Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

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I always talk about how when I have downtime, I like to watch cooking shows, with the idea that perhaps I can veganize the dishes they are cooking. I have learned a lot – technique, flavor profiles, etc. I don’t focus on what I won’t use, but what I could use and what I could substitute instead.

Mind you, this works for shows where the cooks are elegant, thoughtful and well trained. I have gotten good brunch ideas from Bobby Flay, main dishes from Barefoot Contessa, and the inspiration for this one from a recent episode of The Kitchen.

Marcela Valladolid made picadillo stuffed peppers. Perfect dish for company and so easy to veganize. I made the base of the filling from lentils and grated cauliflower which is the filling for these fantastic tacos. (I learned that from Jason Wrobel on another cooking show.) Then I added vegetables, raisins and olives. It is a spectcular combination and takes no time to put together. You can even serve it right over rice and forget about the pepper stuffing.

But for the wow factor, there is nothing prettier than a plate of stuffed peppers. Look at those colors! Bake for 45 minutes to an hour depending on how soft you like your peppers. Also, they reheat really well too. Just wrap them in tin foil and bake for 20 minutes until heated through.

Picadillo Stuffing
1/2 onion
1 big carrot
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup filtered water
1 cup grated cauliflower (about 1/4 of a regulation sized head of cauliflower)
1 cup cooked lentils
1 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons olive oil *
3 bell peppers

Preheat the oven to 350. Prep the vegetables: dice the onion and carrot. Coarsely chop the olives. Break up the cauliflower and drop it into the food processor and pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Drop the onions and carrots in and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the tomato paste and additional tablespoon of olive oil and stir around. Cook together for a minute. Add the cauliflower and coat with the tomato paste. Cook for another minute. Add the water and stir around to thin out the mixture. Add the lentils, green olives and raisins. Continue to cook until the mixture is bubbly and thick, 7 to 10 minutes. It should look something like this!

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Cut the peppers lengthwise, right through the stem. Clean out the ribs and seeds. Be gentle so as not to pull the stems out.

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Stuff the peppers with a few big spoonfuls of the mixture. Press down and add more, if there is enough, after you fill them all. There should be enough to fill the 6 halves perfectly.

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Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the desired pepper tenderness. Enjoy!

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* You can make these oil free by simply omitting the oil and sautéing with water. I just find that tomato and olive oil go so well together that I think it is worth it to make the dish really stand out.

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