Cooking for friends or family members who do not share your tastes, or have special dietary restrictions, is one of my greatest challenges in the kitchen. My brother and his girlfriend are vegans (and I, pretty avowedly, am not). My husband’s still on that keto diet. And then there’s just general pickiness.
So cooking for the whole family can be trying, but it is in many ways like a math equation. What can I add here that will please everyone? What do I need to subtract to make the dish vegan friendly? What nondairy products can I add to my own pantry that I will actually use again?
This week’s recipe is a perfect example of those culinary acrobatics, inspired by a recent dinner with my brother and his girlfriend.
I started with the concept: stuffed peppers.
For the filling, I knew I wanted to make one with the oddly large amount of ground chicken I had in my freezer. (I think a plan to make chicken pot stickers was eschewed during my lower-carb summer.) But the rest could easily be vegan. And to bolster that option a bit: protein-packed quinoa. I would have happily eaten this version, were it not for the need to clear out that ground chicken.
It started, as all great recipes do, with finely chopped onion and garlic. To that I added some bell pepper and jalapeno, some corn kernels cut straight off the cob and a handful of slivered toasted almonds for some crunch. You could add almost any veggie that sounds good to you this time of year: zucchini, tomato, even eggplant. (Just make sure to chop up each ingredient into pretty small pieces.) Green onion, lots of salt and pepper and a swirl of sriracha add more flavor.
Just before stuffing the mixture into the peppers, I divided the veggies in half and stirred some goat cheese into the carnivore half, to help the ingredients hold together. You can leave this out if you’re not into cheese; for the vegans I added a bit of store-bought chipotle mayo. (Just Chipotle Mayo is a solid brand.)
A wide and sturdy bell pepper is best for stuffing, but I love the flavor of a poblano pepper, too. This recipe works great with either. After stuffing, cook until the skin of the peppers starts to wilt a bit.
Cooking the filling in the peppers helps retain some moisture, but I added another element to ensure that the dish doesn’t seem too dry: a creamy avocado sauce.
Stuffed Peppers With Avocado Crema
3 or 4 bell or poblano peppers
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 pound ground chicken
1 jalapeno, minced
Half of a yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 ear corn, kernels cut off the cob
½ cup slivered, toasted almonds
2 ounces goat cheese
For the Avocado Crema:
½ cup Greek yogurt, or sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Cut the tops off the peppers, then carefully remove the seeds and ribs from inside. Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Set aside.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a separate skillet over medium heat and coat it with olive oil. Add ground chicken, season with salt and pepper and break up with a spoon. Cook until thoroughly browned, at least 10 minutes.
To the skillet with onion and garlic, add jalapeno, bell pepper and corn. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, season with more salt and pepper and stir well. Cook for 7 minutes or so, until veggies are browned. Add almonds and goat cheese and stir. Turn off heat. Season with a squiggle of sriracha sauce, to taste.
When chicken is done, add to veggie mixture and gently stir to combine. Scoop mixture into prepared bell peppers, dividing it evenly among the peppers.
Roast stuffed peppers in the oven for 15 minutes. Check peppers; they are ready when the skin is wilted but not yet brown.
While the peppers roast, make the Avocado Crema: Cut avocado in half, then remove the pit and scoop flesh into a medium bowl. Add yogurt and lime juice, season with salt and pepper and stir well.
Serve peppers with Avocado Crema and a flurry of chopped fresh cilantro on top.
Make it vegan: Instead of mixing the veggie mixture with ground chicken, mix it with 1 cup cooked quinoa. Skip the goat cheese and instead of avocado crema, simply serve with sliced avocado and cilantro.
Serves 3 or 4.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times