Lentil Walnut Stuffed Peppers
Stuffing vegetables like sweet peppers, eggplant, and zucchini are very popular throughout the Mediterranean region. Hamburger, rice, breadcrumbs, eggs, and spice stuffed green peppers topped with ketchup is popular in our culture too. In Greece, they are often stuffed with lamb and rice. In the Basque region of Spain, piquillo peppers are stuffed with cod, chicken, or Manchego cheese. In Tunisia, bell peppers are stuffed with saffron, nutmeg and cardamom spiced lamb, and rice. So many variations worldwide must make these universally popular.
Here stuffed peppers are adapted to a tasty yet healthy plant-based version. Protein-rich lentils and walnuts replace the ground meat usually found in recipes. The addition of flaxseed meal with their omega-3 profile, whole-wheat breadcrumbs, and extra virgin olive oil add to the nutritional benefits. A Mediterranean glaze is a flavorsome replacement for ketchup.
½ cup dry brown lentils
1 cup vegetable broth, more broth or filtered water as needed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 yellow, red, or orange peppers, halved from stem to bottom, seeded
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cups onion, small diced
½ cup carrot, small diced
½ cup celery, small diced
½ teaspoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 cup walnuts, toasted, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
½ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or balsamic glaze
1. Rinse the lentils. * Bring the lentils, vegetable broth, and kosher salt to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about twenty to twenty-five minutes. May need to add more broth or water if they become dry. Drain in a colander and reserve.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. Place the six pepper halves cut side down on a Silpat or parchment paper lined sheet pan. Roast in the oven for twenty minutes until softened but still holding their shape. Remove from the oven and reserve at room temperature. Lower oven temperature to 350°F.
3. Heat the oil in a well-seasoned cast iron pan. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté until tender, about six to eight minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, sea salt, black pepper. Sauté for another minute or two until the garlic is cooked.
4. Combine the walnuts, flaxseed meal, and breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl. Add the lentils, vegetable, herb mixture and tomato paste. Mix until thoroughly combined. Taste, Think, Transform with more salt and/or pepper.
5. Distribute the mixture into the six pepper halves.
6. Mix the glaze tomato paste and pomegranate molasses together. Spoon and smooth a portion of the glaze over the top of each pepper.
7. Place in a baking dish in the preheated oven. Bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes until a paring knife inserted in the middle of the stuffing comes out hot. Serve hot.
*Optional: Toss the lentils with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and let stand for seven hours to make the lentils more digestible and nutrient-dense.