in the oven for 30 minutes, shaking them midway through so they won’t stick.
Bell Peppers Are Perfect Bowls Of Stuff!
And that’s what I did this week.
You often see vegetables stuffed with minced meat. That wasn’t what I wanted.
I wanted to find a recipe that would make them a complete healthy meal and, if possible, vegetarian. Or even vegan, that I’m not one to half-do things.
The starting point was a Deliciously Ella recipe, from the book Deliciously Ella Everyday, of stuffed peppers with mushrooms.
With my usual adaptations, of course: I slightly altered the seasoning of the mushrooms, lengthened the cooking times of both the mushrooms and the peppers, to make them softer and added minced kale, or as we call it “Caldo Verde”!
Yeah, weird, right? Not at all … I often cook kale minced as “Caldo Verde” and sauté it. This vegetable is also a real “superfood” in terms of vitamins A and C and the calcium it contains.
And I always need some green on my plate. I had a bag of freshly cut “Caldo Verde” in the fridge and I couldn’t resist trying it.
That trend of covering stuffed vegetables with a thick layer of cheese doesn’t work for me. I think it’s absurd. So, I took Ella’s suggestion, using tahini in the dressing and amplified the idea a bit, to make the filling stickier.
I confess that using tahini makes the food look a bit muddy but what I lost in appearance I gained in flavor.
I made a meal of the peppers, accompanied by a simple salad.
Peppers Stuffed With Mushrooms And “Caldo Verde”
For two people
- 2 peppers – I used red and yellow because they are beautiful
- 12 mushrooms – I used the chestnut kind
- 1 cup kale cut in “Caldo Verde” style – very thin slices
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 shallow tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 20 g of pine nuts or sunflower seeds (you can toast them slightly if you want)
Heat the oven to 180º C.
Wash the peppers well, dry and cut them in half. Remove the stem, the seeds and some of the white fiber inside.
Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bake for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, clean the mushrooms (I wash and dry them …) and cut them into about 1 cm thick pieces. Also, wash the kale and drain well. Peel and chop the garlic cloves.
Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet that you can cover. Sauté the garlic for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté for another 3 minutes, stirring to incorporate the garlic flavor.
Add the kale. Stir gently to spread the cabbage through the mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Mix the lemon juice with the tahini and stir to incorporate. Lay it on top of the already cooked mushrooms and cabbage and give it a stir to make sure everything is well mixed.
Stuff the half-baked peppers with the mushroom mixture. Spread the pine nuts or sunflower seeds over the stuffed peppers and bake for another 15 minutes.
After you take them out of the oven, you can season the whole dish with the remaining extra virgin olive oil and, if you wish, another spray of lemon juice.
So, tell me, are you going to try it?
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