Stuffed Peppers are a dish found in different forms, and with different names all around the world. Here in the good old USA, they are typically stuffed with a ground beef rice mixture with a tomato base. Recipes are all different, but most involve removing the seeds and membranes from the pepper, then boiling them, stuffing them, and baking them again, covered with cheese…….and they are great!
So, how do you improve on a good thing …….you make it better…….Autumn Couscous Stuffed Peppers!
We had a bumper crop of green peppers at the end of the gardening season……..beautiful shiny green and really large. They begged to be made into stuffed peppers.
Now, I suppose I could have made my good old Betty Crocker Cookbook recipe, but with the leaves changing and that smell of autumn in the air, why not try something……. autumny.
I’m am a huge fan of pearl couscous, and am lucky that our grocery store carries it in the frozen section……yeah! But for this recipe if you don’t have that luxury or you can’t find the pearl type, the regular kind will work just as well. The couscous was my sub for rice.
For veggies, I picked flavors I associate with fall……..fennel,squash,cranberries,and sage…….they blended with the couscous beautifully. Cooking all of it with chicken broth (if you want a total vegetarian dish you can use vegetable broth) and a touch of apple cider vinegar, gave it all a nice glazed quality.
Now, that whole boiling the pepper thing……..not so much. It makes them mushy in my opinion, and there is really no need to go to all that trouble. Just stuff them, and cover them with foil, it steams them instead.
Since the “stuffing” was not saucy, it needed a sauce…….my new favorite sauce…….Creamy Cauliflower Sauce. The only change I made was to use shallot instead of garlic. It was sooooo yummy over these Autumn Couscous Stuffed Peppers. I keep trying to think of ways to use this tasty sauce!
When I started this dish, it was not my intent to make it vegetarian, it just sorta happened. Lucky for all you vegetarians out there…..wait a minute, also lucky for those who are not………and if you are not, maybe after you try this dish you will be……….
Heat coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the shallot and cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Add diced fennel and cook for another 5 minutes or until fennel softens. Add butternut squash, sage, cranberries, chicken broth, and cider vinegar and cook for 15 minutes or until butternut squash has softened and almost all of the liquid has cooked down. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Add couscous and pine nut to the mixture in the skillet. Stir to combine.
In a baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, place the green pepper halves. Stuff the peppers with the the couscous mixture. Cover with tin foil and bake in a 375* oven for 30-35 minutes.
To serve,place one pepper half on plate or in a shallow bowl and top with Creamy Cauliflower Sauce and garnish with chopped sage leaves if desired.
Pre time does not include making the Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
We had company this past Sunday. Our niece Linzy brought her beautiful daughter Lily to meet us. She is a sweet and precious little girl. We had a great time with her and look forward to seeing her again.They will be here all summer and her brother Jayden will be joining them soon…….the lucky ducks live in Hawaii, but are here for the summer.
We invited them for lunch, so it was an opportune time to try out a new recipe. I have been wanting to make a Middle Eastern dish for some time. Since it was lunch, I thought a sandwich or a wrap would be nice. I decided on a wrap. I used Naan bread, if you haven’t tried it you really should, it’s like pita bread, but It has a softer texture and it’s a bit bigger than a pita. Being softer allows you to fold it much easier, and of course you can add a bit more filling.
Chicken is always a safe bet, because after all who doesn’t like chicken? Marinating the chicken in a spicy yogurt mixture made it flavorful and juicy. The couscous was an added flavor layer using olives, pistachios, sun dried tomatoes, a bit of spinach, some cilantro and pomegranate. I did cheat with the couscous, it comes frozen at my local grocery store, so all I had to do was heat it up in the microwave and add it to the other ingredients. Also it is the pearl couscous which I happen to like better………it’s something about the texture.
Tahini………I have never used or tasted it before, but in all my research about Middle Eastern cuisine it gets mentioned…….a lot. I added lemon juice, garlic,olive oil, and a bit of yogurt, I thought it would add a creamy texture…….not so much, but it still had a really good flavor.
The best thing was, that I was able to prepare it all ahead of time, and just reheat everything and warm the Naan bread, and lunch was served. I let everyone assemble their own, having extra, cilantro, pistachios, and pomegranate to top, and goat cheese if you wished. Truth is I forgot the goat cheese,being so excited about baby Lily. Next time I will remember as I think it would add one more great tasting element.
We all enjoyed the Middle Eastern Chicken Couscous Wrap and I was glad my test subjects enjoyed the visit and the meal!
I will plan another get together soon and see what other ethnic meal I can try……….hmmmmm.
1 pound boneless skinless chicken, sliced into strips
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bag frozen pearl couscous, cooked
1 cup spinach, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced, reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the oil
1/3 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1/3 cup roasted shelled pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons pomegranate arils
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon greek yogurt
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste
4–8 pieces of Naan bread for serving
Goat cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped pistachios and pomegranate arils for garnish
To marinate the chicken. In a medium bowl combine the olive oil, greek, yogurt, ginger, garlic, pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, cayenne and cinnamon. Add the chicken and toss well. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
To make the couscous. Cook according to package directions. Stir in the spinach, honey, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and sundries tomato oil, pistachios, cilantro salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm. Just before serving stir in the pomegranate arils.
To make the Tahini Sauce. In a small bowl whisk together the tahini, olive oil, garlic, greek yogurt, lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
Heat a large skillet over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. When hot remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off just a little of the excess. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 4-6 minutes or until cooked through.
To assemble the wraps, warm the Naan bread,spread a little of the tahini sauce down the center of the warmed naan. Add the couscous and chicken and then top with crumbled goat cheese. Garnish with chopped cilantro, more pistachios and pomegranate arils.
Everything can be prepared ahead of time and warmed just prior to serving.