Mexican Stuffed Peppers

by Rachel on May 31, 2011

A glorious bell pepper, to be sure

We first had the combination of Cotija and Panela cheeses in a dish made by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger of The Border Grill and Street.  It was love at first bite.  We’ve been trying to find ways to use that flavor combination ever since.  My latter born, now 9, has a salsa recipe that he makes nearly once a week and from my perspective it works as a terrific addition to many different dishes.  In this case he and I took the basics of his salsa, added rice, and a smooth salsa verde, as well as our new favorite Mexican cheeses – and voila (or whatever the right translation of that phrase is in Spanish) we had a perfect stuffed pepper filling.  At the bottom of the post you’ll see that there is a breakfast that goes along with this recipe as well.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Cotija & Panela

 

Sauce:

  • One 12-oz jar salsa verde (I am addicted to Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde but use whatever kind you prefer)
  • 1 cup cilantro (see note on cilantro below)

 

Pepper filling:

  • 6-8 large red, yellow and orange bell peppers
  • 1 cup white or yellow onions, finely diced
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely diced
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 4 green onions, white parts only, finely diced
  • 24-oz tomatoes, finely diced (we use cherry tomatoes)
  • 5-oz Cotija Cheese, cut into tiny cubes
  • 10-oz Panela Cheese, cut into tiny cubes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

A note on the cilantro.  I buy one bunch of cilantro.  Wash it thoroughly without separating the stalks.  Use a sharp knife and cut off most of the stems.  You can use the stems in the sauce and the tops in the filling.  The stems have lots of flavor and once they are in the blender no one will know it was the stems.  To prepare the sauce place the salsa verde and cilantro stems in the blender and process until smooth.  Set aside ½ cup of the sauce.

To prepare the bell peppers, cut the top ½ inch off of the peppers.  Scoop the seeds and interior fibers from the pepper cavities using a small spoon.  Discard.  I usually prep six peppers, see how far the filling goes, and only prep the final two if there is enough filling left.  Next try to stand your empty peppers on the cookie sheet.  If they tip over, cut a small slice off of the bottom until the bottom is close to level.  Try not to cut a whole in the peppers or the filling will leak.

In a medium bowl gently mix together the white onions, cilantro, white rice, garlic, green onions, tomatoes, both types of cheese and the sauce (except the ½ cup you set aside).  Resist the temptation to add any more Cotija than called for until you taste the whole mix.  Cotija is very salty and to my palate too much of it overwhelms the other flavors.

Lightly oil a large baking sheet.  Fill your bell peppers with filling until the filling comes ½ inch above the top.  Depending on the size of your bell peppers (mine were really huge) you’ll be able to fill between 6-8 peppers.

Place the peppers on your oiled cookie sheet.  Use the last ½ cup of sauce to dollop a bit on the tops of all of the peppers.  Place them in the oven and back them for 50 minutes until the peppers are tender and the filling is cooked through.

One more note.  As you may have noticed I’m often looking for novel ways to use leftovers.  The pepper filling makes a perfect addition to eggs for breakfast the day after you have the peppers.  Set aside 1½ cups of filling (you’ll still be able to fill six peppers if you keep this much filling aside) and the next morning turn on your broiler.  Beat six eggs in a medium bowl.  Put the leftover pepper filling in a large, ovenproof saucepan.  Warm up the mix over medium heat and then add the beaten eggs.  Stir a few times and then take the pan off the heat.  Sprinkle some grated cheese on top.  Place the pan in the broiler and cook until puffed.

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