The filling for these peppers is savory and nutty, both hearty and surprisingly delicate. The mushrooms add meatiness, so the dish can be used as a satisfying vegetarian entree or as a side for roasted meat. Use a high-quality aged (sharp) cheddar and shred it finely to distribute its flavor. Also, go easy on the salt. The broth and the cheese may be salty and it is hard to predict how much additional seasoning you’ll need. You may make these peppers up to a day ahead, and they reheat well in both the oven and microwave. (The peppers become softer, which some people prefer.) This recipe makes 4 large or 5 small stuffed bell peppers. Enjoy!
¾ c. brown rice
Scant 1.5 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
Salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
16 oz. white mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 oz finely shredded aged cheddar cheese (about 1 c.)
2/3 c. sliced almonds, toasted
2 T. minced chives (opt)
4 large or 5 small red bell peppers
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a small saucepan, cook brown rice in broth according to package directions. Uncover and set aside.
Meanwhile, coat a large skillet with olive oil and set over medium-high heat. Once pan is warm, add onion, carrot and celery and season lightly. Saute until tender and beginning to brown. Add garlic and saute, stirring constantly, 30 seconds longer. Remove vegetables from skillet and place in a large bowl.
In the same skillet, again heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and season lightly. Saute until beginning to brown. Crumble dried thyme into mushrooms and saute, stirring, until fragrant. Remove from heat to cool.
Spray an 8×8-inch baking pan (or similar dish) with cooking spray. Wash peppers and pat dry. Using a pairing knife, cut off the top of each pepper and carefully remove the seeds and supporting membranes. If needed, cut a sliver off the bottom, leaving the cavity intact, so each pepper will stand up. Season the inside of each pepper with a small pinch of salt.
Add lukewarm mushrooms to vegetables in large bowl. Add lukewarm rice. Gently stir in shredded cheese, toasted sliced almonds, and chives, if using. Once ingredients are well- mixed, taste and adjust seasoning.
Fill peppers with rice mixture. (Note: Any extra can be placed in a buttered ramekin and either baked or microwaved to reheat.) Place peppers in prepared pan. (Peppers may be made up to one day ahead at this point. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.) Bake for 35 minutes or until peppers are crisp-soft and filling is heated through. Serve immediately.