Quinoa-stuffed bell peppers

Time Total time: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Yields Serves 8
Quinoa-stuffed bell peppers
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Prepare the peppers: Cut off the tops of the bell peppers and set the tops aside. Remove the ribs and seeds from inside the peppers. Turn over on a wire rack to drain while preparing the filling.


Prepare the filling: In a large saucepan, add the quinoa to 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, the quinoa is translucent and the germ has spiraled out, 10 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, follow the cooking instructions on the package.) Remove from heat and set aside, covered, until just barely warm. Fluff with a fork.


To the quinoa, add the mint, cilantro and basil, chopped green onion, cinnamon, allspice, figs, dates, cranberries and pistachios or pine nuts and mix well with a fork. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper, or to taste. Stuff the peppers with the mixture and replace the lids.


Prepare the sauce: Pour the olive oil into a medium, heavy-bottom pot heated over high heat. Saute the onion until golden, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and saute until aromatic, a few seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, honey, remaining 1 3/4 cups water, red wine, basil, oregano, thyme and paprika. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and continue to cook till just thickened, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour one-third of the sauce in the bottom of a large, wide oven-proof baking dish or pan and snuggly place the peppers standing up inside (other vegetables, such as carrots, may be used around the sides of the pan to keep the peppers in place). Pour the remaining sauce around the peppers. Cover the pan with foil and bake until the peppers are tender and fragrant, 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours (the time will vary depending on the size and crispness of the peppers). If the sauce becomes too thick, thin it with a little boiling water.


Serve with roasted kale either sprinkled on the peppers or as a side dish.

Roasted kale


Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Wash and dry the kale, stem the leaves and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 2 inches each). Place the kale in a bowl and pour in the olive oil, making sure to coat all sides. Sprinkle with salt to taste.


Line a baking sheet with parchment and grease the paper lightly. Add the kale in one layer, and bake. Check for crispiness after 15 minutes. Continue to bake the kale until it reaches the crispiness you desire.

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