When I was looking through my pictures hanging out in my "to blog" folder yesterday, I realized that I have a lot more main dishes than baked goods in my queue. This surprised me a little because I typically consider myself more of a baker than a cook, but maybe I'm growing into cooking a little bit more. My husband surprised me yesterday by telling me that he thinks I'm a better cook than I give myself credit for, and I suppose he is right in a sense. I mean, we need to eat, but I suppose that we don't necessarily NEED the cookies, bars, and popcorn creations that I end up making =) I am a lot more comfortable cooking than I used to be, and our dinner plans for the past month since I've been back have been pretty solid.
Speaking of good dinners, these stuffed peppers definitely fit that bill. In fact, I think my husband has told me that these were awesome no less than 15 times since we've had them. It should be no surprise that the recipe originates from the editors of Cook's Illustrated in their book, The Best Light Recipe. I have not had a CI recipe fail me yet, but the one complaint I do have is that they seem to disregard where recipes land with respect to total fat, calories, sodium, etc. in a recipe. This book combines the CI taste and recipe testing with a healthy focus. Unfortunately, since it was a library find, I had to return it this week when someone else put in a request for it, but I am already looking forward to checking it out again!
When I was making these, I actually combined it with another CI recipe that I was making later in the week so that I could make the black beans for both recipes at the same time. The original pepper recipe in the book calls for a 14.5 ounce can of black beans. I am sure that canned black beans would work in a pinch, but I beg you to take the time to cook the dried beans as I am certain this is what took these peppers from good to phenomenal. Before these peppers, I had never used dried beans, and now I am going to have a hard time going back. It does take more time, but the results are worth it. One thing to note, the cook time on the beans is a little short since you will be cooking them longer in the oven. When I took my beans off the stove, they were soft enough to eat but not quite fully cooked. While al dente is a term reserved for pasta, that seems to be the appropriate description for these beans. I've looked up some other recipes for cooking black beans and cook times seem to range more in the 1-2 hour time frame, so you may want to keep that in mind if you are using them for a purpose where they should be fully cooked. Another thing that I wanted to note is that I had WAY more filling than ever would have fit into 4 peppers. I probably had enough filling for more like 6-7 peppers. We just saved the extra in the refrigerator and cooked up fresh peppers each time to enjoy the leftovers.
Either way with the beans, I would encourage you to make these peppers. I seem to have a thing with stuffed peppers as I have two other recipes here and here. They are all good, but if you are craving a taste of summer, give these a shot. Enjoy!
This is linked to Melt in Your Mouth Mondays
Stuffed Bell Peppers with Black Beans and Corn
Adapted from The Best Light Recipe by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Illustrated, March - April 2011
For the beans:
1 cup dry black beans, rinsed and picked over
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 large onion, halved at equator and peeled, root end left intact
1/2 head of garlic, halved at equator with skin left intact
2 bay leaves
For the peppers:
4-6 medium red, yellow, or orange bell peppers (6 oz each), 1/2-inch trimmed off tops, stemmed and seeded
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed and minced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
6 ounces Pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 1-1/4 cup)
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
ground black pepper
Dissolve 1-1/2 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water in a large bowl. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
In a large Dutch oven or stockpot with a tight fitting lid, stir together drained beans, broth, water, pepper half, onion half with the root end, halved garlic head, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until beans are just soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard the pepper, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Drain beans in colander.
For the peppers, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the bell peppers. Cook until the peppers just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water, and place the peppers cut-side up on paper towels. Return the water to a boil, stir in the rice, and boil unit tender, about 13 minutes. Drain the rice and transfer it to a large bowl; set aside.
Meanwhile, combine the oil, onion, jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the onion is softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, black beans, and corn and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the rice. Stir in 1 cup Pepper jack cheese and the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place the peppers cut-side up in a 9-inch square baking dish. Divide the filling evenly among the peppers, packing the filling lightly. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining shredded Pepper jack cheese. Bake until the filling is heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
The filling mixture will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days. To prepare new peppers, boil the peppers for 3 minutes as directed. Fill with the extra filling and sprinkle with cheese if desired. Bake, as directed, for 30 minutes until the filling is hot.
Yield: 4-6 servings