December 31, 2008

Giada's Orzo Stuffed Peppers

Happy New Year's Eve!!!

We decided to have a relatively light, vegetarian meal tonight so we could indulge a little, after the boy goes to bed. We really don't like to leave the house on New Year's Eve, given all the amateur drunks and crazy people out and about. Also, given the high concentration of weirdos in our area that think it's really fun to expel random gun fire on this particular occasion, I really like to keep my dogs in the house. So we stay home. We like to celebrate quietly with a little something special. Tonight that something special is Trader Joe's Brie Fondue, Wilson Creek Almond Champagne (my favorite), and a competitive game of chance between the husband and I( that means either cards or a board game). I know, I know...we're wild.

So, our light vegetarian meal comes from one of my new favorite cookbooks, Giada's Kitchen. I am tickled pink that I got my very own copy for Christmas, and I hope to be trying a lot more recipes from it. This dish looks really yummy, and I am interested to try a meatless stuffed pepper. Traditionally, I have always had stuffed peppers with ground beef, so a vegetarian version will be a first for me. I am sure it will be good, because I have total faith in Giada!

Giada's Orzo Stuffed Peppers

1 (28-ounce) can Italian tomatoes
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
6 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and break apart using a pair of kitchen shears or your finger tips. Add the zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. The orzo should be only partially cooked. Use a fine mesh sieve to transfer the orzo to the large bowl with the other vegetables. Stir the orzo into the vegetable mix to combine. Transfer the warm chicken broth to a 3-quart baking dish.

Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all ribs and seeds. Cut a very thin slice from the base to help the peppers stand up.

Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth. Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top of each pepper with cheese and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully transfer the orzo stuffed pepper to a serving plate.

The Result:
This was freakin' delicious! It was the perfect light dinner. Not too filling and really flavorful. Plus, it was fairly healthy...which I love, because of the booze and cheesefest coming up later this evening!

I did have to make one small deviation from the recipe. The peppers I had were really long and skinny, so I had to modify the shape. Instead of cutting off the top, stuffing it, and standing it up, I just cut the peppers in half lengthwise. Instead of 4 standing peppers, I had 8 stuffed halves. Everything still came out perfectly done.
Surprisingly, my son ate a whole, half of a pepper by himself. I guess this dish gets the toddler seal of approval, as well. I am excited that I have three halves leftover for lunch tomorrow. Hooray! Also, I have filling leftover that I have already frozen to make this dish again. I think next time I make it, I am going to put either prosciutto over the top or some browned Italian sausage into the mix. I think if this was a normal night, where we were not having cocktails and an appetizer, I would want these peppers to be a little more substantial. Although, the vegetarian version was was not very filling as a main dish. That brings me to my next thought...for a side item, this would be really yummy, too. I totally recommend this recipe; Giada did not disappoint.

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