A healthy vegetarian take on stuffed peppers, these Stuffed Red Bell Peppers with Couscous and Avocado Sauce are full of flavor and a great make-ahead dish.
Stuffed bell peppers… there are the traditional recipes with meat, rice, and sauce, and then there are the more unique flavor combinations to spice things up and offer variety. These couscous-stuffed peppers fall into the latter category. Anything but boring and usual, they are packed with flavor!
When I first saw this recipe while flipping through one of my cookbooks I bookmarked it and added it to our weekly menu plan. The night before I planned to make these, I read through the recipe to see what was involved in preparing the peppers. Reading the ingredient list, I was suddenly skeptical about how all of the different flavors would combine, and I said so to Brad. But when I listed off the ingredients to him he said, “Those sound really good! Make them!” So I did, and we loved them. These stuffed peppers are definitely going on the make again list of recipes that I keep in my head, and here on the blog, of course. (One of the best benefits to having a food blog is that I keep all of my favorite recipes in one place. And I of course love sharing my recipe collection with you, too. 😉 )
To make these, you start by roasting the peppers, so that the outsides become charred (you will remove the char), and the peppers soften and develop wonderful flavor. I would have liked to use whole-wheat couscous but couldn’t find it at my closest grocery store, so I used regular couscous this time. These stuffed peppers can easily be made earlier in the day and then refrigerated until shortly before dinner time, when you pop them in the oven. Making them ahead is a great option, freeing up your time before dinner to entertain dinner guests, play with your kids, help with homework, read a magazine… whatever your life has in store for you that day.
Stuffed Red Bell Peppers with Couscous and Avocado Sauce
Makes 4 servings
For the peppers:
- 4 large red bell peppers
- ½ cup couscous (whole-wheat if possible)
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- Cooking spray
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large shallot, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 ½ tsp. dried oregano
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 10 pitted kalamata olives, chopped
- 1/3 cup raisins
- ¼ cup slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice (1 large lime)
- 3 tbsp. pure maple syrup
- 4 ounces grated white Cheddar cheese (1 cup), divided
For the avocado sauce:
- 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, and chopped
- 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice (from 2 large limes)
- 2 tbsp. water
- Pinch or two of kosher salt, to taste
- Make the peppers: Preheat a broiler. Lay peppers on a foil-lined heavy rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning the peppers every few minutes, until charred on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes. Place peppers in a zip-top plastic bag and let stand for 15 minutes.
- Remove peppers from the bag and gently scrape off the burnt skin, being careful not to tear the flesh. Using a paring knife, remove a ½-inch-wide strip from the side of each pepper to create an opening. Use a spoon to carefully remove the seeds from inside each pepper. Chop the removed strips of pepper into ½-inch pieces and reserve for the filling.
- In a small saucepan, bring ¾ cup water to a boil. Stir in the couscous and ¼ tsp. kosher salt; simmer over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Remove pan from the heat and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff couscous with a fork. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
- Heat the olive oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, garlic, oregano, ¼ tsp. kosher salt, and black pepper. Cook until the shallots are soft, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the couscous.
- To the bowl with the couscous and shallot mixture, add the reserved chopped bell pepper slices, olives, raisins, almonds, lime juice, maple syrup, and half of the cheese.
- Divide the filling among the peppers, packing it gently and mounding it at the top. Place peppers in the prepared dish, spacing slightly apart. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- Bake until the peppers are heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.*
- Make the avocado sauce: Meanwhile, combine avocado, lime juice, water, and salt in a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- To serve, spoon some of the avocado sauce on each plate and top with the peppers.
*If you make the peppers ahead and bake them straight from the refrigerator, cover them with foil, bake 15 minutes, uncover, and bake 5 to 10 minutes more until heated through.
Source: Slightly adapted from Giada’s Feel Good Food by Giada de Laurentiis.