Mushrooms, Queso Manchego and Sweet Plantains Stuffed Red Bell Peppers

 Stuffed red bell peppers with mushrooms, queso manchego and sweet plantains

How has your January been so far, the time of new beginnings and reality checks?  I could say that for me has been going so far so good and happy to report that, in terms of the beginnings part, I have been cooking more whole vegetable meals.  It’s not that I don’t love meat, it’s just that in my mind has always lived the concept of a complete meal including some sort of meat.  Even though I have been for a while now wanting to embark my cooking on this kind of cooking, there has always been something, or some excuse I should say, that made me procrastinate with it.  Because in reality everything is better said than done.

As I mentioned in my beer braised chicken post, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to eat more vegetables as a full meal, and it has been one of the resolutions that I have kept nicely.  Last week I made a fresh and super easy wild rice salad, and in this post I made these wonderful stuffed red bell peppers with zucchini, sweet plantains, cremini mushrooms and queso Manchego with an earthy red pepper flakes and oregano dressing.  Who doesn’t love the idea of stuffed bell peppers?! I know I do! They are really a great alternative for a healthy, fresh and colorful meal.

 The queso Manchego is teh best topping for this stuffed red bell peppers with mushrooms, sweet plantains and zucchini
 Stuffed red bell peppers with mushrooms, sweet plantains, zucchini and queso Manchego.

This one is short guys, so here are my recipe notes:

1.     I usually grill my peppers to speed up the cooking process and also to bring out a note of smokiness in the flavor.  You could also use a skillet if you don’t have a cast iron grill.

2.     If you accidentally make a hole in the wall of the pepper while removing the seeds, just use some of the cheese to patch it, then fill the pepper, that way the liquids and filling won’t spread out.

3.     To make the Manchego cheese melt better, mix it with some olive oil before incorporating it to the recipe and for topping the peppers.

 Vegetarian stuffed red bell peppers

Sweet plantains, mushrooms and queso Manchego dressing with spicy oregano dressing
6 peppers
Total time – 35 minutes  Active time – 20 minutes
Equipment – Cast iron grill (optional), baking dish, food processor (could be a small one)

Stuffed red bell peppers

Olive oil - 2 TBSP + ¼ cup
Zucchini, sliced nd diced in fourths - 1½ cups
Cremini mushrooms, cleaned and cut in fourths -1 ½ cup
Sweet plantains, chopped into small cubes - 1 ½ cup
Butter - ½ Tsp
Salt - ¼ Tsp
Freshly ground black pepper – ⅛ Tsp
Red bell peppers, cut in half and the seeds removed – 3
Parsley, finely chopped - 1 Tbsp
Manchego cheese, grated - ½ cup

Spicy oregano dressing

Olive oil - ⅓ cup
Fresh lemon juice - 1 TBSP
Fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped - 3 TBSP
Salt - ⅛ Tsp
Red pepper flakes - ¼ Tsp

Peppers: Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over moderate to high heat.  Place the zucchini and mushrooms and season with ⅛ of the salt and a good sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.  (You should have one layer of vegetables in the pan.  If it gets too crowded divide them in two batches, just add a little more olive oil to the second round and a little more salt and pepper).  Sauté the vegetables for 3 minutes, moving frequently, until they look translucent and caramelized on the edges.  Remove vegetables from pan and transfer them to a bowl.

Pour on the skillet the ¼ cup of olive oil and butter and heat until the butter starts to melt.  Add the sweet plantains and sprinkle with ⅛ of the salt and another good sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent scorching on the bottom until they look somewhat translucent and caramelized around the edges. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate with a paper towel.

Heat the cast iron grill over high heat.  Cover the halves of the peppers with a few drops of olive oil on the outside and on the inside border.  Place them on the heated grill and cook 4 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and place them in a baking dish.

Using a large strainer drain the zucchini and mushrooms. Pour into a large bowl and combine with the sweet plantains, parsley and queso Manchego, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Fill each pepper and top with the additional cheese (see recipe notes). Bake for 20 minutes, until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted on top. Remove from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Dressing: Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times until well integrated.  Pour some over each stuffed pepper.

Stuffed red bell peppers