Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spanish-Style Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, with Refried Black Beans

If you're anything like me, the thought of a giant ceramic plate at your local family-owned Mexican restaurant heaped with Spanish rice and refried beans makes you go into a drooling coma of tasty daydreaming.  But, if you're like me, actually eating said giant plate of food usually puts you into a much less pleasant food-induced coma, the kind where you're holding your tummy and groaning, "Why did I eat that 4th serving?  Why???"  Plus, almost all refried beans you can order in a restaurant are not vegan.  Sad face.

So this is a revamping of the classic delicious combo, using healthy quinoa instead of rice, and sneaking some actual vegetables in there, too.  If you haven't yet discovered the wonders of quinoa, go eat some.  Right now.  It's gluten-free, high fiber, high iron, super high protein, and a complete protein (meaning it has a balanced set of all essential amino acids).  It's the food that you point to when arguing with folks who say vegans can't eat enough/the right kind of protein.  Plus, it's tasty as hell, fluffy and soft and just mmmm.  It takes almost no time to cook, especially if you get the pre-soaked kind that you don't have to rinse.  Quinoa comes in a couple different varieties, and I used the Inca Red kind from Ancient Harvest for this because the color is so pretty against the yellow peppers I got in my produce box.

This is another of those "make a bunch of individual things, then stick it all together at the very end" recipes.  I made the Spanish-style quinoa, then the enchilada sauce, then the refried beans, and then finally stuffed it all in a couple yellow bell peppers and roasted the whole thing, topping with fresh avocado slices.

You'll notice that all these recipes call for chili powder.  If you have or can find ancho chili powder, it will give everything a little extra oomph, so you should use it if you can.  But I didn't have any, so I used regular, which still worked fine.

Spanish-Style Quinoa
Adapted from this Authentic Mexican Rice recipe on
  • 1 c. uncooked (pre-rinsed) Inca Red or traditional quinoa
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 hot pepper of your choice, chopped finely (I actually used some canned hot green chilis leftover from the enchilada sauce)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 c. no-chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  1. Heat oil in a large pot (with a lid) or pressure cooker over medium-high heat.  Toss in chopped onion, and sauté until soft.  Add the garlic, and sauté just 30 seconds more or so.
  2. Add the dry quinoa to the pot.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the quinoa, onions, and garlic are all nicely browned.  If using red quinoa, you won't be able to see when it's browned, so you're going to go by smell.  The whole thing should have a lovely toasty-carmelized aroma when ready.
  3. Mix in the chopped tomato and pepper, cumin, and a few shakes of salt.  Let everything sizzle for a minute.
  4. Deglaze the pan with 2 cups of water or vegan chicken broth.  Stir in the ketchup, and bring everything to a boil.
  5. Seal the pot or pressure cooker with a lid, and then follow the directions on the quinoa package or your pressure cooker instructions to cook the quinoa.  This depends on the type of quinoa you're using, and the cooking method.
  6. Finished quinoa should have absorbed all the water, and be fluffy, moist, soft, and delightful.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
This is a good base for a lot of meals - it's not too spicy, not too flavorful, just a great canvass to work with, if you will.  I'd recommend stirring in some beans, veggie ground crumbles, tempeh chorizo, and/or fresh chopped cilantro.

Refried Black Beans
Adapted from Refried Black Beans from Vegetarian Times
  • 3 c. cooked black beans
  • olive oil, for sautéing
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can hot roasted green chilis, chopped
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • fresh lime juice, about 2 tbsp. or to taste
  • salt, to taste
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onion until soft.  Then add the garlic and the green chilis, and cook until lightly browned.
  2. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, and cooked beans.  Cook for a minute, just enough to get the beans all mixed in with the spices.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
  4. Using a good potato masher, start smooshing the beans right in the pan.  Once you get them moderately mashed, add the vegetable broth.  Continue mashing over medium-low heat.  This way, you get the beans smoother as the liquid mixes in and then cooks off, saving time.
  5. Once the consistency is the way you want it, remove the pan from the heat.  Don't overcook the beans, or they'll get gluey.  If, once they're just thick enough, they're still too chunky for your tastes, use a hand blender to break them down more, or toss the whole thing in a food processor for a few seconds.
  6. Stir in lime juice and salt to taste, adding more cumin or chili powder if necessary.  Be generous with the salt and seasonings: they're what gives this dish pop.
Serve these with or in any Mexican-style meal - burritos, tacos, fajitas, tostadas, enchiladas, or just by themselves.  They're super versatile.

Enchilada Sauce
Adapted from Enchilada Chile Sauce from Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
  • olive oil, for sautéing
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 small cans hot roasted green chilis
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. marjoram
  • 28-oz. can diced roasted tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • salt, to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onions until soft.
  2. Mix in all the remaining ingredients, stirring well.  Bring to a simmer, cook for a couple minutes, then remove from heat.
  3. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then toss it in a blender or food processor, and purée until smooth.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
This is a great, versatile enchilada sauce that's tasty and tangy, without any of that canned-enchilada-sauce bitterness we all hate.  Pour it over... well, pretty much anything.

Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 large yellow or orange bell peppers, washed, halved, and seeded
  • one batch Spanish-style Quinoa (above)
  • whole black beans, veggie ground crumbles or tempeh chorizo, and/or fresh, chopped cilantro (or whatever other fillings your little heart desires)
  • one batch Enchilada Sauce (above)
  • one batch Refried Black Beans
  • one ripe avocado
  1. Place the peppers cut-side down on a baking sheet.  Place them under the broiler in your oven, and broil until just soft, and the skin just starts to brown.  This could take anywhere from just a few minutes, to around 10, depending on your broiler.  WATCH CAREFULLY to avoid burning the crap out of your peppers.
  2. Mix the whole black beans, veggie meat, fresh chopped cilantro, or any other desired fillings into the Spanish-style quinoa.
  3. Place the broiled pepper halves face up on a the baking sheet.  Fill evenly with the quinoa mixture.  Stick the quinoa-filled peppers back under the broiler, just until the quinoa starts to brown on top.  Transfer the peppers to a serving plate.
  4. Cut the avocado into slices, and layer them on top of the quinoa-filled peppers.
  5. Pour enchilada sauce over the whole shebang.
  6. Serve along with refried beans and a good Mexican beer.
This makes 8 servings (or 4 servings for very hungry people).  It saves and reheats beautifully, too.

When I made these, I didn't do the initial pepper-broiling step, but I wish I had.  I'll also kick up the spice of the whole thing next time with some Cholula.  But overall, this was super tasty, and I didn't feel like a fatty fat after eating it.  The fresh cilantro and cool, ripe avocado were the little extras that kicked it over the top for me.  Be adventurous with your mix-ins, and use fresh herbs if you got 'em.

Happy eating.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That looks soooo good. I just made a quick lunch of refried beans and quinoa with some tomatoes and was enjoying it when I decided to see if anyone else had done anything interesting with the same mixture. I have got to try your recipe - my wife loves traditional stuffed peppers - she is sure to love this. Thanks for the great idea!